By Stephanie Petit
Updated October 12, 2016 at 12:00 PM EDT
Stefanie Keenan/Getty Images

Felicity Jones is on the verge of becoming a household name thanks to starring roles in the upcoming Rouge One: A Star Wars Story and Inferno. However, the movie that jump-started her Hollywood career also brought a friendship that ended too soon.

Jones was cast in 2011’s Like Crazy opposite Anton Yelchin, with whom she formed a bond offscreen until the actor’s tragic death in June after his Jeep Cherokee rolled down the driveway to his Los Angeles home and fatally pinned him to a gate. He was 27.

In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Jones opens up about coping with the unexpected tragedy, and shares the empathy she feels for his family.

“It’s been devastating,” Jones said. “It doesn’t feel like there’s any justice or there’s no way of understanding it, really. It’s just been a very difficult time for his family. They’re very dignified, beautiful people. He was just like no one else. He really was a unique soul.”

The 32-year-old actress clearly takes her relationships with friends and family seriously. According to director Ron Howard, Jones almost rejected a role in Inferno — the latest book-to-film thriller chronicling the adventures of The Da Vinci Code symbologist Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks) — so she could be present for the birth of her brother’s child.

“The whole contract turned on whether she could have a certain set number of days off when her brother’s wife was having a baby,” explains Howard, who hoped to cast Jones in the film after seeing her Oscar-nominated performance as Jane Hawking in The Theory of Everything. “She was going to blow the movie if we couldn’t rearrange the schedule and let that happen.”

In fact, Jones has taken great steps to put her career, and priorities, in perspective. Although she’s been acting since she was 12, she made sure to focus on her education first and viewed acting as more of a hobby than a career path while growing up.

“I don’t think my parents would have let me go straight into acting full time when I was 12,” she tells THR. “I do like to have balance, naturally, as an individual.”

Things have worked out just fine, though. Aside from Inferno, she also appears in the surreal, fantasy-themed drama A Monster Calls, which opens in limited release in December. And then there’s Rogue One — the first standalone film in Star Wars‘ expanded universe — in which she plays a street delinquent turned Rebel Alliance hero. That’s out on Dec. 16 and could catapult her to a new level of fame.

But don’t expect that fame to faze her, or get to her head.

“She’s not seduced by the business,” Ralph Fiennes, who directed Jones in 2013’s The Invisible Woman, says of the actress. “She’s not going to allow herself to be hoovered up by any old film just because it looks like an opportunity. She seems to choose very cleverly.”