The Oscar winner plays a woman who adopts a nomadic lifestyle through the American West after losing everything during the recession

By Alexia Fernández
January 25, 2021 12:05 PM

Frances McDormand is delving into a new, rarely seen lifestyle in her upcoming drama Nomadland, which recently won Best Feature Film at the 2021 Gotham Awards.

In a behind-the-scenes look at the movie, exclusive to PEOPLE, the Oscar-winning actress plays Fern, a woman who lives a nomadic lifestyle while traveling through the American West after losing her husband and her happy life in a mining town that dissolves after the recession.

Directed by Chloé Zhao (Songs My Brothers Taught Me and the upcoming Marvel film The Eternals), McDormand was able to bring her own personality into the movie.

"In collaborating with Chloe about the character of Fern we talked a lot about how we were going to bring things from my life, Fran's life into Fern's life," McDormand says in the clip.

frances mcdormand
Credit: Courtesy Searchlight Pictures

The film introduces audiences to actual people living a nomadic lifestyle, including Swankie, who says the film is "about those of us living on the road full time and trying to find a way to survive."

Linda May, who is also living on the road, says, "These are people that have chosen another way to live that most of society wouldn't understand."

The film is based on the non-fiction book, Nomadland: Surviving America in the 21st Century, by Jessica Bruder. 

Nomadland will simultaneously debut in select theaters, drive-in venues and Hulu on Feb. 19.

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