It’s not over till the mockingjay sings! We sat down with Nick Benson, who plays District 12’s male tribute in the Hunger Games prequel, The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes, which premiered on Friday, November 17. Nick’s character Jessup Diggs often acts as a protector to Rachel Zeglers character, Lucy Gray Baird, leading to a loving bond between the two actors.

Keep reading to see J-14‘s exclusive interview with Nick, where he spoke highly about his “buddy” Rachel, hanging out with prequel’s tight-knit cast and so much more.

ICYMI, The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes is based on the character President Snow, or Coriolanus Snow, long before his reign over Panem in The Hunger Games movies. The prequel is based on the 2020 book by The Hunger Games author, Suzanne Collins.

The book (and movie) begins with Lucy Gray Baird being reaped at her home of District 12, alongside Nick’s character of Jessup. Once they reach the capitol, the two quickly create an allyship before having to compete to death in the 10th annual Hunger Games.

“He gets reaped with Lucy Gray to go to the Hunger Games — so I’d say [our characters are] friends,” Nick told J-14 of their characters’ relationship. “I don’t think [Jessup] had much interaction with [Lucy] before, but kind of going in there with her, I kind of feel like [he] has to watch over her and make sure that she’s safe almost more than [he is].”

As for the real-life relationship between Nick and Rachel, the actor has nothing but kind words to say about his costar — explaining that they immediately became “buddies” upon meeting.

“I think it worked pretty easily just because she’s super sweet, super fun, and we got along from the jump. I love her,” he gushed. “So I think it wasn’t super hard to establish a good relationship between us.”

Not only that, Nick revealed that the entire cast of tributes had a super friendly dynamic — ironic as they’re all trying to kill one another on screen.

“It’s funny because we’re obviously supposed to want to kill each other, but off set, we’re all hugging and laughing and just having the best time together,” Nick laughed. “So, it’s very interesting, very opposing dynamics, onscreen versus offscreen.

“And I still keep in contact with a lot of them and [I’m] still close with a lot of people,” he added. “We kind of became a sort of little family.”

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