The Hunger Games arrives on Blu-ray and DVD on August 18, 2012, packed with 3+ hours of extra goodies. And in support of the film’s release on video, we had the opportunity to speak with Willow Shields (‘Primrose Everdeen’) about the first film of the blockbuster franchise and what fans of Suzanne Collins’ bestselling trilogy can expect from Catching Fire and Mockingjay. Shields is a big admirer of
Collins’ writing and was honored to be playing Prim, a key character in the series and one who has an increased presence in the upcoming films.
Intelligent and articulate, Shields completely understands the fascination with The Hunger Games franchise and is looking forward to getting back on the set to start work on Catching Fire.
Exclusive Willow Shields Interview
What is the most the bizarre encounter you’ve had thus far with fans?
“Let me think… Mostly fans are very nice and just kind and calm when they meet you. They have gotten kind of crazy. [Laughing] I know at the premiere it was incredibly crazy with all the fans. They were like throwing books up at the front so that you could sign them, and stuff like that. I think I got hit by a book a couple of times in the face at the premiere. But other than that, I haven’t had very many crazy fan encounters.”
Do you expect that to get worse over the next three movies?
Are you really looking forward to having your character take more of a prominent role in the story?
“Yeah, I’m really excited because her role becomes a bit bigger. She really matures in Catching Fire and Mockingjay.”
How familiar were you with the books when you were cast as Prim?
“I was actually in the middle of reading it when I got the audition. So, I was like, ‘Okay, great. Let me finish this book so I can do this audition.’ I was so excited. My brother was a huge fan. He’s almost 15 now so he read them a while ago and was a huge fan.”
Did you read The Hunger Games because you knew the movie was coming up or just because your brother was a big fan?
“I just wanted to read it. My brother was like, ‘These are incredible books, you have to read them.’ So I was like, ‘Okay, then I have to read them!’ And then I got the audition after that. I know my brother had been talking about it for like a year. Like, ‘Oh my god, they’re making The Hunger Games into a movie. I’m so excited.’ It was kind of interesting when I got the part. It was like, ‘Wow!'”
When you were reading the book, were you a fan of Prim’s? Did you like the character?
“Yeah, I thought the character was really interesting, especially once I got into the second and third books. Because not only does she have to go through her sister going into the Hunger Games once, but then with Catching Fire, twice. And how she changes after all that, I thought she was a very interesting character.”
Is there something you picked up from the book that you didn’t find from the script that you could latch onto that really helped you play her?
“I think we both love animals and I thought that helped me play Prim. I think she’s just such a cool character that it was kind of just easy for me to play. She’s such an amazing character and I think for some reason just what helped was because of the fact that she’s such a cool character.”
Did you feel a lot of pressure due to the fact the books are so popular and you knew everyone was waiting to see how it would come out?
“Yeah, definitely. I mean, it was very nerve-wracking because you’re filming this and you want to please the fans as much as you can. I want to please the fans so bad, and I just hoped they love it. I was really scared at first. Sometimes I get a little nervous about that.”
Was there anything special you did to get over your nervousness?
“I like listening to music. That’s definitely something that helped a lot.”
And I would imagine working with director Gary Ross also helped.
“He’s an incredible director. What I loved about Gary is that he would let you explore your acting and see what you could do with your role and what you felt was good for the character, which was incredible for me because it was helping me work on my acting, you know? He let me explore what I can do and that really helped. It was basically like, in some way, without knowing it, training me in a way to become an even better actress.”
Because you hadn’t been in that many projects before this.
“I actually had only been in one other movie and then I was in a TV show before that.”
It must have been a happy surprise to beat out all the other actresses trying out for Prim.
“I was really surprised. [Laughing] But I wasn’t as surprised until I actually figured out how big of a movie this was going to be.”
When did that hit you?
“I think it was maybe a while after I was done shooting, when everything started getting crazy with the media and stuff. I think that’s really when it hit. And then at the premiere I could tell how crazy this movie was.”
Did you get a chance to talk to author Suzanne Collins?
“I got to meet her at the premiere, which was very exciting. I thanked Suzanne Collins for writing The Hunger Games, it’s such an incredible series, and to give me the opportunity because of writing that. It’s incredible. She’s incredibly nice. I love Suzanne Collins.”
Did she say anything to you about Prim?
“She did. She just said, ‘From when I saw your audition, I looked at you and I said well, this is how I imagined Prim.’ That was really exciting for me. She thanked me for playing Prim and I was like, ‘Thank you!'”
The second film has a different director. Have you met with Francis Lawrence yet?
“I haven’t yet. I’m actually going to speak to him on the phone this week, which I’m really excited about. But he is an incredible director, from what I’ve seen. Water for Elephants is a really beautiful movie. I’ve seen I Am Legend which has really great atmosphere, so I think he’s going to do well on Catching Fire.”
