The Orange Is the New Black actress didn't make the cut for the iconic musical that she says changed her life

Credit: Tommaso Boddi/WireImage

She may be an Emmy winner, but the road to fame for Orange Is the New Black actress Uzo Aduba didn’t always come easy.

Aduba, known for her portrayal as “Crazy Eyes” in the hit Netflix series, tells PEOPLE she didn’t make the cut after an open audition for Rent.

“[I] went to an open call they had in Boston for a production, [and I] waited all day in this long line,” she recalls. “I sang ‘Amazing Grace’ and they were like, ‘Thank you, next,’ ” she humorously recalls about her rapid dismissal.

Despite the rejection, the long-running Broadway rock musical about a group of starving young artists trying to survive in New York’s East Village during the onset of HIV/AIDS remains Aduba’s favorite show of all time.

“My sisters and I skipped school and we got that soundtrack, and I fell in love with it,” she says. “We went to see the show with my family, and I remember seeing it – this was before I even knew you could be an artist for a living – [and I was] so captivated. I had seen other shows before, but I was like, whatever that is, I would love to do something like that.”

And she clearly did do something like that, as evidenced in her big win for outstanding guest actress in a comedy at Saturday’s 2014 Primetime Creative Arts Emmy Awards, where she made it known how much her achievements truly mean.

“I’m stuffed really. I’m beyond full, ” she told reporters in the press room after her win. “My cup runneth over right now. I feel absolutely all of those things: I feel full of joy, like a fountain. Mission accomplished.”

Reporting by CARYN MIDLER

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