Ever since it was announced that breakout star Jennifer Lawrence would play the lead role, Katniss Everdeen, in Gary Ross's much-hyped adaptation of Suzanne Collins' bestselling series The Hunger Games, fans have breathlessly updating each other on every new casting decision.
In Collins' dystopian future, teenage "tributes" chosen from each of twelve districts must fight to the death on a reality show broadcast nationwide. Glimmer, played by Leven Rambin, has been preparing for the battle all her life. Rambin has the unique privilege of playing a girl capable of intimidating Lawrence's mostly fearless Katniss, and certainly has the range for such a complicated role: she's starred on TV shows as diverse as All My Children, Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, CSI: Miami, and Grey's Anatomy. Rambin took a moment out of her busy schedule of meetings and training to give Interview a call to chat about the role, LA, how she's getting into shape, and which of her fellow tributes she has a crush on.
ALEXANDRIA SYMONDS: You're in LA, but you still have a New York area code.
LEVEN RAMBIN: Yeah, I still have my same New York area code.
SYMONDS: How long have you been out there?
RAMBIN: I've been out here for three years almost to the day.
SYMONDS: How do you find it different from New York?
RAMBIN: I never thought I would want to live out here. Then I got a job on Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles from New York, and I found myself out here on those terms. And I kind of grew to love it. Grew to love the weather, the space, and just the opportunities and all the people you get to meet that are in the industry. I mean, I still miss New York and the culture, and my friends, and being able to walk. But I think there's definitely pros and cons to both, and I think right now in my life it's good for me to be here.
SYMONDS: The last time you talked to Interview, you talked a little bit about your nightlife experiences in New York. I think the words you used were "bullshit fashion parties."
RAMBIN: [laughs] Oh, goodness. Yeah, that was my mind state at the time. Not so funny to look back and see what was going through your crazy little head. I think I've grown up a lot since then, and I would never use those words to describe New York anymore. I would cherish every moment of every one of those bullshit fashion parties, because I miss New York.
SYMONDS: How is that different in LA? Do you find yourself going to bullshit film parties instead?
RAMBIN: I mean, a little bit. I work a lot, and I prepare a lot. I think that's really important when you live out here, to go the extra mile for whatever it is that you're trying to achieve. You realize out here that when you stop moving so fast, it's a lot harder than you thought. A lot of hard work has to go into your career, and preparation, and being your best at all times. That's an element that I didn't really understand until I moved here, which is a good and bad thing. I think you just have to always present yourself at your best, and you just need to be prepared all the time. Looking good, and feeling good, and being positive, and being in the right set of mind to accept whatever comes your way. I love to meet great people out and about, but it's not my number-one priority.
SYMONDS: Do you prepare differently for TV than for film?
RAMBIN: I definitely am more into intimidated by film, just because it's a definitive beginning and end. With TV, your character can change forms and colors and shapes a million times. Personalities—your character can develop over several seasons, or over one season, however long the show lasts. So I think that is more comfortable for me, knowing that I have a lot of creative room. But for movies—for The Hunger Games especially—I'm more intimidated. First of all, it has a lot of fans built in. It has other amazing actors already built in. So I'm just going through the process of training, and just gearing up for a responsibility like this. I'm really, really happy about it.
SYMONDS: I'm really looking forward to seeing you play that role. So, you've read the books, I assume.
RAMBIN: I am such a big fan. I tried to get every one of my friends to read it. A lot of my friends had already read it, and that's why I picked it up, because they were all talking about it. Once I picked it up, I couldn't stop. I was constantly reading it: on airplanes, at dinner, I was reading it under the table. Just in love. I was always like, "Did you hear what happened this week in Hunger Games?" Like it was like a soap opera that only I would enjoy.
It was so vivid in my mind, and the descriptions of every character and every scenario are so descriptive. You really do have this ideal in your mind of who these people are and what they're going through. Suzanne Collins is so talented that she just fills everyone out. That's why people are so passionate about the casting, because she is so specific in the books, and she is so descriptive. You really become attached to that figment that you have in your mind about the character. I'm really happy that the fans seem to accept me as Glimmer. I'm really excited that they are supportive of me.
SYMONDS: You had read the series before you were even cast?
RAMBIN: Yes. I was like, "Whoa, I'm auditioning for Hunger Games?" That's like my dream come true. That's like a Trekkie auditioning for Star Trek. I was a total fan about it. I think the director saw my passion and saw my excitement for the project, and it worked in my favor.
SYMONDS: Do you feel any extra pressure because of the way your character is described in the book as someone who's trained her whole life for this? Do you have to go work out a lot now?
