West Side Story star Rachel Zegler is set to play the lead in The Hunger Games prequel The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes.
Lionsgate Motion Picture Group confirmed that Zegler will portray the role of Lucy Gray Baird in the prequel film set for a November 2023 release.
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
On Monday (June 6), MTV debuted a brief teaser clip of the prequel film's exclusive first look confirming the casting news.
🚨 Are you ready for EXCLUSIVE first look of @TheHungerGames: The Ballads of Songbirds and Snakes!? 🚨@rachelzegler & Tom Blyth star in the latest adaption of #HungerGames, coming soon! pic.twitter.com/A7pM6sBhTn— MTV (@MTV) June 5, 2022
Zegler first prompted speculation about her casting with a cryptic tweet, which read: “listen up… can y’all grow restfully? are you becoming an individual resting decisively?”
— rachel zegler (she/her/hers) (@rachelzegler) May 31, 2022
The tweet by the 21-year-old was apparently a coded message. Fans of the movie and book were quick to decipher that the first letters of each word in the tweet spelled out Lucy Gray Baird, the lead character in The Hunger Games prequel.
The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes is based on Suzanne Collins’ book of the same name. Set in the years before The Hunger Games trilogy took place, the film follows the story of young Coriolanus Snow who is assigned to mentor Lucy Gray during the 10th annual Hunger Games.
The character of Lucy Gray Baird is the female tribute from District 12, the same district as Katniss Everdeen, portrayed by Jennifer Lawrence in the original four Hunger Games movies from 2012 to 2015.
The prequel takes place decades before the events of Lawrence's films, which kicked off with the 74th Hunger Games. During the 10th Hunger Games, Gray is mentored by Coriolanus Snow, a top-performing student at the academy. In the prequel novel, Baird was a Capitol favorite, who eventually became the victor of the Games.
Following the official announcement, Zegler shared photos of her reaction on her social media accounts from when she found out that she had the lead role in the prequel. The West Side Story star also thanked her fans after receiving positive feedback from them.
photos from when i found out it was happening and it was real pic.twitter.com/SL0rV9vfTj— rachel zegler (she/her/hers) (@rachelzegler) May 31, 2022
Along with Zegler, the film previously cast Tom Blyth in the film. Blyth, best known for Billy the Kid and The Gilded Age, will portray young President Coriolanus Snow in The Hunger Games prequel.
Blyth will play the role of Snow, portrayed by Donald Sutherland in the first four films, in the years before he would become the tyrannical President of Panem.
As of this writing, further details and cast members are yet to be announced. The prequel film The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes is set to be released on November 17, 2023.