03/07/2005 at 01:00 AM EST
SOPHIE OKONEDO British-born Okonedo, 36, earned a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination for her tough, tender turn as Tatiana Rusesabagina, whose husband, Paul, sheltered more than 1,200 Rwandans from genocide in 1994.
ON MEETING THE REAL TATIANA I sensed she didn't want to talk about the genocide, so I didn't ask. But I saw that she is both shy and strong. I wanted to get a sense of her, what she likes to eat, for example. Well, she is very particular about her tea!
ON KEEPING PRESPECTIVE DURING FILMING I was surrounded by real refugees, from Rwanda and Congo, who lived these things. Emotionally, at times, it was overwhelming and dark and painful. But you have to ask, "What's so difficult about doing some film compared to what they've done?" And I had my daughter [Aoife, 7] with me, so I had to go back to being Mommy at the end of the day.
ON THE DAY NOMINATIONS CAME OUT I was in England, and it was lunchtime. At 1:29 everything was normal. By 1:34: my life was unrecognizable. There were tons of phone calls from people I hadn't talked to in 20 years, people wanting to give me shoes, people wanting to dress me. It was unbelievable.
ON HER PLANS FOR THE OSCARS Making decisions sends me into a panic. But obviously I'll take my mother.