Is there any scene from Catching Fire you’re really looking forward to filming?
“I don’t want to give anything away! No spoilers, but I’m really excited to shoot some scenes because in The Hunger Games there were some people that I didn’t shoot scenes with that I’m going to shoot some scenes with in Catching Fire, which I’m really excited about.”
The series has such an impressive cast. What was it like working with Jennifer Lawrence?
“Jennifer’s incredible. She’s an incredible actress and an amazing person. She’s hilarious, and it was just like we got along on set so fast. It was so much fun.”
Did you feel an immediate sisterly bond?
“Definitely. We were so close on set. Jennifer’s the easiest person to talk to. You talk to her and then 10 minutes later you’re just laughing. It’s not like when you meet some people and you’ve got that awkward silence between sentences. It was just totally incredible how awesome Katniss…[laughing]why did I just say Katniss?…Jennifer was.”
She is Katniss, that’s why you said it.
“She is Katniss.”
After watching the movie I couldn’t picture anyone else in that role.
“Exactly. After fans see her act, it’s like she is Katniss.”
Who is your favorite character?
“My favorite character… Katniss is an incredible character, especially for young girls like me to look up to. She’s such an incredible role model. I really love Katniss, but my favorite character is Rue, I think, because she’s such a cool character. Me and Amandla [Stenberg] got along great. I was Prim and she was Rue and Katniss thought of Rue in the Games as me, as a reminder of that. So, I think we got along really great because of that.”
Is there a Catching Fire character you like?
“I really like Finnick in Catching Fire from reading the book. I think Finnick is a cool character in Catching Fire but then in Mockingjay too, he becomes a really funny, nice character. I think that Finnick is a really cool character.”
So many Hunger Games fans would have loved to have been in your shoes. What was it like walking around the set of the first film?
“It was incredible. On set there were hundreds of extras there too, so that was really interesting to witness all these extras walking around on set. But it was really fun, the amount of people there and Jennifer and me just hanging out and having fun.”
Looking back on the experience, is there one day you can point to that stands out as the best day on The Hunger Games set?
“I’m not sure… I mean, the last day was really sad. And the first day I was really nervous. I don’t think there was one day that was really, really exciting.”
You were sad even though you knew you were coming back to work on more Hunger Games movies?
“Yeah, definitely. Everyone was, because you’re finishing up the first movie and you’re sad to go. But then you know, like, ‘I’m going to come back.’ But it’s been a year since I started shooting so you do get sad at the end. It’s like, ‘Now I have to wait another year!’ And at that point we actually weren’t even sure that they were going to do Catching Fire and Mockingjay.”
Before the movies even came out there was a big deal made about the violence in the books and how that would translate to the films. How did you feel, as a young person reading the book, about the violence to kids?
“When a lot of people talk about The Hunger Games they’re just like, ‘Oh my god, it’s such a violent book. You’re too young to read that.’ And, to me, reading the book when I was 11 I didn’t think about the violence. I thought about the reason Katniss was doing this was for her family. She was fighting for her family, which made the violence not seem as bad.”
Did you hear those complaints while you were making the movie or right before it was going to come out?
“Definitely. People were saying, ‘Is it going to be rated R?,’ and stuff like that. I was like, ‘Well, it’s not that violent when you think about Katniss fighting for her family and for Prim.’ It’s a lot different.”
As a young reader, was it difficult to get into the book or did it grab you right away?
“Suzanne Collins is such an incredible writer that it just pulled you in right away. You can’t stop reading it.”
With the DVD coming out, is there anything extra you want to make sure fans look out for in the bonus features?
“There’s three hours of special features. There was a camera on set all the time filming for special features. I think fans are really going to love to see how we acted on set and what we did in our spare time, and how we filmed stuff. I think they’re really going to love that.”
Is it kind of weird for you when you’re working on the movie and you have this other camera there just catching all the behind-the-scenes stuff?
“It is kind of funny. The set photographer was there… It’s kind of interesting because you’re in the middle of shooting something and it’s like, ‘Why are you taking pictures while they’re filming?’ It’s kind of funny. The set photographer probably got some funny pictures of me and Jennifer hanging out. [Laughing] I was totally just like leaning on Jennifer the whole time while we were in the sun, dying.”
Are you surprised by the wide age range of fans?
“I’m not that surprised because Suzanne Collins is such an incredible writer. After I got the role, I told my friends about it and my friends had read it and then their parents read it, and then their grandparents read it. Everyone loves it.”
For those who haven’t caught on to The Hunger Games yet, how would you describe it?
“Just that it’s a really fun movie for everyone. It’s a really sweet movie because of Katniss’ relationship with Prim and Rue, and it has some romance in there with her and Peeta (played by Josh Hutcherson) and Gale (played by Liam Hemsworth). And if you like action, there’s also action in there. There’s a little bit for everyone.”