Viola Davis Joins ‘Hunger Games’ Prequel as Villain (Exclusive)

Viola Davis has joined Lionsgate’s Hunger Games prequel The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes.

Davis will play Dr. Volumnia Gaul, the head gamemaker of the 10th annual Hunger Games. She joins Tom Blyth, who will play the young Coriolanus Snow, and Rachel Zegler, who plays tribute Lucy Gray Baird from the impoverished District 12. Other announced stars include Josh Andrés Rivera, Peter Dinklage, and Hunter Schafer.

The prequel’s synopsis reads: “Years before he would become the tyrannical President of Panem, 18-year-old Coriolanus Snow is the last hope for his fading lineage, a once-proud family that has fallen from grace in a post-war Capitol. With the 10th annual Hunger Games fast approaching, the young Snow is alarmed when he is assigned to mentor Lucy Gray Baird, the girl tribute from impoverished District 12. But, after Lucy Gray commands all of Panem’s attention by defiantly singing during the reaping ceremony, Snow thinks he might be able to turn the odds in their favor. Uniting their instincts for showmanship and newfound political savvy, Snow and Lucy’s race against time to survive will ultimately reveal who is a songbird and a snake.”

Francis Lawrence, who directed three of the four Hunger Games movies, is back at the helm and will also produce, alongside franchise producer Nina Jacobson and her partner Brad Simpson. Hunger Games author Suzanne Collins and Tim Palen will executive produce. Meredith Wieck and Scott O’Brien are overseeing on behalf of the studio.

“The Hunger Games films have always been elevated by their exceptional casting, and we are thrilled to be continuing that tradition with Viola Davis as Volumnia Gaul. Her formidable and powerful presence will add layers of complexity and menace to this story,” said Lionsgate motion picture group president Nathan Kahane.

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“Dr. Gaul is as cruel as she is creative and as fearsome as she is formidable. Snow’s savvy as a political operator develops in no small part due to his experiences with her as the games’ most commanding figure,” said Lawrence. Jacobson adds, “From the beginning, Viola has been our dream for Dr. Gaul because of the finely layered intelligence and emotion she brings to every role. A brilliant and eccentric strategist, Gaul is instrumental in shaping a young Coriolanus Snow into the man he will become. We are incredibly fortunate to have an actor with Viola’s extraordinary range and presence to play this pivotal role.”

The Oscar-, Emmy-, and Tony-winning Davis will next be seen in The Woman King, which she also produced via her JuVee Productions. The movie will be debuting at the Toronto International Film Festival before being released theatrically by Sony. Other upcoming onscreen roles include Black Adam, reprising her role as DC character Amanda Waller, and Ben Affleck and Matt Damon’s Nike Air Jordan project at Amazon.

Davis is repped by CAA, Lasher Group and Lichter Grossman.