Rachel Zegler will star as Lucy Gray Baird in Lionsgate's Hunger Games prequel The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, based on the novel with the same name by Suzanne Collins. The performer recently starred as Maria in Steven Spielberg’s West Side Story. The prequel is set to debut in theatres worldwide November 17, 2023.
Zegler will star in the prequel opposite Tom Blyth, who will play the young Coriolanus Snow. The story follows the male lead at 18 years old, years before he would become the tyrannical President of Panem. He is assigned to mentor Lucy Gray Baird, the girl tribute from impoverished District 12.
The West Side Story actor teased her casting by posting a puzzle to her Twitter account. Her cryptic Tweet reads, "listen up….. can y’all grow restfully? are you becoming an individual resting decisively?" Fans quickly speculated that the first letter of each word spelled out her Hunger Games character's name. Zegler confirmed their speculation upon the studio's announcement.
“When you read Suzanne’s book, Lucy Gray’s emotional intelligence, physical agility, and fiercely powerful, determined singing voice shine through. Rachel embodies all of those skills – she is the perfect choice for our Lucy Gray,” said president of Lionsgate Motion Picture Group Nathan Kahane.
Director Francis Lawrence continued, “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.”
“Lucy Gray is an incredibly complex character, a performer who has to use every skill in her arsenal to survive. Our casting team, Deb Zane and Dylan Jury, spearheaded an exhaustive search, reading hundreds of actors in search of our perfect Lucy Gray. That search ended when Rachel Zegler blew the roof off with her depth and breadth of talent as an actor, singer, and performer. Rachel is utterly compelling; just like Lucy Gray, her voice and charisma command the stage while her inner strength and humanity transform those around her,” said producer Nina Jacobson.
It’s written in the stars. Rachel Zegler has been cast as Lucy Gray Baird in The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes – Arriving in theaters November 2023 pic.twitter.com/UfLAL6GXMu— The Hunger Games 🔥 (@TheHungerGames) May 31, 2022
The movie will be helmed by Lawrence, who previously directed the franchise’s Catching Fire, Mockingjay Part One, and Mockingjay Part Two, which featured Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, and Woody Harrelson with a screenplay by Michael Lesslie. It will be produced by Nina Jacobson and her producing partner Brad Simpson, along with executive producers Francis Lawrence, Suzanne Collins, Tim Palen, and Jim Miller. The latest draft of the screenplay is by Michael Lesslie.
This recent casting is not Zegler's first major role following her West Side Story breakout. She is currently filming a live action adaptation of Snow White and has been cast in DC superhero movie Shazam! Fury of the Gods and Alan Menken's animated musical Spellbound. She also participated in the 2022 Grammy's tribute to the late composer Steven Sondheim alongside Tony winners Cynthia Erivo and Ben Platt.