In the hallways of "Hunger Games" High, 28-year-old actress Jena Malone is the new kid on the block, enrolling in the beloved series for sequel "Catching Fire." But as Malone told MTV News during San Diego Comic-Con, the close cast welcomed her with the enthusiasm of a Friday night pep rally.
"Working with this cast is so incredible," Malone enthused. "They're really so sweet and supportive. They kind of let me go wherever I wanted, so that was fun. Then I could just be crazy, and they were like, 'That's cool.' "
A little bit of crazy is most certainly called for in the portrayal of District 7 tribute Johanna Mason, whose first meeting with Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) and Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) involves a strip (without the teasing).
"She's just so feisty and unpredictable," Malone enthused. "Being able to bring that element to any scene you're doing on set, whether it's like really straightforward or not, kind of allows this element of surprise."
Malone credits not only the veterans but fellow newbie, director Francis Lawrence, with creating an environment where she felt comfortable really digging into the layers of her cunning character.
"Jen and Josh, Liam and Willow, everyone had already sort of worked together and had this tight-knit — so I was kind of glad Francis Lawrence was a lone wolf coming in along with this giant reprise of a cast, as well as Philip Seymour Hoffman and Jeffrey Wright and all of these incredible people," she said. "So it didn't feel like it was one person coming in trying to, like, fit in. We were all learning to rub elbows together, and in that way it kind of made inhibitions go down a bit and really have an opportunity to try things out. And Francis is such an actor's director. He really makes you feel supported even though you're in a crazy world, which 'The Hunger Games' builds, it's believable."
Fans will get to judge this believability for themselves when the film opens November 22, but in the meantime, Malone is just happy to meet the series' ardent admirers.
"At Comic-Con, there's the best energy," she said. "You can't help but be a little bit fangirlish. Like, oh my god, all the costumes — their pure passion and love for film and video games and fantasy. You really catch on to it. I feel like this is the first time 'Hunger Games' has ever been to Comic-Con, so I mean, even for me as a fan, I'm excited for the film. Now I'm also in it, so it makes it doubly complicated. It's amazing. The fans are so supportive, and I feel like it's so nice to interact with them more on a one-on-one level."
Check out everything we've got on "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire."