Arriving from virtually nowhere to stun viewers with her powerful performance as a poverty-stricken Colombian rose plantation employee looking to make a better life for herself and her unborn child in director Joshua Marston's Maria Full of Grace, first-time actress Catalina Sandino Moreno seemed to elicit near unanimous praise from critics and film lovers worldwide. A native of Bogotá, Colombia, raven-haired beauty Moreno developed an interest in becoming an actor which prompted the young hopeful to enroll in the Ruben Di Pietro theater academy while she was still in high school. It was during this time that she essayed a number of stage performances in such productions as Griselda Gambaro's Acuerdo Para Cambiar de Casa, Tennessee Williams' The Dark Room, and Christopher Durang's Laughing Wild. Later studying advertising and theater at a Bogotá college, Moreno caught the eye of director Marston during an audition for Maria Full of Grace, and it didn't take long to convince the director that -- despite her relative lack of experience -- she was the perfect candidate for the complex and demanding role. Indeed, Moreno brought undeniable depth and onscreen charisma to her thoughtful portrayal of a smart but desperate mother-to-be, earning the emerging starlet numerous critical accolades in addition to a Best Actress nomination for the 77th Annual Academy Awards. Packing her bags for New York City shortly thereafter, Moreno enrolled at the famed Lee Strasberg Institute while preparing for her New York stage debut in a production of Shakespeare's King John at the Frog and Peach Theater Company.