Rachel Zegler’s Lucy Gray Baird is the “anti-Katniss” in the Hunger Games prequel, The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, according to director Francis Lawrence.
In an interview with Empire Magazine, the filmmaker, who also helmed Catching Fire and both Mockingjay films, admitted he was concerned about whether or not people would go see a Hunger Games film without Katniss, the lead they had grown to love. But he found comfort in the fact that Lucy Gray, the first tribute from District 12, is completely different from Jennifer Lawrence’s Girl on Fire.
“Katniss was an introvert and a survivor,” he told the publication. “She was quite quiet and stoic, you could almost say [she was] asexual. Lucy Gray is the opposite. She wears her sexuality on her sleeve, [and] she really is a performer.”
While Katniss was forced into being the face of the rebellion and is deadly with a bow, Lucy Gray loves being in the spotlight and uses her wits as her weapon. “[Lucy Gray] loves crowds,” Lawrence explained. “She knows how to play crowds and manipulate people.”
In addition to the first tribute from the impoverished district, Lucy Gray is also the love interest for an 18-year-old Coriolanus Snow (Tom Blyth), the man who becomes the tyrannical president of Panem viewers were introduced to in the original trilogy.
“Snow has never met a girl like this before,” Lawrence previously shared about Blyth’s character. Nina Jacobson, who serves as a producer on the Hunger Games prequel, added that Snow is “a young man finding his way in the world,” whose actions point toward “the man he is becoming.”
“He is a shape-shifter who craves control,” she continued, “but is drawn to a woman who threatens everything he thought he wanted.”
According to the logline of the prequel, which takes place as the 10th annual Hunger Games quickly approaches, Snow is the last hope for his once-proud family that has fallen from grace.
“The young Snow is alarmed when he is assigned to mentor Lucy Gray Baird,” it reads. “But, after Lucy Gray commands all of Panem’s attention by defiantly singing during the reaping ceremony, Snow thinks he might be able to turn the odds in their favor. Uniting their instincts for showmanship and newfound political savvy, Snow and Lucy’s race against time to survive will ultimately reveal who is a songbird and a snake.”
Peter Dinklage, Hunter Schafer, Josh Andrés Rivera, Jason Schwartzman and Viola Davis round out the film’s cast.
The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes hits theaters Nov. 17.