The Ballad Of Songbirds And Snakes Star Rachel Zegler Reveals Why She Originally Turned Down The Role In The Hunger Games Prequel

Rachel Zegler as Lucy Gray Baird in Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes
(Image credit: Lionsgate)

After Jennifer Lawrence skyrocketed to stardom after she volunteered as a tribute for the Hunger Games movies, you’d think the leading role in the next one would be a no-brainer for anyone that was asked. However, as Rachel Zegler, the star of the upcoming prequel, recently revealed, she initially turned down the role of Lucy Gray Baird before coming to her senses. 

21-year-old Rachel Zegler has had a whirlwind few years. After being hand-picked by Steven Spielberg to star in his version of West Side Story, the actress is set to star in the Shazam! sequel Fury of the Gods, which just premiered its latest trailer this week, and as Snow White in an upcoming live-action Disney movie. When it came to her involvement in the upcoming book adaptation The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, here’s how things went down: 

This is such an embarrassing story for me. I was offered it in January of last year after wanting it so badly. I didn’t audition, it was just, I got a call from my agent that was like ‘Francis Lawrence wants you to do this.’ I met with him for like three hours at the Soho Hotel in London. And then he told me that they were filming in Germany and in Poland and I had just gotten to London and I wanted to disappear because I was so far away from home for the first time ever. And I was away from everybody that I knew and loved and I said ‘no.’

While Zegler was a guest on Happy Sad Confused, she was asked about the process of nabbing her key role in the Hunger Games prequel. The actress admitted the story is embarrassing because she can’t believe she said no. Here’s what she said next: 

I regretted it the second I said it. I had another project lined up that fell through that got pushed into 2023 and I just kind of put my name back into the mix and got it, and I feel really bad for any of the girls…because I put my name back in and they were just like ‘yup, OK, cool, we’ll do it.’

You don’t often hear about actresses like Zegler turning down roles as big as this one, but she had a fair fear when it came to making it. She’d be thousands of miles away from everyone she knew for the first time. That’s objectively scary. Thankfully, she decided to push through that fear and take the part, because she’s going to be perfect as the prequel’s District 12 tribute. 

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes follows the story of President Snow as a teenager before he was the leader of Panem, and we'll see him tasked with mentoring the female District 12 tribute, Lucy Gray Baird. Unlike Katniss Everdeen, Lucy loves the limelight and is a gifted singer who wows the Capitol with her personality and performances ahead of the games. 

Along with her acting talents, Rachel Zegler is also a gifted singer who starred in numerous musicals before getting chosen by Spielberg for his Maria in West Side Story, effectively jump-starting her role in Hollywood. She won a Golden Globe for her role, becoming the first actress of Colombian descent to win in the category of Best Actress – Motion Picture Comedy or Musical. 

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes wrapped filming back in November ahead of its release on November 17. While we wait for the next installment, you can learn how to watch the Hunger Games movies on streaming with the help of CinemaBlend's handy guide. 

Sarah El-Mahmoud
Staff Writer

YA genre tribute. Horror May Queen. Word webslinger. All her writing should be read in Sarah Connor’s Terminator 2 voice over.