Here’s everything to know about ‘The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes’ cast, from who they’re playing in the ‘Hunger Games’ prequel to the details of their costumes
Meet the new residents of Panem featured in The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes.
Just like the original franchise, the film includes many striking onscreen transformations as the star-studded cast plays various Capitol citizens, from whimsical costumes to eye-catching hair and makeup.
As the new movie depicts a different post-war era, costume designer Trish Summerville told PEOPLE the costumes reflect a "much more conservative, regimented kind of society" compared to the "over-the-top, exaggerated body modification and intense color" of the time period from the previous movies.
Though Summerville looked to “Americana 1940s and 1950s” for many looks, she added that a few characters are a “bit heightened,” such as Viola Davis, who looks almost unrecognizable as Dr. Volumnia Gaul.
Ahead, see more of the striking cast transformations and who the stars are playing in the film.
Tom Blyth as Coriolanus Snow
Being one of the top students at the Academy, the Capitol's most prestigious secondary school, Snow is chosen as a mentor in the 10th Hunger Games. He is eventually paired with a District 12 tribute named Lucy Gray Baird, who is much more than meets the eye. Desperate to win a monetary prize to help him pay for university, Snow does all he can to make a good impression on Lucy Gray and make sure she’ll win the games.
As Blyth is a natural brunette, the hair and makeup department had to bleach his hair on a regular basis to portray Snow’s blond locks described in the books. “Every two weeks we'd have to have his scalp bleached,” hair designer Nikki Gooley told PEOPLE.
Additionally, Blyth wore four different wigs as he portrayed Snow throughout various stages. “There was one particular location where he had to have his buzz cut, and then we filmed him with his longer hair for six weeks,” Gooley explained. “So we cut his hair in prep before we went on location. Then we had to color, and then we had the wigs made in another country, and that was a kind of bit of an ongoing process.”
Rachel Zegler as Lucy Gray Baird
After making her film debut in West Side Story, Rachel Zegler stars as Lucy Gray Baird in the new film.
A member of the Covey, a nomadic musical group who was forced to settle in District 12 after the war, Lucy Gray is chosen as the District 12 tribute in the 10th Hunger Games and paired with Snow as her mentor. With her charming wit and beautiful voice, she immediately draws the attention of the Capitol and becomes a frontrunner in the competition.
For Lucy Gray’s District 12 looks, Summerville told PEOPLE that they tried to pay tribute to the district’s coal mining roots, keeping with “natural tones and tones of nature and flora and fauna in District 12.” Of course, one of her most iconic looks is the rainbow dress she wears in the arena.
“That was a really challenging piece,” Summerville told Harper’s Bazaar about the dress. “It has a lot of detail in the book about what it is, and I had to go through a lot of iterations of what I wanted it to be.”
The dress even featured a subtle nod to Katniss Everdeen, as Summerville said the corset mimics the shape of Katniss’s blue mockingjay dress in Catching Fire. “A lot of times we’ll start a project before we have a cast, so I kind of started the designs that way,” she continued. “I was ordering all these different colors of tulle in excess. So if there were eight or 10 colors in the skirt, I was ordering all that tulle, shirring it, and playing with the skirt to figure out which colors transitioned well together.”
“Then once we casted, we discovered that Rachel Zegler is quite petite,” she added. “So we had to scale the whole thing down, reconfigure all the measurements, and figure out how many rows of color to have.”
Josh Andrés Rivera as Sejanus Plinth
Following his role as Chino in West Side Story (in which he starred alongside his girlfriend and Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes costar Zegler), Josh Andrés Rivera plays Sejanus Plinth in the movie.
Sejanus’s father was able to buy the family's way from District 2 into the Capitol after supplying the Capitol with military weapons during the war, something Sejanus resents. Alongside Snow, Sejanus is chosen as a mentor for the 10th annual Hunger Games, where he is eventually paired with a former classmate from District 2.
For the Academy uniforms, Summerville told The Art of Costume the main challenge was creating something that was “interesting but isn’t distracting.” Ultimately, she settled on the bold red color.
“I liked this idea of the red, painting an image where all the students flow into The Academy like a vein of blood,” she told the publication. “As they flow into these buildings, they stand out in high contrast to what their environments are. Our colors were focused on red, gray, black, white and blue. We tried to have every working hired hand in the Capitol contained in that color palette.”
For the actual structure of the uniform, she added that she wanted to keep things “androgynous, gender-neutral” with both boys and girls in pants and skirts. “In the Capitol, if you’re one, you’re the same; they never let you feel elevated to be special,” she explained. “I loved the idea of the kilt because the kilt is a very old article of clothing that we still use in contemporary times. I really wanted to use a kilt and modernize it in a way of just being a front and a back panel for the school uniform instead of being a complete skirt all the way around.”
Of course, the most iconic piece from the uniform is the Academy button, which has already been replicated for fans to buy. Summerville told PEOPLE the costumes were a big undertaking, including the pins, which they made for all the actors and extras. “We made buttons for the school uniforms that are the Capital emblem, so that's 8,000, 10,000 buttons that you're making and casting. I love seeing the big scenes of all the students move into the Academy.”
Hunter Schafer as Tigris Snow
After making her acting debut on Euphoria, Hunter Schafer makes her film debut as Tigris Snow in The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes.
Tigris first appears in The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 as a former stylist who helps Katniss and the rebels, but in Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, we learn that she’s actually Snow’s cousin. A rising fashion designer, Tigris does all she can to support her family as they’ve fallen on hard times.
