Actress Nicole Beharie sat down with Jackie Robinson's widow while filming the baseball icon's new biopic 42 in order to capture her fighting spirit for the movie.

The Shame star plays Rachel Robinson in the upcoming drama, which details the sports legend's struggle to become the first African American player in the U.S. Major Leagues in 1947, and she met with the former nurse as she researched the project.

She tells the New York Daily News, "Rachel is a very sharp woman. I was sweating whenever she came to the set. I spent an afternoon with her, and she was so generous and supportive. She had lots of photographs. To keep that kind of history, which showed every step of their journey, is pretty amazing. She had photographs from as far back as 1920. That gave me a lot of information without anything actually being said."

The actress insists the experience was life-changing because the 90 year old did so much to pave the way for future black generations.

She adds, "Jackie and Rachel Robinson opened doors they couldn't have imagined. I don't think they knew how huge it was going to be. But I knew, when we were making this movie, that we were talking about something larger than a romance or baseball."

And director Brian Helgeland was impressed with Beharie's performance: "She brings a modernness to the part. She's true to the era and to Mrs. Robinson at the time, but she plays it in a modern way that makes the character attractive to women today."