BY NICOLE SANDS
From the moment audiences first saw her powerful performance in Loving at the Cannes Film Festival, Ruth Negga had major Oscar buzz — and now the Irish-Ethiopian rising star will be heading to the Academy Awards for the first time with a Best Supporting Actress nomination.
In the movie, Negga and Joel Edgerton play real-life couple Mildred and Richard Loving, who were arrested in 1958 in their own bedroom in Virginia. Their crime? Being in an interracial marriage. The Lovings’ love truly stood the test of time when they challenged the law and brought their case before the Supreme Court in 1967, leading to the end of laws against interracial marriage.
Here are five things you need to know about the 35-year-old actress, one of PEOPLE’s 2016 Ones to Watch:
1. She loves dressing up in costumes – not scrubs.
“You know when you’re a kid and you get to pick a movie every Friday? I watched everything,” Negga, who was born in Ethiopia and moved to Ireland as a child, told The Hollywood Reporter about not wanting to follow in the footsteps of her parents, both of whom are in the medical field. “There’s no particular genre that was appealing. I just loved the idea that you could dress up and play.”
2. Stardom was never her dream.
“I have not been aggressive in my pursuit of being a star,” she told The Hollywood Reporter. “I’ve never had a plan. Maybe I need to be more aggressive, because it’s quite tough!”
“The god of acting laughs in the face of plans,” she told PEOPLE. “I just want to continue working with like-minded people.”
3. She finds the Hollywood limelight intrusive.
“If people want to invade your privacy they want to invade your privacy,” she told The Guardian after the paparazzi caught her and Preacher costar-boyfriend Dominic Cooper kissing during a romantic getaway in Italy. “I find it chilling and I find it awful and it makes me really nervous. It hasn’t happened to me much but when you have a taste of it, it’s bitter.” In the supernatural AMC series, Negga plays Tulip O’Hare, the gun-toting ex of Cooper’s character Jesse Custer, a small-town preacher.
4. She felt a very personal connection to Mildred Loving.
“I was so struck by this couple,” the Irish-Ethiopian actress told PEOPLE in Cannes. “Individually, but also their love for each other just seemed such a beautiful, delicate, rare thing. I felt such outrage on their behalf, like many others, that the simple act of wanting to be married to another human being would incur the wrath of the law and also make people really angry. So angry – violently angry. I was just so shocked by that.”
She and Edgerton ‘actually visited the jail cell that she was held in,” Negga added in an interview with PEOPLE at the Toronto International Film Festival. “It literally is tiny. It was this big. And to imagine a woman heavily pregnant, a young black woman, that was quite hard for me because I just thought, what an experience she must have had. It was very traumatic for her. I really felt for her.”
5. In fact, Negga has another thing in common with Mrs. Loving.
While HBO aired a touching documentary centered on the couple’s journey called The Loving Story, very little other footage exists of Mildred, who died in 2008. She decided to remain private after Richard died just seven years after the Supreme Court ruling.
“Mildred survived, but she was quite reluctant to do interviews, she sort of wasn’t a big fan of the limelight, which makes the story all the more extraordinary,” Negga told