Scoring your first movie role is exciting. Scoring that role in a movie starring and produced by Brad Pitt is beyond exciting. Just ask Lupita Nyong’o, who has a memorable role in his new film, 12 Years a Slave.
The 30-year-old, who was raised in Kenya, plays a slave named Patsey in the pre-Civil War film, which is getting lots of Oscar buzz.
So how does she feel about making her debut in such a big movie?
“It feels wonderful,” Nyong’o told PEOPLE at a special screening of the film at the Directors Guild of America in LA on Sunday. “A lot of the time it feels quite magical and I feel it’s like an out-of-body experience.”
“I’m still trying to get over the fact that my name is being mentioned with people like Brad Pitt. Honestly,” Nyong’o says with a laugh. “When I was cast in his film [I thought] surely I was going to meet him one day. I wouldn’t say I was star struck. I was stunned. I was like, ‘Yup, this is actually happening.’ ”
Let’s start off the movie award season! Watch PEOPLE.com’s exclusive live-streaming show with interviews from the red carpet of the Hollywood Film Awards on Monday, Oct. 21, starting at 9 p.m. ET.