The actress is getting Oscar buzz for her role in the pre-Civil War film that's based on a true story

By Mariah Haas
October 16, 2013 07:45 PM
Larry Busacca/Getty

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?

Lupita Nyong'o and Brad Pitt
Courtesy Darren Aronofsky

“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.”

Based on the true story of Solomon Northrup, a free black man who was kidnapped and sold into slavery in Louisiana, the film also stars Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender and Benedict Cumberbatch.

“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.’ ”

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Let’s start off the movie award season! Watch’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.