Lupita Nyong'o Recalls Being Ralph Fiennes' Assistant on 2005 Film 'The Constant Gardener'

PHOTO:Actress Lupita Nyongo arrives on the red carpet for the 87th Oscars, Feb.22, 2015, in Hollywood, Calif. PlayMark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images
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Before she became an Oscar-winning actress, Lupita Nyong'o got her start as a "very green" production assistant for the 2005 film "The Constant Gardener."

After traveling back to her family's native Kenya for summer vacation, the "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" actress spotted a film crew in a Nairobi neighborhood. She told a friend, who had a part in the film, that she'd work for free, Nyong'o said in the December issue of Rhapsody Magazine.

"I just had to be on the set," Nyong'o, a U.S. college student at the time, recalled.

Her first big task on set? She had to escort Ralph Fiennes to his scene for the day.

"Ralph is a very still man on set. It would be very quiet and that made me uncomfortable," she recalled. "I'd try to make chitchat, asking, 'What's your favorite film? Of all the films you've been in, which have you enjoyed the most?' He was so polite, and he responded to me. At one point, though, he just said, 'Lupita, give me my space.'"

She even upset director Fernando Meirelles while on set because of "language barriers. "I was on a mission to talk to Ralph, but he was talking to some man,” she added. “I went up to them and, suddenly, the assistant director was white in the face with rage. He said, 'You never interrupt the director!' I didn't even know who the director was!"

The Mexico-born Nyong'o, 32, told the magazine owned by United Hemispheres that after starring in a few films of her own, she came to understand Fiennes' snub.

"When an actor lands on a set, there's a psychological and emotional transformation that needs to happen. I learned from that experience what an actor needs -- and to ask for it," she explained.

"You have to calibrate yourself. The time before a camera rolls, the moments before my foot steps on a stage, have to be meditative. I have to withdraw from the world as I know it. It’s about listening quietly to my inner motor."