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Willow Shields talks Primrose’s growth in ‘Mockingjay’

Rick Bentley
The Fresno Bee

Actors get a lot of different things out of a role: work, experience, money, fame, attention. Willow Shields, who plays Primrose Everdeen in “The Hunger Games” movies, also got a really good friend in co-star Jennifer Lawrence.

The connection the pair started in “The Hunger Games” and continued through “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” and “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 1” has continued to grow. The 14-year-old Shields uses words like “smart” and “sophisticated” when talking about Lawrence.

The main thing is that Shields is constantly learning from the actress who plays her older sister.

“We have gotten so close,” she says. “She is so sweet. As we’ve gotten older, she’s gotten to be more of a mentor to me.”

That’s because Lawrence can relate to what it’s like to be a young actor in Hollywood. Lawrence was 16 when she landed her first professional roles in the TV shows “Monk” and “Cold Case.”

Shields, who was born and raised in New Mexico, was 9 when she was cast in the cable series “In Plain Sight.” Because of all the production in the state, Shields and her two siblings convinced their parents to let them start auditioning for parts, and Shields, who the family had always called a “drama queen,” has been working ever since.

Nothing else she’s done has been as big as the “The Hunger Games” series. Because she has played Primrose over several years, Shields has been able to see the development of the character with each new film.

“It has been incredible to see her growing up,” she says. “I think that’s really great for an actor. You learn more and more.”

In the first two films, her role didn’t require much more than her to be the little sister who needed protection from the brutality of the Hunger Games. With “Mockingjay,” she’s found her own place in the rebellion — she’s going through training to be a doctor.

“The Hunger Games” producer, Nina Jacobson, points out that Primrose started out as a scared child afraid to lose her sister and best friend but has become her own strong person who can really be there to help Katniss.

“It’s Prim who reminds Katniss of her power and tells her that she can make her own demands when she agrees to be the Mockingjay,” Jacobson says.

Primrose becomes a confidante for Katniss, helping her sister with the pain that comes with post-traumatic stress from the Games.

“She still wants to take care of Prim and their mom as war is breaking out,” Shield says. “But I feel like Prim now has a unique ability to stand behind Katniss, and you get to see almost a kind of role reversal between them.”

Having read the books, Shields went into the films knowing the path Primrose would take. That’s why she was ready for the new challenges that come with “Mockingjay.”

“I feel like I was pushed harder. It is heavier in a way. All of these characters are in such a weird places. It’s been such a change for them. The rebellion is really happening,” Shields says. “The film shows the symbol of hope that Katniss has become. She’s just a normal young girl trying to find her own way. Its a fantastic story.”

The same can be said for Shields. When she’s not part of one of the biggest film franchises in movie history, she returns to a life of school and many of the friends she had before the first “Hunger Games” release.