Though the secrets of Star Wars: The Force Awakens will soon be known to fans when the film finally hits theaters later this week, the veil of secrecy was laid long before the film’s first teaser was even released.

“I didn’t really know what I was auditioning for. I knew I was going in for J.J. [Abrams],” Lupita Nyong’o, who plays CGI character Maz Kanata, told Ellen DeGeneres on Tuesday’s The Ellen DeGeneres Show.

Nyong’o describes the audition process as one of complete mystery; she had to read from a substitute script instead of scenes from the actual film. And that mysterious opportunity came the same week Nyong’o won her Oscar for 12 Years a Slave.

Two months later, Nyong’o discovered Abrams wanted her to perform in a motion-captured role, which would become Maz Kanata, a character that is as unknown a quantity for fans now as the audition was for Nyong’o.

Nyong’o also reveals what the motion capture process was like for her, including the decision to eat the “dots” used to capture Nyong’o’s expressions rather than take them off and reapply them.

Watch Nyong’o discuss securing the role below, as well as what it was like to suit up in the motion-capture gear every day. And for more on Maz and Nyong’o’s work, read EW’s interview with Abrams and Nyong’o.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015)Carrie Fisher as Leia
Star Wars: Episode VII — The Force Awakens
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