While no Hunger Games would be complete without a batch of fresh new faces ready to fight to the death for the amusement of the Capitol elite, "Catching Fire" isn't about your typical government-sponsored teenage murder tournament. This time around, the stoic Katniss Everdeen is forced to compete in the third Quarter Quell, in which all of the contestants are former champions.
Of all the victors Katniss encounters, Sam Claflin's Finnick Odair might be the biggest wild card. A strong and smarmy blonde guy who hails from District 4, Finnick is the kind of character who never lets you forget that the Hunger Games are the most unpredictable competition there is.
With "Catching Fire" finally set to hit theaters this Friday, the year's biggest sequel had its blowout Hollywood premiere on Monday night, and MTV News' Josh Horowitz was there on the red carpet to chat with Claflin about what it's been like to play a bigger part of this huge phenomenon.
The British actor was looking snappy and positively giddy to be there, but he was quick to admit that the ridiculously star-studded L.A. premiere couldn't quite match the thrill of when the film first screened back home.
"This is special, it definitely is special," Claflin assured us. "But personally, if I'm 100 percent honest, having the world premiere in London was very special for me, being there and having my family and friends there to support. The truth of the matter is that the only friends I have on this side of the pond are here anyway, my 'Hunger Games' family."
Shooting "Catching Fire" may have introduced Claflin to some of his closest friends, but being cast in the role also put him in touch with an army of rabid critics. When Josh asked him if anyone ever told him to his face that he was the wrong guy for the part, Claflin laughed that the harsh feedback was "not face to face, luckily. There would have been a few fists thrown in that confrontation." Never losing his smile, the actor explained the most harrowing part of the Twitter backlash, telling Josh that "the scary thing was that people were willing to top themselves. Basically, they were saying that 'If Sam Claflin is actually playing Finnick, I will throw myself off a bridge!'"
But Claflin wanted to be clear that he wishes his haters well (he "hopes they're OK, wherever they are") He also admitted that the experience ultimately proved to him that "there's a hugely passionate and inspired fanbase out there, and I'm very happy to be a part of it."
And as it turns out, Claflin is also a huge fan of Stevie, Josh's prankster nemesis on "After Hours" who bears an uncanny resemblance to fellow British actor Tom Hiddleston ("You've been Loki'd!"). The actor is set to reprise the role of Finnick in "Mockingjay Part 1" next November, but there's plenty of time before then for him to show up and torture your favorite MTV correspondent.