The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes takes place more than 60 years before Katniss Everdeen enters the competition, but the movie still finds a way to give her a mention. (Spoilers ahead!)
No, Jennifer Lawrence doesn’t have a cameo appearance. However, Lucy Gray Baird (Rachel Zegler) says her name in the new movie, which hit theaters on Friday, November 17.
While in District 12 with a young Coriolanus Snow (Tom Blyth), Lucy takes him to a lake where they enjoy a swim and take in the sunshine. Lucy takes a look at a flower that has roots they can eat, noting that it’s not quite ripe enough to snack on yet. She reveals that some people call it “swamp potato,” but she prefers the prettier name: “Katniss.”
Ultimately, the only characters who appear in The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes from the original trilogy are Snow — the dictator Katniss eventually fights to overthrow — and his cousin Tigris, the stylist with tiger-like body modifications who helps the rebels sneak into the Capitol.
In prequel film, Tigris (Hunter Schafer) doesn’t have any tattoos and is just trying to take care of her and Snow’s grandmother. Meanwhile, Snow is trying to win prize money to pull their family out of poverty while mentoring Lucy in the 10th annual Hunger Games.
It’s the first time mentors have been used, and Snow has plenty of other suggestions to bring in more viewers. However, he isn’t quite the villain that Donald Sutherland played in the original trilogy.
“People think they know the character,” Blyth told Variety earlier this month. “What I hope is that, if not to empathize with him, they understand him a little bit more and understand what makes him tick. And understand what a character like him would have to go through to make him become so evil.”
He continued, “For me, I kind of fell in love with him as a character. I was heartbroken when I had to let him fall off the deep end.”
At the end of the film, Snow completes his inevitable turn into the cold future president and as the title card is shown, the older Snow is not seen. However, the audience hears Sutherland’s voice deliver Snow’s most famous line to Katniss: “It’s the things we love the most that destroy us.”
Blyth did not chat with Donald Sutherland about the role, as director Francis Lawrence requested he give a fresh take on the character. Zegler, meanwhile, met Jennifer Lawrence after filming.
“Meeting her was like meeting a friend because we have so many mutual friends and I’ve heard so much about her,” Zegler told Access Hollywood on Tuesday, November 13. “Francis, our director, when I told him that we had finally met, he said, ‘Oh finally the two weirdest contacts I have in my phone have collaborated,’ and I take that as a badge of honor truly.”