Sophie Ward didn’t want to talk about her personal life. And why should she? She’s here to discuss her part in the new Agatha Christie play coming to the Oxford Playhouse.

However, as a very public and vocal supporter of Stonewall (working for equality and justice for lesbians, gay men and bisexuals), I thought she’d be more forthcoming. “I’m happy just talking about the play,” she said firmly when I broach the subject. So that was that.

But then it’s amazing how false an impression one can get from newsprint. Because Ward is actually very private, an unlikely spokesperson then for gay marriage and same-sex families, had she not taken it upon herself to wipe the slate clean.

She was married with two children when Sophie met current partner Rena Brannan, and realised she was gay. She then made the difficult decision to follow her heart, and dealt with the media onslaught as carefully as possible.

Playing a similar role in Joanna Trollope’s A Village Affair, exacerbated things, her real life mirroring her stage persona. But that is all water under the bridge now. Sophie is now entering another new phase of her life. “This is the first tour I’ve done since my children have both left home, so I haven’t had to rush back. “It was hard at first because I miss them, but that’s the job you take on as a parent — to get them ready for the world and then let them go.”

Sophie was let loose on the acting world from the age of ten, with initial film roles including Young Sherlock Holmes, Return to Oz, Little Dorrit and A Summer Story. “It was something I really wanted. I lived in an area of London which had an after-school acting club and we’d all go along. It was 10p for and hour and a half,” the 47-year-old remembers. “And then one day some casting agents came to watch the classes and I got a part. I was just in the right place at the right time,” she says modestly.

Growing up with acting parents (her father was Simon Ward), must have helped though? “My parents didn’t want me to be an actress. They were both actors and thought it an insecure profession.”

So what did they want her to do? “They were keen for me to become a marine biologist,” she laughs. “But I persisted because I’m stubborn.”

Sophie has been a constant name on screen, TV and stage since then, even when her personal life overshadowed her work, and still loves the career she chose all those years ago.

So what of Agatha Christie, isn’t that a bit beneath her? “No,” she says in surprise. “Go Back for Murder is a good one with a lot of interesting parts for women, and my own character has plenty to keep me going.”

So how does she choose her work? “It’s a mix of things, because something is always going to be interesting. But with Go Back for Murder, I knew Lisa Goddard was in it and that it would be fun, and mine is a challenging part because I play the daughter and then my own mother, so it’s a lot to take on. Plus I’m on stage the entire time so it’s like a roller-coaster ride because for those two hours you just go on and tell the story from start to end.”

Currently on a break between the first and second legs of the tour, Sophie Ward has already got seven months under her belt, but is still delighted to be returning for more. “Oxford will be the second leg, but we have a few weeks off until then. So we’ll be very refreshed by the time we get to you,” she smiles. “And it’s easy coming back to something you like doing.”

Currently splitting her time between LA (Rena is American-Korean) and London, Sophie is also enrolled at Goldsmiths University in London where she’s doing a PhD in literature and philosophy, a throwback to her early acting days and lack of education then? “Even though I started work when I was 10 years old, I was still at school and did A-Levels but mainly just acted in the school holidays,” she remembers. “And I wanted to work, but now there are so many amazing opportunities available to mature students that I didn’t even know existed.”

Still, it’s a lot to fit in along with acting and being a mother and wife? “You have to be really disciplined to be a student but I know what’s involved because I did an MA at Birmingham and an Open University degree so I know how to research.”

So where did this thirst for knowledge come from? “I went to a Montessori nursery in Tower Hamlets and although I knew very little about anything when I was 11 they were very good at making you feel that you could go out and solve problems and that learning was interesting,” Sophie explains.

“As for kids I just sort of got on with it, because like anything in this world you can work it out and very few people have a 9-5 job now. In the old days sometimes it was hard to juggle work with childcare or I would want to be at home with the kids when I was a long way from home, but you have to take the opportunities you’re given.”

Despite this, Sophie said she would enjoy her few weeks in France all the more for having Go Back for Murder to return to. “To have a job to come back to as an actor, when you’re self-employed is a joy, it’s an ideal situation, even if the whole cast will be a bit sunburnt,” she laughs.

And as she leaves I reflect on what a privilege it’s been to have talked to Sophie Ward about everything but her sexuality.

After all, that’s her own business.

Oxford Playhouse

Tuesday to Saturday (August 27–31)

Call 01865 305305 or visit