When did you first read The Hunger Games?
I read the books about a year ago, when I was in seventh grade. All the kids in my class were reading them and talking about how good they were, so I thought, “Hey I should try them.” I just tore through them because they’re just so good. I fell in love with Rue right away. I love how musical she is, and how quick and smart she is.
What was your audition like?
To get prepared, my mom took some of my clothes and rolled them in the backyard to get grass stains all over them, and we put twigs in my hair. Gary Ross, the director, was very impressed. He said I had my own hair, makeup and wardrobe department.
What else did you do to convince him you could be Rue?
I just discussed how much I connected with the character. I also told them how I’ve done parkour work, so I have some tree-jumping skills.
Did you do any of the stuntwork in the movie?
I did some stuff. I didn’t have to do any of the hard-core stuff, but I got strapped in my custom harness. I flew around the room and jumped from tree to tree. I loved being in the harness because I felt like Peter Pan. We have some cool scenes where I’m up in the trees with Jennifer.
There’s a key scene in the book where Katniss sings Rue a lullaby. Some readers have been so inspired by that passage, they’ve written their own melodies and uploaded the song to YouTube. What can you tell us about that scene?
On that day [of filming], I actually had the honor of meeting Suzanne Collins, the author. That was incredible. We talked about the scene and how Rue is trying to be brave for Katniss.… It’s really so important to everyone who worked on the movie that it stays true to the books, so that the fans are really happy with it.
It’s neat that you make music, which is Rue’s favorite thing.
I come from a very musical family. My dad taught me to play guitar. I play violin and drums as well.Violin, I started in elementary school. Drums actually came when I was in a program called Rock Star, which was really awesome. We were doing a song by the Ramones, so I thought, “Why not play the drums?”
What would you like to do in the future? Acting, music or both?
I’m not sure. I love all kinds of art. I mean, I love sketching and acting and music. There are so many doors open to me, I could go in any direction.
I guarantee there will not be one dry eye in the theater when Katniss sings the lullaby to Rue. I may be full out sobbing during that scene.