Trans actor Hunter Schafer speaks out about Hollywood’s direction for trans representation and her reaction to landing the role of Tigris Snow in Hunger Games prequel, The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes.
Based on Suzanne Collins’ best-selling tale, the film adaption of The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes is set 64 years before Katniss Everdeen volunteers as a tribute.
Instead, the story focuses on the original trilogy’s villain, Coriolanus Snow, played by Tom Blyth, as an 18-year-old mentor to tenacious District 12 tribute and travelling performer Lucy Gray Baird (Rachel Zegler).
As he falls in love, under the influence of classmate Sejanus (Josh Andrés Rivera) and cousin Tigris, Coriolanus must reckon with the cruelty of the Capitol. But as the stakes grow ever higher, will game-maker Dr Volumnia Gaul (Viola Davis) sink her claws in deep enough to pull him into the forces of tyranny and evil?
The popular YA franchise – both books and films – garnered widespread acclaim and the hopes are high for the latest instalment.
Now, in an exclusive interview with PinkNews, Euphoria star Hunter Schafer reflects on making her big screen debut and the power of including a rising trans star in the cast of the hotly-anticipated prequel.
“It’s really cool,” Schafer says. “In general, [it’s] my first movie that’s come out, and it’s starting off with a bang.
“The way that Hollywood is moving with my community gives me faith that we’re headed in a good direction.”
Over the past year, trans actors have been appearing more frequently on the silver screen, with many landing roles that do not centre around their trans identity. From Hari Nef in summer blockbuster Barbie to Zoe Terakes in A24 horror Talk To Me, and now Schafer’s turn as Tigris, films are slowly forging ahead with meaningful transgender representation.
“I don’t want to sensationalise it too much because at the end of the day I’m an actress,” Schafer adds. “This is what I do, so the trans element is really cool, but I’m just living for the fact that I get to do my art, work on my craft and that I’m getting these crazy opportunities. It’s really special.”
Schafer also touches on the excitement she felt when she found out she would be playing the role of the aspiring stylist and Coriolanus Snow’s confidante.
After the audition came through “last minute”, the star “hopped on a Zoom” without a chance to even read the book beforehand.
“I was going in not knowing a lot,” Schafer continues. “Thankfully, it worked out but it’s really cosmic and full circle, because I was such a huge fan growing up. It’s pretty unbelievable.
“It was my favourite book series in middle school. I remember seeing other kids reading it and gave it a shot. The books are gritty. It gets dark. I felt I was reading an adult book which [was] pretty cool.”
The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes is due to open in cinemas on 17 November.