Nichole Galicia picked one hell of a way to introduce herself.

The actress has been seen in small parts before on TV (most notably Showtime’s Huff), and way back in Nick Cannon’s 2003 romantic comedy, Love Don’t Cost a Thing. But come this Christmas, she’ll be seen playing the love interest of Leonardo DiCaprio in one of the most anticipated—and highly controversial—films of the season, Django Unchained. Director Quentin Tarantino handpicked Galicia to act alongside heavy-hitters DiCaprio, Samuel L. Jackson, Kerry Washington and Jamie Foxx. Not bad.

The film, as you’ve likely read by now, is excellent. It’s a spaghetti western set in a pre-Civil War America, and Tarantino creates a hero that Black folks will cheer for. Long story short: Foxx, formerly enslaved, teams up with a German-American bounty hunter (Oscar winner Christopher Waltz). Django Unchained is packed with bloodshed, whipping scenes, racial slurs and more bloodshed, all done up in Tarantino’s inimitable filmmaking style.

Galicia, a former model—she’s done campaigns for the Gap, Pepsi, Neutrogena and Hanes—plays Sheba, the de facto wife of DiCaprio’s plantation owner. (You read that right.) She chats with EBONY about the film, her role and why Tarantino is an absolute movie-making genius.

EBONY: This film is like your coming out party!

Nichole Galicia: I picked a good one, huh? (laughs)

EBONY: You can say that again. What made you want to be in this particular film?

NG: Quentin Tarantino. I think he’s brilliant. He is one of my favorite directors of all time. I would do nearly anything he asked me to do. I got the script, I read it, it was like Candie. It was one of the best scripts I think I’ve ever read, and I was excited to be asked to play this part.

EBONY: Tarantino is a director who doesn’t exclude African-Americans from the picture. Django Unchained is set right before the Civil War, but he certainly has made films that have included Black life and Black stories throughout his career—

NG: Kudos to Mr. Tarantino! I hope more directors, producers and writers follow suit. I play Sheba Candie, the de facto wife of Calvin Candie in the film, and it was important to Quentin that this girl be dark-skinned, which I thought was just beautiful. I mean, she’s [practically] married to the wealthiest man in all of Mississippi. Quentin has always been a huge supporter of all things Black. Why is that? I don’t know, but I’m thankful for it.

EBONY: It wasn’t clear to me that they were married. That’s interesting.

NG: It wasn’t necessarily a marriage. It’s the sort of thing where you would have your White wife on the plantation and you would have your Black “de facto” wife who lived with you in another city, probably in town. She had all the privileges and the pomp and luxury that came along with being married, being associated, being his woman, with this person. I don’t know that there was an actual marriage ceremony.

EBONY: There’s a lot of heavy stuff that happens in the film. Was there ever a moment while filming that it was too much?

NG: Oh yes, for sure! There would be times you’d look over and the costumer or your dresser or the makeup artist would be in tears. There was some heavy subject matter. I think the measure and the test of the work is that it affects us—the people that are on set—first. Even in the hard times, it was an amazing time. Quentin was definitely the head of this film and set the tone of the attitude for the several, several months that we filmed. There were some tough days that he handled with amazing sensitivity, and there were also a lot of laughs and some fun. And good mayhem.

EBONY: There is a range of emotions you go through watching the film. People might laugh and cry all in the span of five minutes in some cases.

NG: Is it ’cause Quentin Tarantino’s a genius?! You laugh, you cry, you cringe, you go “Oh no, he did not!” And then you go back to rooting for Django. It has everything you could want all in one film.

EBONY: That said, I’m wondering how Black audiences will receive this film. Do you think we’re ready for it?

NG: Of course. Why not? You know, Quentin is by no means trying to give us a history lesson, first of all. This is pure art. It is his baby, his brainchild that he created. I think it is completely, wildly entertaining. There are some historical accuracies, there are some historical inaccuracies—it’s entertainment. Black, white, Asian, green, I think it’s just a brilliant story told very well. I think it’s entertaining and I hope that everyone feels that way when they see the movie.