Interviews: Josh Hutcherson, Isabelle Fuhrman, Jacqueline Emerson Hit the Spotlight in ‘The Hunger Games’

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CHICAGO – It’s the calm before the pop cultural storm. The first reviews are in, the turnstiles are greased, and the phenomenon of “The Hunger Games” is about to effect a vast audience and stars Josh Hutcherson (Peeta), Isabelle Fuhrman (Clove) and Jacqueline Emerson (Foxface).

These three young actors were the lucky ones chosen from the vast pool of selection and audition. Josh Hutcherson and Isabelle Fuhrman are the veterans, Hutcherson for his longer career and featured role as Laser in the Oscar nominated “The Kids Are All Right” (2010) and Fuhrman for her title role in “Orphan” (2009). Jacqueline Emerson is a veteran of the music scene, having performed in a touring Disney band in 2006. This is her first major film role.

Josh Hutcherson (Peeta) in ‘The Hunger Games’
Josh Hutcherson (Peeta) in ‘The Hunger Games’
Photo credit: Murray Close for Lionsgate got the privilege of talking to the three actors right before the wave of hype and adulation descends upon them. “The Hunger Games” are about to begin. What clues to the characters did you get from the books that you noted when you read them, and how did you communicate that clue when you were doing the character? And did you share that clue or keep it personal to your performance?

Isabelle Fuhrman: The clue for me in the book was a whole monologue that Clove says to Katniss, that also made it into the movie. It’s the scene where we meet her and we see how crazy and messed up she is, as opposed to being a villain character. There is a lot more underneath that character.

Jacqueline Emerson: Foxface never really speaks in the book. Katniss makes a lot of observations about her. It was interesting for me because I was able to take those observations that Katniss makes and put that into the character, as to why Foxface was projecting this, what is going on with her internally, that was a good clue for me.

Josh Hutcherson: I had a lot of clues. There is a good scene where Peeta talks about not wanting to be a pawn in the games. For me, that was a big tell as to who he was as a person, and where I connected most with him. I couldn’t agree more with the statement he made, and it’s a big moral code that I base my life upon. Josh, you play a challenging and two-faced character in Peeta. If you had to name a personality type that we would all recognize in your approach in finding the character, what would that personality be?

Hutcherson: For me, I feel so much like Peeta that it would be my personality type. He’s someone who learns how to express himself throughout the story, so he is someone who is a big more sheltered and quiet initially, but learns more about himself through the experience. He is genuine and real, and feels very strongly about being true to himself.

Isabelle Fuhrman (Clove) with Career Tributes Alexander Ludwig (Cato) and Jack Quaid (Marvel) in ‘The Hunger Games’
Isabelle Fuhrman (Clove), Alexander Ludwig (Cato) and Jack Quaid (Marvel) in ‘The Hunger Games’
Photo credit: Murray Close for Lionsgate Isabelle, the role has a challenge to it, in that the society is more outdoor oriented and relies on the skills of the hunter/gatherers. How did you best get into that mindset, and were you able to reach it before you started the film or while the process of production took place?

Fuhrman: Right after I had learned I got the part, they flew me to North Carolina to begin training. That got me into the mindset fast. I practiced a lot around my neighborhood as well, I had tennis balls that I would throw in the same form as my knife throwing in the movie, and around my neighborhood I just started jumping and climbing over things. Were you an outdoor type when you were a kid?

Fuhrman: I do love the outdoors, and would climb a lot of trees in my neighborhood, so much that my neighbors would tell me to ‘get down from there!’ [laughs] I’ve lived in Atlanta, and would always go hiking and camping with my family and friends. Jacqueline, your character is mysterious, and uses more planning and strategy than the threat of the kill. How has playing such a character changed your perspective on how you approach situations in your own life?

Emerson: Reflecting on the character has helped me to become more observational in my own life. If something is going on and I get upset about it, instead of completely jumping into negatively, I’m able to stand back and observe it more and think about how best to solve the situation. That also goes to adrenalized situations as well, I’ll be somewhere super adrenalized and instead of completely losing my mind I’ll be able to formulate a plan as to what to do. This is back to everybody. This is a worldwide phenomenon in publishing, akin to the Harry Potter books, and the film version is about to be closely scrutinized. Given the book series popularity, what did you notice on the set about the care or even pressure to get it right in the film version?

Hutcherson: A lot of the pressure was taken care of beforehand, once I got on set the pressure for me diminished because I did what I always do, just acted, with my best job possible. What people tend to think is that the book has just been handed off to Hollywood to go and make.

