Most recently, Ward has branched into producing, with her coproduction of the play Nothing winning favorable reviews at the Brits Off Broadway festival in New York.
When asked about her gradual path toward understanding her sexuality, Ward reflects: “I don't know how much hormones blind you to certain things. Because I did have a lot of people who said to me afterwards that it wasn't until after they'd had children, and that great desire to have children had subsided somewhat, that they felt that they were able to really be themselves.”
Ward notes that although she did not identify as a lesbian when she was a teenager, she did have crushes on women. “I knew that I had feelings for women, and I thought possibly I was bisexual,” she says. “But I was with my husband when I was so young — almost as soon as I'd left school, I was living with my husband — and I was 19, and I was a stepmum, so I was just sort of getting on with doing that."
"So it wasn't like I was closeted, or confused, or anything like that at that time. I just felt … I knew I had feelings for women, but it wasn't a problem, it didn't feel terrible. And it didn't feel like I was locking off part of my personality. Of course in retrospect, I can see that perhaps I was.”
She denies that coming out publicly at such an early stage in her career, when there were virtually no other well-known actresses to keep her company, was brave.
“Of course in an ideal world it would be lovely if there were loads of other role models and people that made you feel ‘oh, well you're not on your own,'” Ward says. “But of course you're not on your own, there are loads of gay women.” She laughs.
Ward acknowledges that the fact that there were few openly gay actresses at the time did make her coming-out a bigger deal than it might have been if more actresses had been out.
“But on a personal level,” she says, “the thing that's hardest is coming out [to the people close to you], the same as anybody else, I think.”
She continues: “I had quite a conventional life. I'd met my husband when I was 19, and I'd got married quite young, and everything had been fairly straightforward. So [coming out] really was to upset everything that had already been established.”
Having made the decision to be open with her family, however, the idea of staying closeted publicly just didn't seem like an option to Ward. “That decision not to come out is such a big decision; in a way it's much bigger than coming out,” she says. “Because your life has to be so organized.”
Making the decision to not talk about your personal life, Ward notes, has many implications for a public figure.
“It means you can't be seen publicly with your girlfriend,” she says. “That you can't ever talk about your girlfriend or partner, that you can't have any kind of social or professional life together where you might be seen.”
She adds with a laugh, “I think that sounds awfully tiring.”
For her part, Ward says that she “just couldn't envision an alternative” to coming out. “It would have been such hard work. Maybe it makes a difference having a family, I don't know, but … how would [staying closeted publicly] have worked in my family, with my children? Would I not have come out to them?”
She laughs at the thought. “Would I have separate households somehow, or would I have to tell them not to tell anyone? I mean, it's just impossible to think about. So it wasn't particularly a brave decision; it was just that, that was the decision that was going to make life better for everybody. So … that was that.”
Ward's straightforward approach to her personal life has left her plenty of energy to channel into her career.
She reflects on the hectic past six months, starring in the play Nothing while also gaining her first experience as producer. “The thing that I really enjoyed was putting the people together: the play and the cast and the director, designer, the lighting people, putting them all together, and letting them all work together,” she says. “And being able to see something come to fruition, something that you really feel strongly about. Because I really loved this play."
“So it was a success. And, uh … it did nearly kill me,” she says with a laugh, “but it was a success. It was worth it.”
To find out more about Sophie Ward, visit her official website, sophieward.com.