A Chat with Willow Shields

The 13-year-old actress returns as Katniss’s sister, Prim, in Catching Fire, in theaters now

Nov 22, 2013 | By Kelli Plasket
COURTESY LIONSGATE

Sisters Prim (Willow Shields) and Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) hug in a scene from Catching Fire.

In The Hunger Games, Katniss Everdeen, played by Jennifer Lawrence, volunteers to compete in the Hunger Games to save her younger sister, Prim, played by Willow Shields. The sisters return in Catching Fire, which finds Katniss on a Victor’s Tour of Panem’s districts as a rebellion sparked by Katniss’s actions in the arena grows. The new movie—the second of four films based on Suzanne Collins’ bestselling dystopian series—hits theaters November 22 and is rated PG-13.

Catching Fire also finds Prim following in her mother’s footsteps by training to become a healer while supporting Katniss on her journey. “Prim is growing up quite a bit,” Willow told TFK. “She is there for Katniss a lot in Catching Fire.” The 13-year-old actress, who likes to to read and take dance classes when she’s not working, shared what it’s like filming with Jennifer Lawrence and how having a twin helps her relate to the sisters from District 12.

TFK:

How do you relate to Prim?

WILLOW:

Obviously, we live in two totally different worlds, but it's easier to relate to her because we are growing up together throughout the series. Prim is always there for her family, and she also has a real love for animals. I have always grown up around them. It's easy to connect with her.

TFK:

You have a twin sister named Autumn. Does your relationship with her help you relate to Prim and Katniss?

WILLOW:

Yeah. It helps you get into the mindset of filming the reaping [scenes, where the tributes are chosen] and thinking about the fact that your sister is going to the Hunger Games and may not come back. When you actually think about what if that happened in real life, it helps to connect with the facts and connect with the character and act better.

TFK:

How are you and Autumn alike and different?

WILLOW:

We are actually very different. I'm into acting, and she's more into art. She's a little bit shyer than I am. I'm probably the more outgoing sister. We have different interests in books and hobbies.

TFK:

What do you like to do during your downtime on set?

WILLOW:

Well, what I have to do during my downtime is school. Other than that, I hang out with Jen between scenes on set. But when I'm in my trailer, you'll find me doing school.

TFK:

Do you find it difficult to balance doing work and school?

WILLOW:

It's a little bit difficult because some days I might not be able to get math and reading in, so the next day I need to double up on it, but it's worth it. It can take a little getting used to. It's a self-discipline thing that I have learned over the past two years.

TFK:

What's your favorite subject to study?

WILLOW:

I think my favorite is reading. I read all the time.

TFK:

Most of your scenes are filmed with Jennifer Lawrence. What's it like working with her?

WILLOW:

I could not ask for a better person to work with. She is so sweet, she's hilarious, she's like a big sister on set, and I always have a blast filming with her. There's no one else who could play Katniss. She always has a good grasp on the characters she's playing.

TFK:

You also filmed scenes with Prim's cat, Buttercup. What was that like?

WILLOW:

It's fun. The cat that they cast as Buttercup is perfect. It's really a weird-looking cat. But the cat is super sweet and it's fun to be on set with the trainer. They teach you to work with the cat.

TFK:

Next you'll film Mockingjay: Part 1. What are you looking forward to most?

WILLOW:

It will be interesting because of the fact that [Prim will be] in a different place, so there's different wardrobe and different set design. It's always been District 12. It will be fun to have something different.