Ariana DeBose Recalls When Her Mom Came to 'West Side Story' Set and Met 'Señor Spielberg'

"Watching Gina become speechless was amazing," Ariana DeBose tells PEOPLE of her mother meeting Steven Spielberg on the set of West Side Story

Family is everything for Ariana DeBose.

In a new interview for PEOPLE's Oscars portfolio, the first-time nominee reveals that her mother got to visit her on the set of West Side Story, and meet the film's legendary director.

"My mother got to visit, and she met Señor [Steven] Spielberg," says DeBose, 31. "And watching Gina become speechless was amazing. Love you, Mom."

The on-set visit came the same day DeBose filmed the gym dance near the beginning of the movie — a scene she says she "really enjoyed" doing because "it was six days of sweaty bliss."

"And it was one of the few moments that the Sharks and the Jets and all of our extras really got to be in the same space," she explains. "And it was really complicated, but I had a great time."

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2022 Oscar Portfolio
Ariana DeBose. Ben Watts

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DeBose says her "entire family" is impressed with her work in the musical film, in which she plays Anita, the powerhouse role originated on the big screen by Rita Moreno in 1961.

"Every time I book a bigger project or something that is shocking even to me, my family's very much like, 'Oh wow, you're ... yes, that's — congratulations! You're gonna do that!' " she tells PEOPLE. "Which makes me giggle, 'cause I'm like, 'Yeah, I guess I am.' "

RELATED VIDEO: Learn More About Ariana DeBose, Who Plays Anita in West Side Story — and Is Blowing Audiences Away

When DeBose told her mom she was going to host Saturday Night Live, Gina asked her daughter whether she was "ready" for the gig.

"I was like, 'No, absolutely not, but we're gonna do it anyways,' " the actress says, laughing.

In general, "It's nice to really feel like you're seen by your family," she adds with a smile.

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.

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Ariana DeBose as Anita in West Side Story (2022). 20th Century Studios / Courtesy Everett

DeBose tells PEOPLE she's excited to be "at a moment in [her] career where people listen when I have something to say."

"And that doesn't come for everyone, and I'm very aware of that," she adds. "So I'm focused on how I can be a conducive part of whatever conversation — there are many conversations that need to happen in our industry and in the world."

"I'm a service-based person too, and there are many things to work on, so just trying to find ways to be of service," DeBose says.

The 2022 Oscars will be held Sunday, March 27, at Hollywood's Dolby Theatre and televised live on ABC at 8 p.m. ET.

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