The skies were crying yesterday over the BankUnited Center, as if Effie Trinket herself were in the building doing a reaping for the Hunger Games. But then, pockets of sunshine emerged -- if only briefly -- signifying fans' happiness. They were, after all, inside the very same building as cast members of The Hunger Games: Catching Fire.
Doors didn't open until 4 p.m., but there were fans lining up since about 1 p.m.; one group of friends spent the night on those concrete floors, beginning at 4 a.m. In their defense, one of the girls was wearing a purple wig a la Effie, so they were superfans indeed. Schoolgirls and boys arrived in their uniforms with their parents, and there were plenty of screaming fangirls in the building to cause minor hearing loss.
Before the cast was to arrive for the National Victory Tour stop, sponsors of the event, Covergirl, 99 Jamz, and Feeding America, were giving away coveted wristbands via Twitter contests. Those strawberry red wristbands were the ultimate prize in itself: they gave you the chance to stand in a special gated section in front of the stage, and you got to walk up and get a poster autographed by the cast.
When Sam Claflin (Finnick), Jena Malone (Johanna), Stephanie Leigh Schlund (Cashmere), and Alan Ritchson (Gloss) walked on stage, the mass of prepubescent girls went wild. And yes, there were tears.
The autographing session started promptly at 5:35 p.m. and as fans lined up and were handed a poster, the stars were smiling ear-to-ear with excitement too. Contrary to popular belief, some movie stars enjoy meeting fans and having the opportunity to put a smile on a stranger's face. After the first part of the autograph session was done (it would later pick up again after the Q&A), the cast jumped off stage - Malone even took off her heels - and ran up to the barricades to take selfies with fans, shake hands, and give hugs.
After, when it was time for the Q&A session, the moderator from 99 Jamz took the microphone and read from a stack of questions fans were asked to submit during the event. This was the same MC who kept jumping on the stage trying to energize the crowd earlier during the event and who referred to Katniss as "Katniss Evergreen," mispronouncing the character's last name in the book, which is Everdeen. Hashtag embarrassing.
But the MC redeemed herself by asking the type of questions that would satisfy the fans in the audience. We learned that Claflin spent six months training and learning how to wield a trident, and that his favorite scene to film was the sugar cube scene when he first met Katniss.
One fun question that was asked was "if you could be any other character, who would you be?" Schlund said Buttercup because she was the safest choice; Malone said Mags because she is a sweetheart (and she gets to be carried by Finnick, rowr); Ritchson said Gale, well, because he's also incredibly handsome like Gale (no self-esteem problems there); and Claflin said Haymitch because he has always admired him.
Another fan wanted to know about the "craziest" fan encounter they've had, to which Malone swiftly replied, "When people say that, they want to evoke a reaction," but referring to her encounters with fans, "it's just so beautiful." This response elicited many "Jena, you're beautiful!" yells from the crowd.
We also got some insight from the actors regarding what they thought of their characters. Turns out, most of them would not go along with their Hunger Games counterparts. When asked if they would be friends with their character, Malone quickly responded a definitive "no!" Schlund, who earlier commented on liking Cashmere's fashion sense, said, "Cashmere and I would make great shopping partners." Gloss, on the other hand, is a little tough to like, but Ritchson said that the character's a good guy who always has your back, so the two might hit it off as buddies.
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It's hard for anyone not to fall in love with Finnick -- or the dreamy Claflin -- but Claflin said how though he and Finnick would probably not be the best of friends, "I imagine he would charm me." He can charm us any day.
The evening ended with the crowd giving a three-finger salute while the cast took one final group photo and did a final wrap up of autographs. Despite the gloomy weather threatening to put a damper on the event, fans left beaming and earnestly awaiting the November 22 premiere of The Hunger Games: Catching Fire.
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