RAMBIN: Yes, I do. Yeah, for sure. She's supposed to be this relentless, ruthless killing machine who has been training her whole life. Physically, that's a whole other level for me. Strength-wise, training-wise, and skill-wise, I have to learn how she fights with swords and bow and arrows. She is supposed to be this really ripped girl, basically. I'm working really hard on that, and I think it's a cool process to go through—I've never really gone through that kind of preparation for a character, with physical incorporation. It's hard work, and I'm sore, but it is such an exciting thing to do.
SYMONDS: Do you already have your exercise regimen all set out?
RAMBIN: Yeah—I'm on a nutrition plan. Luckily, I am pretty athletic, so I can pick things up pretty quickly. I've done boxing before, so the fight training is coming easily for me. It is a lot of hard work, so I'm doing nutrition, working out, and fight training. I will be 100% prepared. I'm already seeing a massive change in my body, so I'm like, "Wow, I totally get it."
SYMONDS: Wow. And it hasn't been very long.
RAMBIN: It has been a week. No, seriously! It has been a week since I found out.
SYMONDS: So you must be going hard.
RAMBIN: I am. I need to be perfect. I need to live up to everyone's expectations of this character and this movie. I don't want to let the fans or anyone down. Just because I want a cookie doesn't mean I can have it, because I have a responsibility. That is my determination.
SYMONDS: It's funny to think about it that way: weighing your desire for a cookie against the expectations of millions of fans. [laughs]
RAMBIN: I know. I would have never really thought of it that way. As a fan of the books themselves, I would hope someone in the cast would be as dedicated to it as possible, so that is what I'm trying to achieve. I'm doing a pretty good job; I'm having carrot, celery, and ginger juice right now.
SYMONDS: How is getting to know everyone taking shape—since it's not totally cast yet, right?
RAMBIN: I think a lot of the main people are cast. A lot of people that I won't be working with haven't been cast. I'm basically working a lot with Jennifer [Lawrence] and Josh [Hutcherson] in the arena, which is the actual battle, but they also have some action outside of the arena. I don't think every role has been cast, but a lot of the people who I will be working with have been cast. Dayo Okeniyi is playing Thresh, who is a fellow fighter tribute, so I met him. I'm supposed to meet Jennifer this week, which I'm very excited about, because there are only really two girls in the movie. Her and a younger girl, who I think is, like, ten, and Elizabeth Banks, whom I haven't met but am also very excited to meet. Josh Hutcherson I've known for a couple of years, and I saw him do The Kids Are All Right—I've seem him do so well, and he is just so talented. I've always had a little baby crush on him.
SYMONDS: Aww. [laughs]
RAMBIN: Yeah. [laughs] So I'm really excited for him and to finally work with him.
SYMONDS: It sounds like you're in the thick of it already.
RAMBIN: Yeah, we haven't sat down and had the whole gang gathered, but we're going to spend a lot of time together in North Carolina. I think the director is already there, and we all leave in the middle of May. We're all in LA training, preparing, and getting our lives in order. I think we'll all gather and do some bonding.
SYMONDS: I wonder if actors who are in war movies together go through something similar to people who actually go to war together—and you'll all be the best of friends after.
RAMBIN: Yeah. This isn't just any war movie; this is a post-apocalyptic, very stylized, very specific imaginary world. We're going to have to all create that. It's very futuristic, high-tech, a lot of CGI, a lot of special effects, so we'll have to know each other very well to pull that kind of thing off.
SYMONDS: If you had to single out one thing that you are most excited about and one thing you are most nervous about, what would you say they are?
RAMBIN: I'm most excited about the magnitude of the movie. It's not just any movie, it's my favorite book being a movie, and a huge one at that. I'm excited to be a part of something so much bigger than myself. You dream of this thing when you are a little girl, and you say, "Oh, I want to be an actress and on the big screen doing something really cool with other really talented people." This is kind of that moment where I'm like, "Wow—that little-girl dream of what I thought an actress would be has been a lot of work, but it's come true." I think that is the most exciting part. I have to pinch myself every day, being like, "OK, this is real."
SYMONDS: What are you most nervous for?
RAMBIN: I am most nervous about—oh man, I'm pretty nervous! [laughs] About, I guess, being able to act with these really great talents, and holding my own. And trying to want to kill Jennifer Lawrence—being able to intimidate her, because she is a very strong actress, and to go up against her, go head-to-head with her, is kind of nerve-racking. I admire her, and hopefully, I'm sure we'll get along. Yeah—I'm just nervous to have this big opportunity, and I hope I don't blow it!