How does it feel to be cast in the sequel to a blockbuster film based on a beloved book franchise? “It’s like opening a candy bar and getting a golden ticket,” says Jena Malone, who joins Catching Fire as the tough-as-nails tribute Johanna. That may be an understatement, considering the love fans feel for the talented cast that includes Jennifer Lawrence, Liam Hemsworth and Josh Hutcherson. “This has exploded beyond anything we could have imagined,” Hunger Games director Gary Ross told Entertainment Weekly after the film’s success last year. “There are days where it feels like we’re in the middle of some national media event that has nothing to do with entertainment. We keep looking around to figure out how this could actually have happened.”
Now the cast – along with its new director Francis Lawrence – is eager to recapture the magic for fans. “This time they know the world, they know the characters, so there’s a little less pressure, but you still want to do good,” says Hutcherson. So how does he think Catching Fire will match up to Hunger Games? “I feel really good about it,” he says.