Lupita jumped at a chance to work with her longtime friend, filmmaker Mira Nair, shooting Queen of Katwe in Uganda, next door to Kenya, where she grew up. Most films set in Africa, she says, are about "wars or political dictators or what-have-you. But this is a view of Africa told with Africans front and centre. It's their narrative, and that means that you have layered characters. Yes, you have struggle, but it is also a story about perseverance, vision and the magic of realising your dream."

Lupita Nyong'o and Madina Nalwanga in Queen Of Katwe

In the film, Nyong'o is Harriet, the mother of child chess prodigy Phiona, played by newcomer Madina Nalwanga. Nyong'o loved working with the young actors. "Children remind you what the heart of the matter is," she says. "They work from a truthfulness. I mean, I watched Madina develop her craft as we went along. She was always so curious about what we were doing and why we were doing it. I would be warming up and she would ask me what I was doing, and the next thing I knew she was doing it. With every take, I'd see she would have a deeper understanding of what the dynamics were, what was at stake, what the subtext was. And she may not even be able to articulate that. But I could see her growing as an actor."

To prepare for the role, Nyong'o spent time with the real Harriet, absorbing the rhythms of her life and trying to understand the decisions she made. It also helped to spend a few weeks in Uganda before filming. "Everything is specific and different," she says. "Their movements, their gestures, their auras, and yeah, the daily challenges, even just when we were filming. But I wasn't there studying them as an anthropologist. That slum life is normal life. Madina was doing an interview and someone asked her, 'What's your life like in Katwe?' And she's like, 'Normal.'"

While much of the film is intensely dramatic, Nyong'o especially enjoyed playing the lighter moments. But is she ready to make a romantic comedy? "I think that that is a challenge I would wish upon myself," she laughs. "It's very vulnerable to be funny. I did it in graduate school and it terrified me, and I want to do it some more."

Watch the trailer for Queen Of Katwe: