The Star Wars: The Force Awakens actress covers Essence's January issue
Credit: Greg Lotus/ESSENCE

Lupita Nyong’o is an Academy Award winner, but the star says her goal was never Oscar gold when she envisioned a career in film.

Essence‘s January cover star tells the magazine that she had more simplistic acting aspirations before skyrocketing to stardom after 2013’s 12 Years a Slave.

“When I dreamed of being an actor, I didn’t dream of the praise that would come with it,” she says. “I didn’t dream of the awards. I dreamed of inhabiting different characters. That was the dream.”

Nyong’o, who will next hit the big screen as Maz Kanata in the highly anticipated Star Wars: The Force Awakens, is certainly embracing the rewards of fame, however – including that highly coveted role.

In fact, the 32-year-old says she was caught off-guard when director J.J. Abrams called her to be in the film.

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“I was on the way to the beach and all of sudden J.J.’s on the phone,” she says. “I asked to see the script and they flew someone to Morocco with the script so I could read it. I was immediately interested in the character. I like to get lost in the transformation and I felt like this character would offer me that.”

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While Maz Kanata is shrouded in mystery, Nyong’o would share some tidbits about the character for fans who can’t wait until Star Wars‘ Dec. 18 release.

“I can say that she’s strong and has a colorful past and that’s it before they shoot me down,” she revealed.

Nyong’o’s Essence cover hits newsstands on Dec. 1.