Sophie Okonedo: ‘I’d never slap a child’

Oscar-nominated Sophie Okonedo tells us about her controversial new BBC4 drama, The Slap (Thursday, Oct 27), and why filming in Australia made her so homesick.

Had you read the book before filming?

“No I hadn’t, but I was interested in the story because it shows a side of Australia that I’ve not seen on TV before. We all know Australia’s beach and surfing image, but this is about middle-class suburbia.”

The story follows eight characters and the repercussions of a man hitting someone else’s child…

“There’s no one to side with in this drama as none of the main characters are likeable. They all do something where you think, ‘Why don’t you just tell the truth? Why are you sleeping with him or her?’ I thought that was quite intriguing.”

Were you clear where you stood on ‘the slap’?

“Well I don’t believe in hitting children, so yeah, I am quite clear about that. I don’t know that I would go as far as taking it to court, as the child’s mother (Melissa George) does, because I don’t think that’s best for the child. But what’s wonderful about this story is that the boy Hugo, is very trying. So everyone’s like, ‘Yes, yes! Shut him up!’”

As a parent, do you find it hard when friends have different attitudes to discipline?

“Yes, and when I talk to people who haven’t read the book, as soon as I mention what it’s about, they always have a strong view. Surprisingly, friends of mine have said, ‘Well, maybe in certain circumstances I would hit a child.’ But personally, I don’t think there’s any reason to hit a child.”

Did you enjoy the lifestyle in Australia?

“I was there on and off for three months and although I loved it, I got so homesick. It’s just so far away! I’m such a Brit, I wept when I got home. I got straight on my bike, cycled along the Thames to the Tower of London and The Tate and thought, ‘I’m home!'”

You’ve had such a successful career, starring in films such as Hotel Rwanda. Are you surprised at how it’s all turned out?

“Yes, I really enjoy my life. I don’t know how it’s all happened! I go everywhere on my bike and no one hassles me. Plus I get to travel to all these different places for work. I’m not interested in doing the celebrity circuit. I’m very rarely on TV other than in character and I don’t do shows where they research your ancestry – that’s not for me.”