The new Hunger Games film The Hunger Games – The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes tells the backstory of the young Coriolanus Snow (Tom Blyth), 64 years before he meets Katniss Everdeen as a tyrant. During the 10th Hunger Games he is still going to school and is supposed to act as a mentor to keep the District 12 tribute Lucy Gray Baird (Rachel Zegler) alive in the arena.
Moviepilot met Tom Blyth and Rachel Zegler for an interview before the cinema release of the new Hunger Games prequel. As soon as you enter the Berlin hotel room, you can almost smell the chemistry between the two new Hunger Games stars in the air. They joke and laugh exuberantly and pass balls to each other. If you didn’t interrupt with a question every now and then, they could easily carry on the conversation alone for the allotted 15 minutes – although it would be a pleasure just to watch them.
The new Hunger Games stars: Tom Blyth and Rachel Zegler in an interview
The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes: Coriolanus Snow & Lucy Gray Baird
Moviepilot: Do you remember when you first saw the first Hunger Games film (2012)?
Rachel Zegler: I still remember it clearly! I went to the cinema with my sister and my mother. And there was a strange woman sitting next to my sister who didn’t know the books and had no idea what to expect. And as the Mutts [Hunde-Mutationen] came out, she grabbed my sister by the arm and asked, ‘What happens now!’ – We came out of the cinema later, looked at each other and said: ‘That woman had no idea!’
Tom Blyth: She asked for spoilers while it was happening!?
Yes! And my sister was 13 or 14. That was so funny! – Do you remember when you saw The Hunger Games?
Tom Blyth: Yes, funnily enough, I also saw the film with my mom and my sister. Directly to the cinema release. And then we made a tradition of watching each new part together.
Rachel Zegler: How nice! Us too. We also dressed up for Mockingjay 2. I was a huge fan of the books. We’ve been waiting for the midnight premiere. – I went to the midnight release parties of many book series back then. When Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows came out, for example. And for the Hunger Games I had a braided braid and a homemade District 12 ID card.
Tom Blyth: Did you also have a bow and arrow?
No. My mother didn’t let me have guns.
Tom Blyth: Okay, that’s probably good parenting.
The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes: Rachel Zegler & Tom Blyth
Did you read the Hunger Games books before going to the cinema, Tom?
Tom Blyth: Unfortunately I have to confess that I haven’t read the first three books. I even admitted this to Suzanne Collins on the phone the other day.
She definitely hung up!
Tom Blyth: She fired me and now all the scenes with me have to be shot again. [lacht] No, but I was a fan of the films.
Did you have any favorite characters in the first four Hunger Games films?
My favorite character was Haymitch!
Tom Blyth: Naturally! Whose favorite character wasn’t he? So unpredictable!
Rachel Zegler: Also, Cinna! And then Finnick and Joanna when they came along. And Jeffrey Wright’s performance [als Beetee] is always underestimated. He is such a brilliant actor!
Tom Blyth: And Philip Seymour Hoffman was incredible too!
Rachel Zegler: Tucci! – So basically everyone in the film! [lacht]
Tom Blyth: But it’s true. There are simply no bad actors in The Hunger Games!
Rachel Zegler: I think that’s why the franchise has survived for so long and why we were able to make our film.
The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes
If you had to choose one character to get a spin-off: who would it be?
Rachel Zegler: For me it’s Haymitch! He also had a Hunger Games jubilee. That would be so interesting to see!
Tom Blyth: Yes, I think we agree with all fans on that. We really hope that Suzanne Collins will write a book about Haymitch at some point. But of course we also hope that we [nach The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes] get even more!
The book has been fully adapted into a film, but would you play your characters again if you had the chance?
Rachel Zegler: I would really like to come back. But on the condition that Suzanne Collins writes the original again and Francis Lawrence directs again. And that we would have our team back. You, Tom, should come back. Without you, I wouldn’t do this.
Tom Blyth: Really?
Rachel Zegler: Absolutely.
Tom Blyth: I wouldn’t even have to think about it: there would be so much more to tell in the story.
What era of Hunger Games would you like to delve into in such a potential Hunger Games return?
Tom Blyth: I would like to jump into the future.
Rachel Zegler: If you are a playmaker!
