Is Rachel Zegler Really Singing In The Ballad Of Songbirds And Snakes? The Hunger Games Actress’ ‘Choice’ Explained

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes goes back in time to follow the 10th annual Hunger Games where a very different District 12 tribute from Jennifer Lawrence’s Katniss Everdeen takes to the arena. Rachel Zegler’s Lucy Gray Baird is a natural performer who has a talent for singing. It’s safe to say she’s the “songbird” in the title, but how was the singing accomplished on the set of one of this weekend’s 2023 new movie releases

When CinemaBlend attended The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes press conference in Los Angeles, Rachel Zegler discussed how singing worked on set. In her words: 

It was kind of my choice to sing live on set. I had done it before on my first film and I feel really confident in that sphere of performance, in general. That was what I kind of came out of the womb doing on stage. So, getting to do that for my peers and on set for my crew and the creative team was something really special that I felt like I could bring to the table. When you’re working on sets like that, or when you’re even watching movies, it kind of takes you out of the world when all of the sudden somebody starts lip-syncing and you it just kind of takes you out of it.

In a lot of movies where actors sing, they record the music in studios where it’s mixed and they then lip-sync on set. (Like a music video!) However, in Rachel Zegler’s case, the actress made the decision to sing for every take on set instead. The actress felt performing live would help the Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes’ cast and crew remain immersed in the world on set. Plus, coming from a musical theatre background herself, she knew she could do so. Zegler sang live in her first movie leading Steven Spielberg’s West Side Story cast as Maria too. As she continued: 

So, I felt really blessed that Francis and Nina trusted me to do that and getting to bring that into the acoustics of the Hob or the stage at the Reaping, and all of the other places, I don’t wanna spoil, that Lucy Gray gets to sing. It just adds a completely different tone to the scenes. And I felt like it was really, really important, not only to me, but also to the character, that I would be doing a disservice if I didn’t perform live every take. And, it was a lot and it was very strenuous, but I trained to do it and I felt really, really confident with the outcome. And I hope audiences do, too.

Rachel Zegler also spoke about the choice on Instagram along with a behind-the-scenes video of herself singing on the set of the movie. Check it out: 

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes is based on the book of the same name where author Suzanne Collins wrote and detailed numerous original songs performed by Lucy Gray Baird throughout the 10th annual Hunger Games. The movie adaptation gives fans an opportunity to see these moments in the book come to life and for Rachel Zegler to once again bring her musical talents to the big screen. 

Zegler sings seven songs on The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes soundtrack, now available to stream on Spotify. This includes a brand new rendition of “The Hanging Tree,” which Jennifer Lawrence’s Katniss Everdeen sang in Mockingjay Part 1. As the movie reveals, it’s Lucy Gray Baird who actually originates “The Hanging Tree” based on the events of this prequel. 

With the latest The Hunger Games movie now in theaters, you can check out our The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes review and our breakdown of the movie’s ending here on CinemaBlend. 

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