For our 2013 Great Performances portfolio, TIME spoke with 9-year-old Quvenzhané Wallis, nominated for Best Actress for her role as Hushpuppy in Beasts of the Southern Wild.
Performance: Hushpuppy in Beasts of the Southern Wild (Oscar nomination, Best Actress)
Benh Zeitlin’s magical-realist take on Hurricane Katrina rests on the tiny shoulders of its charismatic star, who at 9 is the youngest Best Actress contender in Oscar history. “I wasn’t surprised on the outside,” Wallis says of the nomination, “but I was on the inside.”
The Performers Speak: