From attending midnight premieres to The Hunger Games movies with his sister, to starring in the prequel starring Rachel Zegler — Nick Benson is a master of manifestation! The actor plays District 12’s male tribute in The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes, which premiered on Friday, November 17, and tells J-14 exclusively, that it’s been “surreal” to star in one of his “favorite franchises of all time.”

Keep reading for J-14‘s exclusive interview with Nick.

First things first, Nick is a *huge* Hunger Games fan, from the original books to the Jennifer Lawrence-led movies! The actor, who you might recognize from Netflix’s 2022 series Boo, Bitch, said he, his sister and her friends used to even dress up to the movies’ premieres.

“We were there opening night for pretty much each movie. So, we were both really big fans,” he said of him and his sister. “We both read the books. So, because of that, it was very exciting that I found out that I got to be part of this franchise — because it’s one of my favorite franchises of all time.”

Naturally, we had to ask what his sister’s reaction was when he was cast as Jessup Diggs in the Hunger Games prequel.

“Well, I tried to keep it on the down low because I was actually on my way to visit her when I found out I got the role,” he recalled, before revealing when he eventually told his sister she understandably freaked out. The whole thing felt very full circle, Nick told J-14.

“It was very surreal. I remember I got on the plane to go visit her and I was just trying to process everything just because the series meant so much to me,” he reflected. “So it was very cool.”

Being a fan of the OG movies and books himself, Nick is really excited for the fan reaction to this new rendition of the franchise.

“I really think it’s such a great reintroduction to Panem and the Capitol and the Districts, but in a different light because it’s 64 years before the original trilogy,” he began, explaining that this version of Panem is a lot more “raw” than what we’re used to seeing.

“The wounds of the war are still very fresh, so the relationships are more … there’s more tension,” he reflected. “It’s a lot more brutal and kind of dark in that sense. But I think it’s kind of necessary to see, because we kind of see the polished Hunger Games in the original trilogy. So, it’s cool to go back in time and see the more rudimentary version on how it got its start.”

He added, “I think, honestly, people who aren’t super fans who haven’t read the books and people who have read the books are really going to appreciate it and really be thrown back in the world of the Hunger Games and Panem.”

Since The Hunger Games is one of the most violent and bloodiest franchises in media, with children *literally* fighting to the death — Nick even admitted that filming certain scenes were just as scary as viewing them!

“Honestly, yeah,” he laughed while admitting some parts were tough to act out. “In the arena, I was like, ‘Wow, there are exits here, right?’ I just had to make sure because it felt like really I was there trapped.”

He continued, “In the zoo set, there’s bars surrounding us and the only way we could get out was they had had a few removable bars so that we could enter an exodus. So, they took those out and then we’d slip in and then they put ’em back in. But other than that, we were trapped. I’m like, ‘I don’t really like this. I know it’s with a movie, but can we make this quick?'”

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