Kidzworld Catches up with The Hunger Games: Catching Fire Cast
By: Lynn Barker
For “Hunger Games” fans, the second book “Catching Fire” is one of the most exciting; Katniss and Peeta are forced back for more deadly “Games”, friends are lost and Katniss finally realizes and claims her position as a revolutionary leader. Things have changed too for the young actors involved in this much-loved book and movie series.
Jennifer Lawrence has blown up, won an Oscar and seems to be the new queen of both indie and big budget films. Josh Hutcherson and Liam Hemsworth are headlining films as leading men and joining the franchise are “newbies” already settled in with great careers; Jena Malone as feisty tribute Johanna Mason and Sam Claflin as heartthrob Finnick.
The gang files into our interview and we start catching up about special fans, what Katniss and other HGames characters can mean to young people and more….
Kidzworld: What do you most enjoy about The Hunger Games stories?
- Jennifer: I think it's a wonderful message to show just how powerful one voice can be. It's very easy as a society for us to just follow the feet in front of us and history does kind of repeat itself, and I think that it's an important message for our younger generation to see how important they are into shaping our society and our future.
Kidzworld: We’ve heard that they are considering a theme park based on The Hunger Games.
- Jennifer: I didn't know! That's so exciting and very fitting. I feel more prepared and equipped for that than this.
Kidzworld: Jena and Sam, your characters Johanna and Finnick are new to this film. What do you love about your characters and is there anything about them that you personally identify with?
- Jena: I think I love every single thing about Johanna Mason. When I read the novels I had had my wisdom teeth out and I just lay in bed and ate ice cream and read. I was just sobbing at the end. I was so emotionally invested.
- I think, for me, the seed of the novels and the amazing cast and incredible director (were a draw) and the fact that this kind of book was so well-received by a young audience. They were “hungry” for it. I feel like it’s an incredible thing to know that this generation is so hungry for a different sense of identity. There are looking for something else than what is being sold and they don’t want it sugar-coated anymore.
- Johanna represented a lot of that in that she doesn’t sugar coat and she is hardcore and truthful and violent and angry. Those aren’t just cool aspects of her, I don’t think it’s such a badass thing but a survival technique. I think that’s an interesting thing to talk about for young women. That they can take on tools and personality traits that may not be their own and use them to survive and elevate themselves in the world.
- Sam: I have to say I was slightly intimidated entering this world inhabited very strongly by my castmates, especially approaching a character like Finnick who is described as some kind of God I suppose (laughter). To approach a character like that is very tough to say the least. I had to go through some huge physical transformations. I shaved my chest (laughter). It was very intimidating but I embraced the challenge and worked as hard as I could. It’s all you can do. As much as there was negativity when I was cast originally, a few people have been turned (to his favor) and my goal is to turn the world and that’s one of Finnick’s goals as well so I guess I’ve got that in common with him.
Kidzworld: What cool moral lessons can kids and teens learn from your characters?
- Jennifer: I think that we, unfortunately, have this society where people feel entitled to certain things and I think that we have been completely desensitized in our shock factor, and the media continues to feed you what you want. This is an example of what happens when you keep allowing that to happen, when you keep feeling entitled to things that you're simply not.
- And I think that at the end of the first movie with us and the berries, they don't need a victor. (Katniss and Peeta are saying that) we don't need to play in this game. That’s a wonderful example for young adults, that you don't have to follow the feet in front of you, even though you can seem like the only one, even just one voice standing up for something that's wrong can keep us from going into a totalitarian government.
- Josh: Absolutely. I think that today with our generation and my younger brother's generation coming up too, they are surrounded by so much in your face truth from around the world, about issues that are happening, and they are also told all the time about how they're supposed to be by the media and what kind of people they need to be, or how they need to look or dress. I think this movie just shows that you can go against the flow of things. I think, for me, that's the most important thing, because that's what I did when I was a kid in Kentucky, and I went against the flow of things and went for what I wanted to do in life, and I'm here talking to you, so it's pretty cool, I think.
Kidzworld: With these roles and your celebrity, you have the ability to reach kids now. What do you hope to accomplish with that voice?
- Jennifer: It changes sometimes. There are so many wonderful things that can come from this when you have a voice and are saying the right things. It’s so easy to raise money for charity for example. It takes me ten minutes to sign a hundred posters that can raise thousands of dollars for charity and that’s so simple. Sometimes it surprises me. I don’t think what I do as an actress is very important for the world and for people but I love doing it.
- I remember the first movie there was an extra who had been burned and was covered with scars. She came up to me saying that she was too self-conscious to go to school when she was younger then when she read “The Hunger Games” and “Catching Fire”, she felt proud of her scars and her friends called her “the girl on fire”. I remember crying and calling my mom (her eyes fill with tears). I still can’t tell the story without tearing up.
- I was like “I kind of get it”. I remember reading the third book when she goes to the hospital. Sometimes it can seem so pointless because your life is filled with make-up and hair and clothes and sometimes, there are lives you can touch without even meaning to. So, I don’t really have a plan but sometimes it comes up and bites me in the ass and it’s great. I like doing it that way.
