Javier Bardem Says He Was 'Invoking' Desi Arnaz's 'Essence' in 'Being the Ricardos' : He Was 'Around Us'

The Best Actor Oscar nominee tells PEOPLE about playing the iconic I Love Lucy star in Being the Ricardos

Javier Bardem channeled Desi Arnaz for his Oscar-nominated performance.

In Being the Ricardos, the star plays the late Cuban-American television actor who was one half of the iconic I Love Lucy duo opposite then-wife Lucille Ball, played by Nicole Kidman in the movie.

As part of PEOPLE's 2022 Oscars portfolio in this week's issue, Bardem, 53, explains how he got into Arnaz's shoes — and recalls feeling his spirit with him on set.

"When you play a character like him, you are invoking his spirit and essence, and you have to be respectful with that. ... Every time I would come back from the shoot, I would talk to him. I would look at the stars and let him know how the day went," says Bardem. "And I would ask for his blessing and permission to go for the next day."

He adds of Arnaz, "He fought [for inclusion] with a smile on his face. He never gave up."

2022 Oscar Portfolio
Ben Watts

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This is Bardem's fourth Oscar nomination (he won Best Supporting Actor back in 2008 for his chilling turn in No Country for Old Men), and his wife Penélope Cruz also earned a nod this year. She represents in the Best Actress category, and it's also her fourth nomination (she won in 2009 for Vicky Cristina Barcelona).

OSCAR NIGHT! Watch live on ABC March 27 at 8 p.m. ET. And before the awards, tune in to People & Entertainment Weekly Red Carpet Live, starting at 5:30 p.m. ET on People.com, EW.com and PeopleTV.

2022 Oscar Portfolio
Ben Watts

"We were sharing a sofa and we heard the announcement together," says Bardem of finding out about their joint nominations with Cruz, 47. "That's something we usually don't do. She wants to have the news afterwards rather than being there suffering for the name to come up or not."

"It was very strange and unique and special and moving, and at the same time surreal," he adds. "It was everything at the same time."

Being the Ricardos is now streaming on Amazon Prime Video.

The 94th annual Academy Awards will be held Sunday, March 27, at Hollywood's Dolby Theatre and televised live on ABC at 8 p.m. ET.

For more on this year's Oscar nominees, pick up this week's issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands now.

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