Joel Edgerton received the best acting compliment of his career on the set of Loving.
The actor, who plays reluctant civil rights hero Richard Loving in the film, recalled a day during filming when he received the best possible endorsement of his portrayal, from Loving’s daughter Peggy.
“Peggy is as shy as her father and we were really just hoping for her acceptance and her blessing, which I think we got,” Edgerton, 42, told PEOPLE at the film’s New York premiere on Wednesday night. “One day on set she called me ‘Daddy’ and it was like the greatest blessing I’ve ever had.”
The film tells the story of Richard and Mildred Loving, an interracial couple who were arrested and thrown in jail for violating their home state’s ban on interracial marriage. After spending years married in exile, they finally fought for – and won – their right to return to Virginia as man and wife in a historic 1967 Supreme Court ruling.
Ruth Negga, who plays Mildred Loving in the film, said that playing such historic characters did not weigh lightly on the actors tasked to bring them to life.
“Whenever you play a real person there is a responsibility because you want to do the best possible job and not mess it up,” said Negga. “But also for a couple who aren’t terribly well-known, I felt that responsibility even keener because I wanted to do a good job cause I wanted to introduce them in the best possible way.”
The Ethiopian-born, half-Irish actress said she feels a special connection to the story since she is the product of an interracial marriage.
“I’m the child of a mixed marriage so it definitely resonated,” Negga told PEOPLE at the premiere. “So many people have come up to us and said thank you for showing us, thank you for telling our story. I think that’s the thing about being involved in things like this is that it’s reflecting the true nature of the world and it’s nice to see yourself on the big screen.”