According to 14-year-old Willow Shields, spending one’s pre- and early teens in front of a camera is no big deal; she isn’t the first adolescent to grow up onscreen. The young wizards of the Harry Potter franchise are the most notable recent example; Willow and her co-stars in The Hunger Games are going to be another set of child actors and actresses growing with and into a series of sequels.
Willow hails from Albuquerque, New Mexico where she and her twin sister Autumn were born on June 1, 2000. She also has an older brother called River; all three siblings are in the acting business, though so far Willow is the only with a significant fan base. Her role as Primrose, the younger sister of Hunger Games star Katniss Everdeen, played by Jennifer Lawrence, has brought her a lot of attention and bodes well for her budding career.
The first acting credit for the pretty blonde was a speaking role in 2008, when she got the part of narrating a seven-minute short film. In fact both Willow and Autumn had roles as young girls witnessing a gunfight. The film, Las Vegas New Mexico 1875 was a short story about a dying gunfighter trying to reconcile with his wife and family after ten years. Turns out his wife is dead and his daughter plans to marry the sheriff, who aims to kill the gunfighter – thus the gunfight.
Based on that performance, Willow went on to a featured role in the TV drama ‘In Plain Sight’, about a U.S. Marshall working in the witness protection program; she portrayed Liza Rogan in a 2009 episode called ‘In My Humboldt Opinion’. She also appeared in one episode of ‘The Haunting Hour’, R. L. Stine’s horror series aimed at teens. In 2011 she was featured as one of a challenged and challenging class of youngsters in the Hallmark Hall of Fame movie Beyond the Blackboard.
When Willow auditioned for the role of Primrose it was immediately evident that she had the right qualities to portray Katniss’s fragile, emotional younger sister who is initially chosen to participate in the Hunger Games. In fact she had only one audition, and was surprised and delighted when told immediately, ‘You’ve got the part.”
In the first Hunger Games, Katniss, certain that Prim would not survive the deadly games, throws herself forward to take her place. In the sequel Catching Fire, Katniss is at war with the Games authorities, and Prim is growing into the role of family caretaker, patching up the warriors and offering comfort to her older sister, who still burns with righteous anger as leader of the rebellion against the corrupt and vicious regime.
Willow as an actress has a role that develops gradually from terrified and virtually helpless child to strong, nurturing young woman with more backbone that anyone including herself expected. It’s a role she finds challenging but very enjoyable, largely, she says, due to her relationship with Jennifer Lawrence. The older/younger sister roles have been a parallel of real life for both actresses, according to Willow.
In a Huffington Post interview in 2013 Willow said that it’s “fun” playing the role of an 11-year-old maturing along with her movie character as she grows up in an environment that’s basically hostile except for the love and support of her sister. Of Jennifer, she says, “I look up to her as a big sister,” and “She’s awesome.” Wanting to follow in big sister’s footsteps seems like a pretty good idea, career-wise; Willow is already in filming for part 3 of the Games, and part 4 is hot on its heels.
It is becoming apparent, however, that Primrose/Willow has what it takes to keep on growing in her depth and skill as an actress. , Willow Shields has several more projects in the works, The Wonder and A Fall from Grace . She’s an ardent fan of Facebook, Twitter and other social media, so if you’re interested in following her moves and movies, you’ll find her sharing all sorts of tidbits with devoted fans.