Contributing to the Easter egg-ification of pop culture, Zegler teased the news on Monday with the mysterious tweet, “listen up… can y’all grow restfully? are you becoming an individual resting decisively?” Some very bright fans pieced together that the first letter of each word spelled out the character’s name.
The news officially broke on Tuesday, with franchise producer Nina Jacobson revealing in a statement (per Variety) that Lionsgate had conducted an “exhaustive search, reading hundreds of actors” before landing on Zegler for her talents as an “actor, singer and performer.”
If you’re unfamiliar with Hunger Games lore, Lucy Gray Baird was an early tribute from District 12 mentored by the infamous Corialanus Snow (played by Tom Blyth, as previously announced). In Suzanne Collins’ novel, Lucy captivated the Capitol by singing during her reaping. The songs Katniss sang in the original trilogy–including “The Hanging Tree”—were revealed in the prequel to have been composed by Lucy.
In short, you can see why Zegler’s vocal talents edged out the competition for the role. Though Jennifer Lawrence didn’t need any formal training to hit the Billboard charts with a pop remix of the film’s lynching song. (Remember that dystopian nightmare of a dystopian nightmare?)
Hunger Games veteran director Francis Lawrence, who is returning for the prequel, praised Zegler in his own statement. He said, “Like everybody, I first saw Rachel Zegler in West Side Story, and like everybody, I knew I was watching a star who would command the screen for a generation. Lucy Gray is a perfect match for her as an actress: the character is bold, independent and defiant, but also vulnerable, emotional and loving. Rachel will make this character unforgettable.”