It’s not quite like that, in a lot of ways. The novel’s author, Suzanne Collins, is heavily involved in the process. Also everyone in the production, from the head of the studio to the camera operators, all love the book. Everyone wanted to make it true to the book. So I didn’t feel any pressure, and when we started shooting it was definitely a lot easier.

Fuhrman: I have to agree. There was pressure before, but once we got on set it was clear we were going to make a movie that the fans would love, because we were all fans. Josh, you have had a rich adventure as an actor so far in your career. Before this film, what role do you think created a bridge for you, one that you knew once you crossed it your career would go to another level, and why?

Hutcherson: I think ‘The Kids are All Right’ [the role of the son Laser] kind of did that for me, I’m so proud of that movie, it’s the style I like to do and the type of movie that I want to make a lot more of, and I think it was my first step into that world from the family-oriented adventure movies I had being doing before. To work with amazing filmmakers, and shoot the film in 23 days, meant that I didn’t really think about it and flew by the seat of my pants. I really loved it. Isabelle, you played the title role in the high profile film “Orphan.” What did you learn about big time movies on that set that has prepared you for the undoubted acclaim that will accompany “The Hunger Games”?

Fuhrman: I think the best piece of advice I got was from Vera Farmiga, who played my Mom in the movie. She told me that there is no wrong way to do a scene, ever. There are just different emotions you feel in the moment, and whatever comes out, comes out. There is no wrong way to do a scene. Jacqueline, as a high level singer and songwriter, how do those particular talents of imagination help you be a better actor, and what kind of audition process did you have to go through to get the part of Foxface, since your background has been mostly in music?

Jacqueline Emerson
Jacqueline Emerson
Photo credit: Jiho Park

Emerson: First off, I did have a lot of theater training, this just happens to be my first film. It’s funny though, before I got this I did think I was going to go the professional route with my music. Now hopefully I can go both ways.

The thing I love about music, in the way it’s different from acting but also similar, is that with music it’s about expressing yourself and who you really are. With acting, it’s about becoming someone else, but it also reflects so much about who you are as a person and helps you to learn more about yourself, that you never knew before. It’s interesting to connect those two and have those two methods of expression. What is your songwriting method, are you the type that walks down the street and a phrase comes to you, and that becomes the basis of a song, or are you a strummer or chord creator, and the words come afterwards?

Emerson: I have to tell you, I think I’ve done any way possible. [laughs] There have been times where I get a melody in my head during a conversation, and I have to tell the person, gotta go! [laughs] And then there other times where I’m sitting on the bus, and the lyrics come first. I think it’s fun to have all those different modes, to be able to branch out on. Another question for you all. The subject matter of the book and film is both mythic and apocalyptic. In your opinion, does the scenario in the story make sense as to how our current world is evolving? Do you see a society emerging from our current one that could possibly be as fantastical or possible as ‘The Hunger Games’ universe?

Fuhrman: Of course there is heightened reality in it, and there are technologies that we don’t have yet, but probably will. If you look around, it makes sense why the books became so popular. You watch the news and you read the book at the same time and it all comes together.

Emerson: I think it’s funny because the book harkens back to the Roman Gladiator times. It made me realize the other day, we haven’t changed that much at all since then. We think, how could anybody sit and watch the gladiators, but we watch people on reality TV destroy their own lives everyday. We’re disconnected from it, because there is a screen, but it’s the same thing. The book really makes you think, there is something wrong with that.

Hutcherson: 100 percent, I think so. While this world is fantastical it is also hypothetical, and I hope that safeguards are in place to prevent it from happening, which I assume there is. It’s very much based in reality, and how it is today. You look at reality television and how crazy it is, people are obsessed with it and it’s growing exponentially. That’s where it goes to with ‘The Hunger Games.’ Also the separate of the rich and poor, the 1% versus the 99%. Now you see people all over the world rising up against that, which is kind of what this movie is all about. It gives power to people who feel powerless. It’s a very poignant movie for right now.


“The Hunger Games” opens everywhere on March 23rd. Featuring Jennifer Lawrence, Stanley Tucci, Elizabeth Banks, Woody Harrelson, Donald Sutherland, Lenny Kravitz, Josh Hutcherson, Isabelle Fuhrman and Jacqueline Emerson. Screenplay adapted by Gary Ross, Billy Ray and Suzanne Collins (from her novel) Directed by Gary Ross. Rated “PG-13” senior staff writer Patrick McDonald

Senior Staff Writer

© 2012 Patrick McDonald,

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