(CBS News) Chiwetel Ejiofor, known for "Love Actually" and "Slow Burn,"The film is the true story of Solomon Northup, a free man sold into slavery before the Civil War.
Ejiofor told the "CBS This Morning" co-hosts that, while the movie has a lot of violence, it approaches slavery differently than other films about the era and reveals many of the realities of what was actually happening then.
"I feel that there is something so healing about," he said. "It's a true story of Solomon Northrup. I think the man is a true American hero, and I know his story, and what he endured - the way he endured it - is so revealing about human respect, human dignity and what those words really mean."
Northrup's story is unique in that, unlike other slavery accounts, he was born into freedom and became a slave while many others show the reverse situation, of being a enslaved and then freed.
"In that way, we can all go down the rabbit hole with him," said Ejiofor. "We all see it, and I felt that in reading the book for the first time."
The movie is based on Northrup's memoir, which was published in 1853 and Ejiofor read in order to prepare for this role.
For Chiwetel Ejiofor's full interview, watch the video in the player above.