Before she was a disgruntled former Capitol stylist, The Hunger Games‘ Tigris was Coriolanus Snow’s closest confidant and biggest supporter.
Euphoria breakout Hunter Schafer stars as the sweet cousin of the future Panem president in the prequel Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, set six decades before the original franchise and centered on a young Snow (Tom Blyth) during the 10th annual Hunger Games. When we first meet Tigris (in both the book and film adaptation), she’s managed to exquisitely mend an old button-up shirt that once belonged to her late uncle for her cousin Coriolanus — whom she refers to as Coryo — to wear for Reaping Day. Unbeknownst to much of Panem, the Snows have fallen on hard financial times since the first civil war between the districts and the Capitol, and it’s Tigris, an apprentice under designer Fabricia Whatnot, who helps support the family with the little income she makes.
In EW’s cover story for the prequel, franchise director Francis Lawrence (Catching Fire, Mockingjay Part 1 and 2) recalls Schafer’s disarming “authenticity” during her audition that immediately drew him to her for the part. “She’s one of the more authentic people I’ve ever personally met,” the filmmaker says.
For the opening scene in question featuring Coriolanus’ refashioned button-up, “So many people came in and read, [but] they were thinking more of Liz Banks‘ Effie Trinket than they were of Tigris. They’re putting on this Capitol effect, and it’s just so phony,” he laments. “Hunter came in and did the scene, and she was so endearing and warm.”
That warmth was integral to the story. “Their bond is so warm and she’s so full of hope,” Lawrence says. “[Tigris] is trying to draw [Coriolanus] into goodness and keep him in goodness.”
Young Tigris stands in stark contrast to the prized stylist introduced in 2015’s Mockingjay Part 2. Played by Eugenie Bondurant, grown Tigris joins former gamemaker Plutarch Heavensbee’s (Philip Seymour Hoffman) efforts to overthrow Snow (Donald Sutherland) as tyrannical president and houses rebel allies under the floorboards of her boutique clothing shop. Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) & Co. take up shop at the store before plans to infiltrate Snow’s presidential palace. When the Girl on Fire informs her she intends to kill the president, Tigris is pleased to hear it — and even cracks a wide smile. As for her tiger-like appearance, it’s revealed that she underwent a number of surgical enhancements in order to resemble the fierce animal.
The prequel helps contextualize the falling out between the two. In Songbirds and Snakes, Tigris has sympathy for the tributes — namely, Lucy Gray Baird (Rachel Zegler), the District 12 female tribute her cousin has been tasked with mentoring for the games. She lets Lucy Gray borrow one of her dresses to wear for her interview with host Lucky Flickerman (Jason Schwartzman), and also mends Lucy Gray’s infamous Reaping Day rainbow dress. Her cousin, of course, doesn’t harbor the same sympathies in the original films.
At the center of the story is a young Coriolanus pulled in different directions — either “toward the darkness” of Viola Davis‘ sinister head gamemaker Volumnia Gaul’s beliefs, or “toward the hope and warmth” of Schafer’s Tigris’ beliefs,” Lawrence observes. “Young people are always trying to find themselves and what they find to be true about people and society, and I think that’s where he is as a young man.”
Ready to return to the arena? The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes opens in theaters Nov. 17.
Make sure to check out EW’s Fall Movie Preview cover story on The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes — as well as all of our 2023 Fall TV Preview content, releasing through Sept. 29.