When actors get cast in a sequel, they have high hopes for the franchise’s continued success, and also that they fit in with the already established chemistry on the set. So, when it was revealed that Jena Malone was Johanna and Sam Claflin was Finnick in Catching Fire, each had even more butterflies in their stomach than normal.
Given that both were lauded for their turns (check out our Catching Fire review) and that Catching Fire broke November box office records -- each can now smile broadly and breathe easily. But when we caught up with Claflin and Malone weeks before the film's release, it was not always that easy.
“I have to say I was slightly intimidated entering into this world that had been created very strongly by my fellow cast mates, especially approaching a character like Finnick that is described as some kind of god. To approach a character like that, it was quite tough to say the very least. I had to go through some huge physical transformations, a shaven chest,” Claflin said and laughed.
“It was very intimidating but I kind of embraced the challenge and worked as hard as I could. That’s all you can do. As much as there was a fair bit of negativity when I was cast initially, I think now a few people have been turned. My goal is to obviously turn the world and that’s what Finnick’s goal is as well. So I guess I have that in common with him.”
Malone simply identified with her Catching Fire character. To say she adored portraying her is perhaps too simplistic of a description. “I loved every single thing about Johanna Mason. When I read the novel in 48 hours because I had my wisdom teeth out, I just poured through them and was just sobbing at the end and was just so emotionally invested,” Malone said.
For her she was perhaps more excited than nervous, and it largely had to do with the established cast, the Suzanne Collins books and the new director, Francis Lawrence. “I think for me beyond just the seed of the novels and the amazing cast and an incredible director, the fact that this kind of book was so well received in a young audience was that they were hungry for it and that it’s sort of a symbiotic relationship. You can’t create a good idea without someone wanting to receive that good idea.”
She also could not be more proud to be a part of something that people have embraced with full force. “I feel like it’s a really incredible thing to know that this new generation is hungry for a different type of sense of identity. They’re looking for something else in stories that are being sold to them. They don’t want it sugar coated anymore,” Malone said.
“What I thought was so amazing about Johanna Mason is that she kind of represented a lot of that in the sense that she doesn’t sugar coat and she is hardcore and truthful and violent and angry. And all of those things are not just cool aspects of her. I don’t really think that that’s a badass thing. It’s actually a survival technique. And I think that’s a really interesting thing to talk about for young women to understand that they can take on tools and personality traits that may not be their own, but they can use them in forms of survival to be able to elevate themselves in the world. Which I think is pretty cool.”