The actress talks about the early role that changed her life

By Robyn Ross
Updated December 01, 2015 at 12:00 PM EST

Patricia Arquette grew up around performers, but she was thisclose to choosing an entirely different career as a midwife.

“I would’ve never had this life if I hadn’t pushed through my fear,” Arquette shares in episode 4 of EW’s My Journey above. “I wanted to be a midwife so I felt a lot of pressure to decide when I was 18 what I was going to do. I decided since I was much more terrified of being an actress I should try to do that because more than being an actress or a midwife I wanted to be a brave person.”

Fortunately it didn’t take Arquette too long to get gigs. “I gave myself one year to fail … and I got work so I just kept working,” she says. A few years in, Arquette was cast in the film she credits for changing the course of her career. “A very pivotal role for me was True Romance. Even though it didn’t make any money and it was considered a financial bomb it got me on the map.”

The CSI: Cyber star adds that getting parts in those early films, in a way, were bigger markers for success than eventually winning an Academy Award. “There are moments people wouldn’t consider pivotal from the outside, but being a single mom getting a movie, even if it wasn’t going to be a great movie, a movie that would give you a living so you could feed your kid and buy diapers was a pivotal moment. So I’ve had a lot of those.”

As for how it felt to be recognized for years of hard work, Arquette admits it was “very strange.”

“I had grown up watching [the Academy Awards] on TV, but it was never something I ever imagined in my life; I didn’t make a vision board,” she says with a laugh. “When I was a little kid I guess I did pretend after watching the Oscars, but as an adult I never thought it was part of the trajectory of my career or the choices I was making so it was very surreal.”

Watch the full interview with Arquette above and head here to watch the rest of the series. Arquette also stars in CSI: Cyber, which airs on Sundays at 10 p.m. ET on CBS.