One of the most anticipated films of the year doesn’t come from Marvel but instead features a bow wielding heroine on her victory tour with The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. While the film focuses mostly on tributes Katniss and Peeta there are plenty of other characters bringing the pain. Two of the new additions to the cast include Stephanie Leigh Schlund stepping in as Cashmere and Alan Ritchson taking on Gloss. While they may be new to the Hunger Games neither are new to the industry with Schlund appearing in The Last Song, The Following and more and Ritchson already making a name for himself with roles as Aquaman in Smallville and Raphael in the upcoming live action Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles film. I had the chance to sit down with the latest tributes to join the games and discuss their roles in this film.
Bobby: Can you tell us a little about how you got involved with The Hunger Games Catching fire?
Stephanie: Initially I had seen the first movie in theaters and became a huge fan, so picked up the books and read all three of them in a matter of a week I think or something crazy like that. I got an email from my team that I had an audition and got so excited, but I had one of those gut feelings that you get, so I just went in there and tried my hardest and walked out of there knowing that Francis thought I was either completely and utterly crazy or I nailed it.
Alan: I read the books before they were ever movies and was just a fan of the books. When the opportunity came for the second film and they were casting I actually went out for the role of Finnick. Deb Zane, I think it one of the most brilliant casting directors out there today, brought me in and is very selective. So you know if you are in there to read for here, you are definitely in the contention, she doesn’t just see anybody. I was very excited and prepared to go in and read for Finnick and felt real good about it. I go in there and she said let’s do this, so we did and she just said “Wow, you know the character very well. Thanks.” I thought that was a strange thing to say and the waved goodbye. No let’s do it like this or try it like this, it was just a very odd and something was just weird about it and I thought I was really right for Finnick. Weeks and weeks go by and we can’t get any response from her office and wondered what was the deal, what went wrong. I just wanted to know as an actor if I did or said something to offend her, but she just kept saying he’s not Finnick. Two months later we get a call that they were making an offer for the role of Gloss and suddenly everything made sense. I think when I walked in with her prowess she immediately thought that guy is Gloss and had that in mind the whole time. So that was a character I hadn’t really studied, but once I did I just dived in and got really excited about it and just so honored to get to bring him to life. It was an interesting road getting there.
Bobby: What kind of training do you guys have to go through for this kind of film?
Alan: Its months of daily rigorous work with the weapons we work with. We are dagger specialists so we were working with these rubber knives every day, learning how to throw them, handle them, flip them in our hands to look like someone who was born and bred to do this because our characters were. It was a lot more intense that I think we anticipated but you master something by doing it every day and that’s what the stunt team that led us through this do best. They took it day by day and crush your spirit (laughs) and you come back the next day and do it again. Then one day you realize at some point you got really good at this.
Bobby: With these types of franchises they are already bigger than most anything else. How different is the production on a film like this than other things you have worked on?
Stephanie: Going into it there was already a certain level of expectation and the fandom that had been created by the first film. The casting process for me was something I thought was a shot in the dark, I will go in and try my hardest and see what happens. When I booked it I didn’t really realize what I was getting myself into. They didn’t announce I was playing the role until months later and at that point had the time to sit around and anticipate what kind of reaction the public would have. I fully prepared myself for negative comebacks just because I know with things like this to expect that, but ironically everyone welcomed me with open arms. Everyone has been so incredibly sweet and supportive. If there was ever a bad day I would just sign on Twitter and read how positive and sweet people were and it would lift me right up. There interaction played a large part in me nailing the role.
Bobby: Alan I know with Smallville and Ninja Turtles you are already in this world, but for both of you, a franchise like this sucks your career into that geek culture. How does this change your world as an actor?
Alan: With Smallville I had the chance to travel the world, meet a lot of fans and go to conventions and it was new to me because that was something I hadn’t ever really done. I learned a lot about people in that experience in that everyone finds something that inspires them and that they are passionate about. Say what you will, but these people are amazing people and the passion they have for these characters in these stories is inspiring for me. I loved meeting these people one on one and I sincerely mean that. It’s funny because this isn’t a comic book or a super hero that has been around forever, but there’s this enormous passion for these people. It can be a little overwhelming at times but the key to it is to respect the fact that these people are inspired by this and just take it one day at a time and look at every individual you meet as an opportunity to hear from the people that made this world possible. It’s amazing and wonderful in the same world I came from in the Aquaman days. It’s cool to meet them.
Bobby: I know Stephanie mentioned having the positive feedback, but with all of these kinds of franchises you get the negative. Have you guys had to deal with any negative feedback?
Alan: I don’t think there’s been any drawback. As an actor it’s never a bad thing to be a part of a massive franchise. Just being honest it’s a door opener. I know some actors that would prefer to remain unknown, their more theater based or you know like diving into characters that they are ok if no one knows about it. That’s not me, I love playing these larger than life characters. I’ve gone on to play Raphael in Ninja Turtles and it’s opened a lot of doors for me in a very big way. It’s huge and could be intimidating but it’s a great thing to be a part of and nothing negative. The fans are great; I don’t personally see anything negative about being a part of it. The only thing is that I am more of a private person, I’ve got my family and I don’t go out a lot, so I don’t do what I do for recognition. I get stopped on the street and people are excited because they are meeting a character that they love or respect, but I tend to be a little more private so it can be overwhelming.
Stephanie: In the span of a year, my life has changed in almost every level, but it’s all been positive. It’s changed every aspect in career and personal but none has been negative all positive.
Bobby: You both mentioned that you read the books prior to the film. One of the arguments most people always have is how close it sticks to the source material. How close do you think this movie sticks to the book?
Stephanie: I say it is fairly spot on to be honest. From reading the book, the script and being on set I feel like Francis Lawrence did an exceptional job staying as true to the storyline as she possibly could. Then Suzanne came on for a couple of days and it was good to be able to pick her brain and get even more in depth to the characters and storylines than what your told so I would say that Francis did a really beautiful job at staying true to the story. The parts that she chose to enhance or build on are not parts that are judgmental or critical in any way to the storyline it’s just going to add to it.
Bobby: Thank you guys I can’t wait to see you in action and good luck with the film and everything else you have coming up in the future.
Alan and Stephanie: Thanks so much.
Be sure to check out The Hunger Games: Catching Fire when it hits theaters on November 22nd.