About a year ago, my mind did a double-take when I learned that my childhood friend had been chosen as the stand-in for actress Jennifer Lawrence in the role of Katniss Everdeen, the protagonist of what just might be MTV’s Movie of the Year according to The Huffington Post.
Since she was little, Christina Coffman, 19-year-old Maryland native, has loved to act. I speak from firsthand experience—years of camping trips and gatherings and the bubbly vocation “Let’s put on a play!” each time. I remember that I would roll my eyes dramatically in jest and cast looks in the direction of her younger sister and a mutual friend, hoping that she’d—cut [it out]. End scene.
The Hunger Games is a 2012 film adaptation of Suzanne Collins’s acclaimed young-adult science-fiction novel of the same name. Immersed in a dystopian genre, the story zooms in on the life of 16-year-old Katniss, who resides in Panem—a country broken into 12 impoverished districts.
Katniss becomes District 12’s first ever volunteer tribute in the annual event, known “henceforth and forevermore” as the Hunger Games. One boy and one girl from each district are chosen during a “reaping” to compete in these games, which take place in a vast arena controlled by Panem’s power-hungry Capitol. The games end when one lone victor is left breathing.
Readers are left breathless from the page-turner, which is the first of a trilogy: Catching Fire and Mockingjay continue the intense adventures of the fierce protagonist and other beloved characters. The film, directed by Gary Ross and co-produced by the author herself, arrived to theaters on March 23, 2012, and it has repeatedly proven to be a box-office hit.
Hit her up; oh my gosh, I thought upon hearing the news. As a cornucopia of fond memories came rushing back, I vowed to get in touch with Christina after the movie was released to applaud her for her persistence and dedication. I am pleased to share the fruitful results of our interview with HC readers.
HC: I'm going to begin by asking if you can briefly explain to Her Campus (HC) readers what exactly a “stand-in” is and what the role entails. How does it differ from a “double” or an “understudy”?
Christina: A stand-in fills in for the actor while the lights are being set up and for the rehearsals or when the actor can’t be there. It helps speeds along the process while giving the actor a chance to rest. It is different from being a double because stand-ins are not usually being film[ed]. Luckily, I was able to do both!
HC: Can you tell us a little about how you heard of such an incredible opportunity?
Christina: I did a fair amount of research and was persistent to get my foot in the door. The casting director called me soon after I submitted for it. I auditioned and was hired the following day. It all happened so fast!
HC: As college students on the job hunt, we have all seen opportunities advertised around campus or on the Internet. However, we often wave them away because—to use a relevant phrase—the odds don't always seem to be in our favor. What and/or who compelled you to go for it?
Christina: It seems the people that don’t believe in me are the best motivators. I want to prove them wrong I knew it was a slim chance that I would actually get the role but I also knew there wasn’t any chance at all if I didn’t at least give it a try. I guess the odds were in my favor!
HC: Are you an avid aficionado of the three novels? Did you read them all prior to trying out for the position? If yes, did you think that the film accurately depicted the story as you imagined it?
Christina: Yes, yes, yes! I was a huge fan of The Hunger Games trilogy years before taking part in the film. I can remember pre-ordering Catching Fire and Mockingjay when they first came out and racing my friends to read it first. I still have my mockingjay pin for being one of the first 100 people to pickup Mockingjay at my local book store, haha.
HC: Did anyone (friends, family, yourself!) make a connection between you and Katniss and/or Jennifer Lawrence before you tried out?
Christina: Actually it is a funny story; several years ago before any casting was done my friend suggested the series to me because she pictured me as Katniss when she read it. Other than that though, not many people make a connection.
HC: Can you provide a succinct recount of your experience on the set? How often were you working? During what time interval and how long was the entire project? Was it both physically and mentally rigorous?
Christina: Filming started in May of 2011 and ended in September. We filmed five to six days a week and 12-14 hour days. There were also some night shoots where we filmed from sundown to sunup. The days were long but I really enjoyed the work so for me it was invigorating.
HC: How much interaction did you have with the stars of the film?
Christina: We worked together every day so there was time to hang out together and joke around. A few of us enjoyed playing basketball, eating out and exploring Asheville, NC on days off. Everyone in the cast and crew were really down to earth!
HC: As an audience member, do you have a favorite scene in the movie? How about as a stand-in—what was your favorite scene to help develop?
Christina: I really enjoyed watching the scenes come together into one big product. The fights are my favorite to watch because of how intense it gets while knowing these actors are nothing like the violent characters they portray. Every day was something new and different so to choose my favorite scene to make is a tough one.
This may sound strange but I loved scenes that I got to run through the streams or lay in mud. It was also a lot of fun to ride in the chariot for the tribute parade and hangout in trees. Anything that was a slightly different than the usual routine made for a great time.
HC: On the contrary, what was the most difficult scene to film/help develop?
Christina: The reaping was crazy. There were hundreds of extras under the scorching sun for over a week. It was amazing to see how hard everyone had to work in those conditions!
HC: Do you have a favorite character? Did this change between the time you read the novels and the time you spent watching the film unfold before your eyes?
Christina: As I continued to read the second two books I developed a soft spot for Haymitch. I saw him grow and realized he is more complex than he first seemed. I would love to know more about his life before his name was called at the reaping so many years before. That would make for an interesting series and I bet we would see just how similar Haymitch and Katniss really are.
HC: What new insight or lessons did you take away from the opportunity?
Christina: The people I got to work with were incredibly efficient in their fields so I really learned ALOT. Jennifer is amazing so being her shadow for over 80 days taught me more than any schooling possibly could!
HC: Do you have any tips or words of wisdom for the HC readers who are also beautiful, aspiring young actresses like yourself?
Christina: Woody Harrelson (Haymitch) gave me some of the best advice. A time we were chatting on set he told me I could make it as a successful actress if I remain confident in how I decide to interpret a role and stick with it. I totally got what he was saying and couldn’t agree more so I have really taken his advice to heart and think it could apply to everyone.
HC: What are your future aspirations and goals in the acting industry?
Christina: I would like to eventually move on from being a stand-in and get my own parts. I love bringing compelling characters to life so that would be ideal but it is one step at a time for now.
HC: I have to ask because I am sure that HC readers are dying to know: Are you “Team Gale” or “Team Peeta”? Did this view change after witnessing the film adaptation come alive?
Christina: Team Galeeta! I really am with Katniss throughout her journey not being able to decide and at times not caring about either of them in that way because her life is so screwed up. How could she think of love at a time like that? As much as I like both of them I will say I am completely satisfied with her choice at the end of Mockingjay.
Christina is currently in her sophomore year at Greenville Technical College in Greenville, South Carolina, and she plans to study acting once she moves out to Los Angeles.
She has inspired me to act on ambition—to shoot for the moon—even if it seems like a long reach. As Peeta tells Katniss right before her evaluation, “Shoot straight.” It often pays to stand in line; you just might stand out later. ?
Watch the “Apple” clip here: http://www.imdb.com/video/imdb/vi507879705/