- Liam: I think we're given a unique opportunity to have a voice and spread awareness to a particular issue that might be important. Regardless of whether people want to listen to us or not, we're given a platform to talk on and I think who we are, if we use that platform, to do a small bit of good, do the little bit we can do to spread awareness to something important I think it's a unique opportunity to have.
Kidzworld: Liam and Josh, in developing the personalities of your characters as they grow and change, did you take it from the scripts or the books?
- Josh: I think there's a lot in the source material. It's nice when you have a whole book and then you have to whittle it down to a movie, because as an actor you get a lot more information about your characters I think. For me, Peeta is more angry in this movie. In the first movie he was like the baker that painted. In this movie he's a baker that paints, but he also has a little bit of an edge to him.
- He's angry about having to go back into the games, he's angry about how Katniss has been with him, and he feels like he's been let on and up until that moment where they are in the train together and they come together as friends, I think that he feels really disappointed with the whole situation, as one would in “The Hunger Games”. I think this movie just expands on the different relationships. I think that you see a lot more of the dynamic with Katniss and Peeta, and how they're affected by the games and how they're affected by the whole world they live in, and then the same goes for the relationship with Katniss and Gale.
- Liam: When Katniss comes back from the Games, Gale is obviously seeing this post-traumatic stress that she's dealing with. He's obviously watched her fall in love with someone else and he cares deeply about her, but I think as angry and as frustrated as Gale is watching her go back into these games, I think he understands that, at the end of the day, Peeta is trying to protect her as well, and I think he's one of her best chances of survival, and I think he does appreciate that in a way, as hard as it is for him to watch all this emotion unfold between them. (To Josh) Wanna have a fight?
- Josh: No, I'm good.
- Liam: Me too, I love you, man. (Liam hugs Josh) We love each other.
Kidzworld: What are the challenges of playing a character over multiple films?
- Liam: Lots of character development
- Jennifer: Yes, lots.
- Josh: It's nice, you've got a lot more time to show more, and you have multiple movies, you don't just have one two-hour block to work with them.
- Jennifer: And you get to play a character who's obviously the same character, but is changing and growing, and that's nice.
Kidzworld: Jennifer, you won your Oscar while you were doing Catching Fire. Was there “a bring your Oscar to work day”?
- Jennifer: Absolutely, I brought it to work and put in on Video Village (all the monitors the director watches) and I was like, 'Things are going to be very different from now on.' No, I didn't! When I saw everybody the next day and everybody was like, 'Oh, Cool,' I was like, 'Nothing? Okay.'
- Actually, it made me a target. Every time I'd mess up my lines, Woody (Harrelson who plays Haymitch) would say, 'You'd better give that Oscar back.' (laughter) I actually wished that everybody in this cast didn't know about it. It would have made my life a lot easier.
Kidzworld: How was winning the Oscar (for Silver Linings Playbook) special for you?
- Jennifer: Something like that is a wonderful gift that I was so grateful for, and confused by slightly, but I'm okay with that. It's a huge honor, I'm still pinching myself, and I think that I still haven't fully digested it, and maybe I shouldn't. It's a tremendous honor.
Kidzworld: Is it important to you to keep changing the roles you do so that you're not identified only with Katniss?
- Jennifer: Yes and no. The reason that I signed onto “Hunger Games”, because we had already had “Harry Potter” and “Twilight”, so we were obviously surprised by the success. How could we not be? But we did know what to expect to a certain extent. I loved this character and I'm proud of her, and I would be proud to be associated with this movie and this character for the rest of my life. That being said, I do think it has been important for me to go back. I started doing indies and I enjoy doing it.
Kidzworld: What was the hardest stunt for you to do in this?
- Jennifer: The spinning cornucopia was pretty hard. It was going about 30 miles per hour, and Jena and I were both having our morning sickness….
- Josh: Morning sickness or motion sickness? Is there something you want to tell me? Maybe now is not the best place! (everyone bursts into laughter)
- Jennifer: Oh God, my publicist is going to say, 'And that's what I'm going to be dealing with for the next 24 hours’. Motion sickness. So that was hard to keep your cookies down during that situation.
Kidzworld: You have the opportunity to play a role across multiple films. Are you changing anything about your character as you learn more about them?
- Josh: I think it's cool because we're getting new and different input now. We have a new director leading us, so that's a cool change for us. I think that for me the places that Peeta goes naturally based on the story are so exciting for me, and I want to follow that. So as far as bringing a bunch of things of my own to it, there are definitely little parts of Peeta that I bring from myself, but for the most part it was all really in the original book and in the script and in the story for me.
- Liam: I always feel like when I’m shooting something I'll often let the character go in different directions because of either the director's influence or something we work out on set. When you have something like this, where you have four different films to do it over, it's definitely going to head in directions maybe you didn't think of, or unexpected stuff. But it's part of a collaboration. People developing a character and your instincts might go in a different direction because of another actor's instincts – Uh…I've really got to go to the bathroom!
- Jennifer: I knew it! I saw that empty orange juice thing you had. I knew “He’s gotta pee!” (Liam gets up to leave). I feel like his mother sometimes (looking at Josh) You too! (laughter)
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire is in theaters November 22nd!