From West Side Story to Snow White and now The Hunger GamesRachel Zegler is stepping into another role in a big-name flick. She will officially join Lionsgate’s Hunger Games prequel as Lucy Gray Baird.

Zegler will play the female lead in The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes. She stars opposite the recently cast Tom Blyth, who plays a young Coriolanus Snow. (Future Panem President Snow was portrayed by Donald Sutherland in the original film franchise.)

“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 of Lionsgate. 

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes follows Snow years before he would become the tyrannical leader of Panem. 18-year-old Coriolanus Snow is the last hope for his fading lineage; a once-proud family that has fallen from grace in a post-war Capitol. With the 10th annual Hunger Games fast approaching, the young Snow is alarmed when he is assigned to mentor Lucy Gray Baird, the girl tribute from impoverished District 12. But, after Lucy Gray commands all of Panem’s attention by defiantly singing during the reaping ceremony, Snow thinks he might be able to turn the odds in their favor. Uniting their instincts for showmanship and newfound political savvy, Snow and Lucy’s race against time to survive will ultimately reveal who is a songbird, and who is a snake.

“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 Hunger Games producer Nina Jacobson.

The prequel film comes from director Francis Lawrence, who helmed three out of the four previous Hunger Games movies.

“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,” said 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.”

Like the previous films, The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes will draw on the YA novels by Suzanne Collins. The author will serve as an executive producer on the prequel feature.

Zegler received critical acclaim for her role as Maria in Steven Spielberg’s adaptation of West Side Story. She will next appear in DC’s Shazam! Fury of the Gods. She is also currently filming for Disney’s live action Snow White.

Meanwhile, for more updates on The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, check back to THS.

Source: Deadline

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