By Piya Sinha-Roy
January 23, 2019 at 06:11 PM EST
  • Movie

On Feb. 24, winners will be crowned at the 91st Academy Awards. But before the red carpet is rolled out and envelopes are opened, Entertainment Weekly has inside intel on the 2019 nominees. Keep checking back at this week for spotlights on contenders in all the major categories.

Yalitza Aparicio
Starring in:
Age: 25
Oscar past:
Role call:
Cleo, the humble live-in housekeeper of a middle-class family in 1970s Mexico City

Few actresses land their first role in an Academy Award-winning filmmaker’s movie. Even fewer go on to earn an Oscar nomination for their work — but that’s just what happened to Yalitza Aparicio, the star of Alfonso Cuarón’s Roma. The Oaxacan teaching graduate-turned-
ingenue plays Cleo, a quiet working-class housekeeper who traverses the full spectrum of emotions and life experiences in a year.

Luckily for Aparicio, she found a core connection to Cleo. “Both of us have a great love for our family, and we’re both willing to do anything we need to do 
for our family to be okay,” the actress says. Cuarón also found 
a natural talent in her to harness for his epic tale, explaining: “Yalitza had a very difficult performance because it’s not that she was going to be just sitting; she’s crying and in pain and at the same time having fun. That’s a performance from the standpoint of her own existence.”

Aparicio spoke briefly to EW on Tuesday morning after finding out she had been nominated for a Best Actress Oscar. “I’m so excited and so thrilled that we receive so many nominations, I wasn’t expecting that many,” Aparicio said through a translator. “I’m amazed for this nomination from the Academy Awards.”

The actress, who was a new teaching graduate when she auditioned for Roma in place of her pregnant sister, says her sister “is just so happy for my nomination.”

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