Eye-catching West Side Story star and newly minted Hollywood royalty Rachel Zegler has landed another major role, as Variety is reporting the actress will be stepping into the archetype previously vacated by Jennifer Lawrence in the upcoming prequel film to The Hunger Games. The film, The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, comes from Hunger Games author Suzanne Collins 2020 book of the same name, with a story that takes place decades earlier than the revolution led by Katniss Everdeen in Mockingjay. Zegler will instead by portraying protagonist Lucy Gray Baird, another Hunger Games competitor who stands out in her own way. The casting was teased by Zegler herself on Twitter, who posted a cryptic message that also contained the character’s name.
The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes essentially functions as a backdoor protagonist story for series antagonist Coriolanus Snow as well—in The Hunger Games, he’s the cruel leader of Panem simply known as President Snow, played in the films by the great Donald Sutherland. Here, however, he’s an 18-year-old resident of the Capitol, played by actor Tom Blyth. Snow is then chosen as a mentor to Hunger Games competitor Lucy Gray Baird, a tribute from Katniss’ own District 12. Lucy, on the other hand, immediately captures the attention of viewers with her singing ability, which becomes a talent that the 18-year-old Snow seeks to harness in order to win the game and propel her (and himself) to fame and fortune.
The film is directed by series veteran Francis Lawrence, who directed Catching Fire and both halves of Mockingjay. Referencing Zegler’s casting, Lawrence said the following: “Like everybody, I first saw Rachel Zegler in West Side Story, and like everybody, I knew I was watching a star who would command the screen for a generation. Lucy Gray is a perfect match for her as an actress: the character is bold, independent, and defiant, but also vulnerable, emotional, and loving. Rachel will make this character unforgettable.”
Zegler next appears in Shazam! Fury of the Gods alongside Zachary Levi, and she’s also appearing in Disney’s live-action version of Snow White. The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, meanwhile, is set for a Nov. 17, 2023 release. We’ll bring you more information on the Hunger Games prequel as it arrives.