'Hunger Games' Prequel Movie Casts Its Star

The Hunger Games prequel has its star! Rachel Zegler will play Lucy Gray Baird in The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, Lionsgate announced Tuesday morning, via Deadline. The West Side Story star is joining the Francis Lawrence-directed film, scheduled to hit theaters Nov. 17, 2023, starring opposite Tom Blyth, who plays a young Coriolanus Snow, made famous by Donald Sutherland in the original trilogy. 

Before he became the President of Panem, Snow was the last hope for his once-proud family line, fallen from grace in the post-war Capitol. Assigned to mentor Baird for the 10th annual Hunger Games, Snow thinks he may be able to turn the odds in her favor after the defiant tribute from District 12 commands Panem's attention with her symbolic gesture during the reaping. Can Snow and Baird work together in the race for survival?

"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 Nathan Kahane, president, Lionsgate Motion Picture Group, in a statement, per Deadline.

"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," added Lawrence. "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."

Hunger Games producer Nina Jacobson praised Zegler as "utterly compelling," just as is her character. "Lucy Gray is an incredibly complex character, a performer who has to use every skill in her arsenal to survive," Jacobson said. "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."