In a not-too-distant future, the United States of America has collapsed, weakened by drought, fire, famine, and war, to be replaced by Panem, a country divided into the Capitol and 12 districts. Each year, two young representatives from each district are selected by lottery to participate in The Hunger Games. Part entertainment, part brutal intimidation of the subjugated districts, the televised games are broadcasted throughout Panem as the 24 participants are forced to eliminate their competitors, literally, with all citizens required to watch. When 16-year-old Katniss’ young sister, Prim, is selected as the mining district’s female representative, Katniss volunteers to take her place. She and her male counterpart, Peeta, the son of the town baker who seems to have all the fighting skills of a lump of bread dough, will be pitted against bigger, stronger representatives who have trained for this their whole lives.

‘The Hunger Games’ is based on Suzanne Collins’ best-selling novel, the first in a trilogy that has sold over 16 million copies in print in the United States alone. Directed by Gary Ross, the film pairs Oscar nominee Jennifer Lawrence with Josh Hutcherson and Liam Hemsworth in the key young adult roles. The likes of Woody Harrelson, Amandia Stenberg, Alexander Ludwig, Elizabeth Banks, Lenny Kravitz, Donald Sutherland, Toby Jones and Stanley Tucci co-star. ‘The Hunger Games’ is released in cinemas March 23rd.

Why do you think have so many people have responded to this story and this character?

Jennifer Lawrence: Because this is the generation that’s obsessed with reality television and watching people’s lives fall apart while we eat popcorn. This is the new generation that’s kind of started this obsession, and I’m every bit a part of it. The more tragic it gets the more ratings it gets, and the more we watch it, the more we love it. We live in the world where in the past and present and possibly future our governments, in certain countries, are controlling their people by keeping them separate and weak and hungry so that they’re not strong enough to fight back. I think that there are a lot of messages about history repeating itself and what happens when something is wrong and you stay quiet, and how we are the new generation. We are the generation that can change things and that can stand up. Also, I think people love following a character like this who’s a hero that doesn’t mean to be a hero, that kind of goes against all odds and fights back when something is wrong and doesn’t stay quiet.

What was your reaction after reading “The Hunger Games trilogy“?

Jennifer Lawrence: I went through all of them in a matter of days. I just thought they were incredible. They’re this sort of futuristic Joan of Arc, and I also loved how….it’s hard to stay “true” to something in the future (laughs), because we don’t know what’s going to happen in the future, but when you look at what’s on reality television, and think about history repeating itself, it seems incredibly relevant. This story seems incredibly relevant. I thought that it was a very important story to be told.

Can you tell us a little bit about Katniss’ background? Also what characteristics intrigued you about her? She’s both fearless and compassionate….

Jennifer Lawrence: Yeah. When we first meet Katniss, she lives in District 12, which is a poor district. She hunts, she loves the forest, she loves the woods, she loves her little sister. She’s got a pretty great life under the circumstances, she’s happy. But then her little sister gets chosen for “The Hunger Games”, that changes everything.

With Katniss, I just love her strength, I’m always finding myself drawn to strong characters – probably because I want to be like that (laughs). Katniss is a girl who has the world placed on her shoulders. She’s one of the first people who stands up against the Capitol. I think people see that strength and they see….it’s a messed up world, its about time somebody did it. But she’s a young girl, and she didn’t play their games, she didn’t make anybody her enemy really. She started a revolution, she’s such a strong lead.

How did you prepare, both mentally and physically, for a role like this?

Jennifer Lawrence: Physically, it was a lot of training…..running, free running which is like agility, combat, climbing, archery, and yoga. And then emotionally, I don’t really emotionally prepare for anything, except going to the mall last night for the signing. But that’s just showing up to set with your lines memorized and just talking. I didn’t really emotionally prepare too much.

How was it having Josh Hutcherson and Liam Hemsworth alongside you as Peeta and Gale?

Jennifer Lawrence: Josh Hutcherson, who plays Peeta, he could not be a better match – he is Peeta! He can charm the world with three sentences. He’s also one of the funniest people I’ve ever met. It was like being twelve years old at work with him every day. He’s great….he’s Peeta! He’s just charming, there’s nothing you can’t like about him, he can always find the positive situation in everything. Liam Hemsworth, who plays Gale, he’s this huge giant and he’s so sweet and nice, he‘s a gentle giant (laughs). He’s also pretty hilarious. They were both amazing.

Two other key character are Cinna and President Snow, how was it working alongside Lenny Kravitz and Donald Sutherland in those roles?

Jennifer Lawrence: Cinna, who’s played by Lenny Kravitz, he’s now one of my very dear friends, he’s awesome. He’s so perfect for this part because Lenny has such a gentle persona where he makes everybody comfortable – which I can imagine being hard to do when you’re a huge rock star and everybody know who you are. But he has this ability of making everybody feel very comfortable, and he’s very gentle. Cinna has that same ability.

I had one scene with Donald Sutherland in ‘The Hunger Games,’ and I will remember it for the rest of my life. He is remarkable. He sent cold chills down my spine. He’s very funny and nice and a great guy, but as soon as he speaks as President Snow, when he’s acting, it was just chilling.

Wearing the Mockingjay Pin for the first time, what was that like?

Jennifer Lawrence: I was star struck by the Mockingjay Pin! That was the most shocked and excited I had been about seeing something in a movie because….honestly it was like being star struck. When you see it, you think, “Of course that’s what it looks like,” it was exactly how I imagined it to look like. It was an honour to wear that, that was really cool.

This being such revered character by fans of the books, what was it like speaking to Suzanne Collins about Katniss?

Jennifer Lawrence: I talked to Suzanne Collins after I got the part on the phone. It was incredible because I’m her biggest fan, I loved the books so much – I’m obsessed with them (laughs)! Also, because of course what a lot of people were saying, those questions were in my head too. Things like me being too old, being blonde – even though I could dye my hair, they got to me too because that’s how I imagined the character. But hearing it from the woman who created Katniss herself, I felt like a huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders. Her saying, “I know you can do it,” it gave me all the boost that I needed to play Katniss.