Forget “Crazy Eyes.”
Uzo Aduba‘s eyes only glistened with tears of joy and gratitude Saturday night when she took home her first-ever Emmy for her portrayal of quirky inmate Suzanne “Crazy Eyes” Warren on Orange Is the New Black.
“I feel so full, that’s why the tears come out,” Aduba, 33, told reporters in the press room following her win for outstanding guest actress in a comedy at the 2014 Primetime Creative Arts Emmy Awards at the Nokia Theatre L.A. Live. “I’m stuffed really. I’m beyond full. My cup runneth over right now. I feel absolutely all of those things: I feel full of joy, like a fountain. Mission accomplished.”
“It’s surreal,” she told PEOPLE on the red carpet prior to her win. “All I can hold onto today is this idea of the day I got this job, I was leaving this business, I had quit and now I’m at the Emmys, and I’m nominated for an Emmy, and my show is nominated, and my cast-mates are nominated.”
The Massachusetts-raised actress tearfully accepted her award from Morgan Freeman, and the Hollywood newcomer admitted to feeling starstruck and overwhelmed as she walked to the stage to collect her trophy.
“It’s like you’re walking and you’re aware that you’re walking toward Morgan Freeman, but you’re fairly certain you should still be sitting on your seat,” she said in the press room. “You’re like, ‘Maybe I’m embarrassing myself, maybe they didn’t call my name, maybe somebody else’s name. I don’t know what’s happening.’ ”
Even so, she says she felt relaxed as she prepared for the show alongside her mother, who immigrated from war-torn Nigeria to give her children a better life.
“We all kind of had a dance party, my mom was dancing across the hotel room, just getting excited,” she told reporters. “It didn’t really hit me until we were getting ready to come here … I just started to take it in.”
• Reporting by MARIAH HAAS