While the Tigris we meet in The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 has completely altered her appearance to look like a tiger, the Tigris we meet in the prequel is much more tame. To connect the two, makeup designer Sherri Berman Laurence told PEOPLE they gave little “hints of how eventually it could have gone there,” like giving her “super pointy bleached eyebrows.”
As the Snow family tries to keep appearances in the Capitol despite having little income, Summerville told PEOPLE each of Tigris’ looks were slightly frayed at the edges and seams. “It's like she's putting pieces together and repurposing to make them all presentable and look great,” she explained.
Jason Schwartzman as Lucretius "Lucky" Flickerman
The Asteroid City actor plays Hunger Games host Lucretius "Lucky" Flickerman in the film.
Originally a weathercaster in the Capitol, Lucky is tapped as the very first Hunger Games host for the 10th annual games. It’s also insinuated that he is a distant relative of Hunger Games host Caesar Flickerman (Stanley Tucci) from the original franchise.
Like Tigris, Laurence told PEOPLE they never “reached the looks like Stanley Tucci” for Lucky, however, there were hints of it in his hair and makeup, including his handlebar mustache and “pancake makeup and bronzer.”
Viola Davis as Dr. Volumnia Gaul
EGOT winner Viola Davis plays Head Gamemaker, Dr. Volumnia Gaul, in the film.
In addition to being Head Gamemaker of the Hunger Games, Dr. Gaul is known for her harrowing lab experiments in which she creates various muttations to use as weapons, including the jabberjays mentioned in the Hunger Games films.
Dr. Gaul certainly has the most striking transformation of all, with mismatched colored eyes and a striking red outfit, including red latex gloves to cover scars from past experiments. Summerville told PEOPLE the inspiration for the outfit was something of a "Willy Wonka mad scientist, Dr. Frankenstein kind of vibe" — basically a "whimsical feel" with a "dark side to her that's devious." Summerville added that she wanted the costumes for Dr. Gaul to "be much different than" what other characters wore, using "a lot of color" to make her "always stand out."
For the rest of her look, Gooley told PEOPLE she looked to the 1940s for inspiration and eventually found a "beautiful silver-gray afro" that "blended with the eccentricity of the character and her colorfulness." She added, "Her character's very big and strong, so it made sense to have a big wiry kind of hair. And it also suited Viola as well, I think.”
Additionally, Davis wore special makeup to inform Dr. Gaul's weathered past, sustaining scarring and other disfigurements from her dangerous lab experiments. Laurence added that it was Davis’ idea to make Dr. Gaul have two different colored eyes (landing on a "hazy" dark brown one, the other a "piercing blue"), possibly from an experiment gone wrong.
"Between the hair, the costume, that eye, it really just took her to a scary place," said Laurence. "Then you throw in her acting — I mean, come on. You could have heard a pin drop when she would walk [on set]."
Peter Dinklage as Casca Highbottom
Game of Thrones alumnus Peter Dinklage plays Casca Highbottom.
In addition to being Dean of the Academy, Highbottom is also credited as the creator of the Hunger Games, something he isn’t particularly proud of. He also holds disdain towards Snow and the rest of his family due to his mysterious history with Snow’s father.
Dean Highbottom certainly has one of the most muted looks in the film, dressing predominantly in dark overcoats, leaning into the “post-war” feel of the film. Speaking with Harper's Bazaar, Summerville noted that the biggest difference between the prequel and the original franchise is that it’s “set very recently after a big rebellion and war.”
“Since we landed on the ’40s and ’50s, I did a lot of research on American fashion, especially from everyday blue-collar workers," she added.
Fionnula Flanagan as Grandma'am
Irish actress Fionnula Flanagan plays Grandma'am in the film.
Grandma'am is the paternal grandmother of both Snow and Tigris, who live with her in the Capitol. In addition to caring for her grandchildren, she also has an affection for roses, which she grows in her roof garden, a foreshadowing of Snow’s similar affection for white roses in the Hunger Games films.
As she predominantly resides in the Snow apartment, she is often described as wearing long tunics, slippers and a turban. Speaking with PEOPLE, Summerville noted that while Tigris repurposes many older pieces to look new again, one thing she doesn’t touch is Grandma'am’s jewelry.
“Grandma'am hangs on to all her pearls and her joy, she's not hocking that, like that's family heirlooms,” she said. “Even though they're desperate for food, there are certain things with Grandma'am's pride and the pride of the Snow family that they're not willing to give up. They're willing to save face and present that they're still pulled together and they're still this prestigious family.”
Ashley Liao as Clemensia Dovecote
Ashley Liao, best known for her role on Fuller House, plays Academy student Clemensia Dovecote.
A classmate and friend of Snow, Clemensia is also chosen as a mentor for the 10th Hunger Games and assigned the male tribute from District 11, Reaper.
In addition to wearing the same red Academy uniform as Snow and Sejanus, we also see Clemensia don darker ensembles in the trailer, including a black velvet blazer and a shirt with various black bows.
For the Capitol citizens, Summerville told The Art of Costume that she tried to “keep all their clothing in solid colors and not having a lot of print so that it came across as a bit more serious, a bit more cold.” She added, “Even though in The Capitol there is more money and wealth, you don’t see joy or the freedom of expression. Everybody’s treated as one of many and as a number, and you’re all equally the same."
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