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Fresh off an Oscar win for her role in 12 Years a Slave, Lupita Nyong’o is taking on an entirely new challenge: She plays alien Maz Kanata via motion capture in the upcoming Star Wars sequel, The Force Awakens. Nyong’o recently spoke with TIME about her role and why the storied fantasy franchise has thrived because of its diverse assortment of actors.

“I think you can tell from the cast that it is a lot more multicultural. One of the things I remember as a child connecting with Star Wars is one of the characters spoke Kikuyu, which is a Kenyan language. And I remember feeling like that made Star Wars mine, it made Star Wars Kenyan for all I was concerned,” she said.

“There’s a universality to the world that George Lucas created that makes it possible for this multicultural cast to exist without necessarily turning the universe on its head. By very nature and with all sorts of creatures, it is, I think, a universe that is made for a multicultural experience.”

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