'The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes' is on digital now, then on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray and DVD Feb. 13
In a behind-the-scenes clip shared exclusively with PEOPLE, the actress can be seen recording — and singing live — the many tunes her character Lucy Gray Baird performs throughout the film.
Adapted from Suzanne Collins’ book of the same name, Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes stars Zegler, 22, as a nomadic songstress from the maligned District 12 forced to participate in the Capitol’s 10th annual Hunger Games.
Assigned as her mentor is a young Coriolanus Snow (played by Tom Blyth), who eventually gets to see Lucy Gray in her element on stage, guitar in hand.
Many of the lyrics in the movie’s songs are written by Collins herself, taken from the book and composed by James Newton Howard with help from executive music supervisor Dave Cobb.
“It was one of the most interesting things when I was reading the book, because I was like, how are they going to make this music work in the context of a film version?” said Zegler, a musical theater actress who made her Golden Globe-winning feature film debut in Steven Spielberg’s 2021 remake of West Side Story.
“When I got all the scratch recordings for the music, I just fell in love,” she added in the clip. “We got this part right, for sure.”
“Not only could she do the pre-record, in-studio versions of these songs,” he explained, “but we also knew that once we had her on set, Rachel really could do it.”
Watching Zegler sing live on set, producer Nina Jacobson “would get chills,” she recalled in the clip.
“Especially because she mostly chose to sing live. Which is really rare — usually [actors] lay down tracks and then they lip-sync or maybe sing softly along, but they don't bring it every time because that would be exhausting. She brought it every time!”
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One of those times was the very first day of shooting, Lawrence told Entertainment Weekly in November. “The Old Therebefore," a song Lucy Gray sings at one of the movie’s most pivotal moments, “gave everybody chills,” he recalled. “Some people were even tearing up.”
Cobb told EW that Zegler was a “genius” and made producing the musical aspects of the film “effortless and fun.” He added, “She didn’t need a lot of coaching. She kind of coached us.”
Ahead of the movie’s Nov. 17 release, Zegler told PEOPLE she didn’t know belting on set would factor so much into her screen work. Asked what advice she would give her younger self, she responded, “I would say, ‘Stay in voice lessons. You're going to be singing live for a lot more than you probably thought you would be transitioning into film.’ That would probably be my advice to little Rachel.”
The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes is on digital now, and on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray and DVD Feb. 13 from Lionsgate.
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