In 2011, Oduye, who grew up in Brooklyn, won awards for her portrayal of a young lesbian struggling with her identity in the film Pariah. In 12 Years a Slave, she plays Eliza, a free woman who, like Northup, is sold into slavery. Separated from her young children, she refuses to accept the circumstances of her life. The 35-year-old actress, who had auditioned to be an extra in Pariah, brings a stubborn sense of misery and outrage to Eliza’s plight. “Her situation would destroy anyone,” Oduye said.