Thandie Newton revealed she considered retiring from acting before she landed her role on new drama Westworld.
The Bafta-winning star said she was concerned she was not making a "contribution to the world" but struggled to find another career which would cover the cost of her family's lifestyle.
Thandie, 43, said her role as brothel madam Maeve Millay on Westworld had now allowed her to challenge the "objectification of women".
She told an audience at New York Comic Con: "I almost got to the point where I kind of wanted to retire - no really - and do something else but it's hard to find something else like this that's going to give you money for the rent and for the school fees. It's tough. It's an amazing job.
"In terms of satisfying a good contribution to the world, it's difficult. Until Westworld.
"Westworld, every day, I'm contributing not only to making the world better but also healing bits of me that have been affected as a woman, as a woman of colour.
"Here I was taking centre stage. Here I was naked on set almost every day. Here I was able to actually challenge and deal with the objectification of women."
Thandie, who has three children with her husband, writer Ol Parker, was joined at New York Comic Con by writer Jonathan Nolan, who confirmed plans for a second series of Westworld were being discussed.
The sci-fi thriller - based on Michael Crichton's 1973 film of the same name - depicts human guests entering an adult Western-themed park in which they can kill and rape robots known as "hosts".
The show has faced criticism for its depiction of sexual violence, with executive producer JJ Abrams admitting the series may be "too intense" for some viewers.
The first episode aired on Sky Atlantic last Tuesday, while the show was HBO's most-watched series premiere in the US for almost three years, attracting 3.3 million viewers.