Tom Blyth: Yes, if Snow gained some more power and it went to his head. I’d like to get even crazier with him. But I also want to see what else happens between him and Lucy Gray. If anything else happens at all. The whole team honors the novels so much! They’re not trying to extend the franchise indefinitely. So it all depends on whether Suzanne Collins asks another big question and hangs another book on it.
Snow in The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes
Even though The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes is set 64 years in the past, we have a lot of little references to the other Hunger Games films in it. Do you have a favorite reference?
Tom Blyth: I love that we now learn that many songs from the original films started with Lucy Gray. “The Hanging Tree” * for example. One feels how the popular story is passed on through the culture of films.
Rachel Zegler: I like that a lot of names come up again: we have Arachne Crane for Seneca. Hilarius Heavensbee is related to Plutarch. Just little things that you only notice if you really pay attention.
Your singing is an important part of the film, Rachel. Did you have a favorite song?
Rachel Zegler: Yes and I think it’s our favorite song of all: “Pure As the Driven Snow” *. I had so much fun learning this song on guitar and playing it live with everyone. It’s really beautiful, isn’t it? [Musik-Produzent] Dave Cobb brought it to life.
Have you ever with yours
District 12 predecessor Jennifer Lawrence talked about the new Hunger Games movie or franchise, Rachel?
Rachel Zegler: I just met her recently. She has a great relationship with our director Francis Lawrence. You have also worked on films other than Hunger Games [2, 3 & 4] worked together. And I knew that if someone as wonderful as Francis loves Jennifer so much, she must be wonderful too. And that was 100% true.
We met at a fashion show. And she didn’t realize that so many of our crew members came back for the new film. So many people she worked with. – This is always my perspective when I meet people I admire: Finding out who we have in common in order to start a conversation.
District 12 Tributes: Katnis Everdeen & Lucy Gray Baird (Jennifer Lawrence & Rachel Zegler)
Tom, you once described The Ballad of Snowbirds and Snakes as Snow’s Breaking Bad.
Have you never been afraid that those watching? to could identify very much with Snow as a villain?
Tom Blyth: I think that’s why people are drawn to Suzanne Collins’ story, even if many are skeptical about Snow as a protagonist: he’s not just the main character, he’s also a complicated anti-hero.
We get to know him before he becomes the Snow of the later films. Before President Snow, he’s just “Coryo,” this young guy who just wants to survive and help his family get their place back in society. He learns to trust and then that trust is broken. So there are very human aspects that cause him to fall from grace and become President Snow.
Have you ever met your “older self” Donald Sutherland?
Tom Blyth: Donald and I haven’t met yet. Francis Lawrence and I made a conscious decision to stay away from each other while filming because we no imitative performance wanted to. I think any actor would agree that once you meet your hero in person, you’re playing a version of him. – But hopefully now that the film is finished we can get to know each other and compare stories.
Rachel Zegler: Oh, I love this idea of you two together!
Do you miss the blonde hair that you have now exchanged for your natural brown hair color?
Tom Blyth: I actually kind of miss the blonde hair. Blonde people have more fun, that’s a fact! [lacht] I’m just kidding. But it was exciting to transform and shave my head.
Warning, spoilers for The Ballad of Songbirds ans Snakes follow from here!
The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes: Tom Blyth & Rachel Zegler
If we pretend for a moment that the other Hunger Games films don’t exist, did Coriolanus and Lucy Gray’s love story ever have a chance?
Rachel Zegler: Awwww. It’s nice to think about it.
Tom Blyth: No, I do not think so. They were just too different.
Rachel Zegler: Yes, they were too different. For very human reasons. They react to the consequences of their environment.
Tom Blyth: And that is the main question that Suzanne Collins wanted to answer – or at least ask – in her story: “Nature vs. Nurture” [also Veranlagung vs. Erziehung]: Does your background influence the way you move through the world? Coriolanus and Lucy Gray come from different upbringings and families, which shape how they react.
But do you think Snow and Lucy Gray’s love was ever real?
Rachel Zegler: Well, I think so.
Tom Blyth: For a moment, yes. But they are young…
Rachel Zegler: There is a difference between love and dependence. And they depended on each other in hopeless moments. This can be confused with love. But I think they loved each other.
Rachel Zegler: I love you.
Tom Blyth: I love you too. – Until I didn’t. [beide lachen]