Lupita Nyong’o attends the premiere of Star Wars: The Force Awakens on Dec. 14, 2015, in Hollywood, Calif.
Jason Merritt/Getty Images

So far, there hasn’t been a challenge that Lupita Nyong’o hasn’t mastered. Whether it’s nailing her breakout role as Patsey in the unflinching 12 Years a Slave to Oscar perfection or owning the Broadway stage in Eclipsed, penned by fellow African actress Danai Gurira, her everywomanness has yet to fail. In Star Wars: The Force Awakens, her character, Maz Kanata, is certainly not what most expect, but she absolutely does not disappoint in her iconic close-up.

In the thick of the media frenzy over the film, days prior to its premiere, The Root nabbed a few quick minutes with the Mexico-born, Kenya-raised beauty—renowned for her red-carpet slaydom—at the gorgeous Mandarin Oriental in Miami. With fellow Star Wars newbie Oscar Isaac by her side, she shared how she got down with the Jedi lifestyle and what Star Wars meant to her growing up in the African nation.

Watch:

Ronda Racha Penrice is a freelance writer living in Atlanta. She is the author of African American History for Dummies.

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