November 2015 - Cover Story - The World According to Willow
America will be experiencing the final installment of The Hunger Games this month with Mockingjay Part 2. New Mexico will once again be excited to see one of their own on the big screen. Willow Shields, who plays Primrose Everdeen in The Hunger Games series, made a big noise recently becoming the youngest competitor ever on the 20th season of ABC’s Dancing with the Stars. Shields shared what the experience was like. “Amazing! Everything about the experience was challenging, physically exhausting, and terrifying! But all in the very best way,” expressed Willow. “Each week you learn something completely new. Each week you get to be a part of this amazing collaboration with your partner. I was lucky to have Mark Ballas as a partner, who is the most amazing choreographer. Every dance we got to tell a story and I was thrilled every week to do it. I still miss the dancing. I really couldn’t have asked for a better experience on the show.”
Willow was born in Albuquerque with twin sister, Autumn and older brother, River, who are also in the business. Shields’ youngest days leave her with fond memories of time being shared with her siblings - she shared what her time was like. “Peaceful and pretty normal,” shared Shields. “We live in more of a rural area, so we had animals - many different kinds. I think at one time we had a goat, ducks, chickens and dogs. We played outside a lot. My best friends were my brother and sister - still are! We had a lot of space to run around - to use our imaginations and read. Reading was big for us.” Willow, who is a lover of Christmas when it comes to how she takes her chile - “I love both too much to ever choose” - started her career at the age of 8. Willow admitted that her brother was the reason that she lead down this career path. “My brother started auditioning for roles here in New Mexico. There were so many films and T.V. shows coming here,” said Shields. “Once I saw what he was doing, I wanted to try, too. When I actually got on a set, I was hooked. I loved the people, the way everyone works together to create something. It’s very inspiring to me. Creating new characters and doing that with other people is exciting. There was very little else I wanted to do after I got a chance to act. Maybe someday direct documentary films. I have a serious documentary film addiction!”
New Mexico is slowing becoming its own little Hollywood. As an actor who started her career here, Willow shared what her experience was like landing roles. “I think New Mexico is a great place to get a jump in this business. There are more and more opportunities coming here and it gives beginning actors a chance to get started, in some capacity, whether as an extra or stand-in - which is what I did at first. There are bigger roles being cast here, too. It’s always exciting to see what new film is shooting here or what T.V. shows may start up. Hopefully, there is continued growth because there are a lot of talented people in New Mexico.” Those opportunities lead her to a successful career at only the age of 15.
When asked what gig was the moment she truly felt like an actor, she seems pretty clear on the moment. “I don’t know! Maybe the first day on the set of The Hunger Games, when some amazing actors surrounded me. Of course, Jennifer Lawrence is incredible, but being around Woody Harrelson and Elizabeth Banks, who I had already grown up seeing in so many movies...I mean, my brother, sister, and I loved Zombieland! Woody is one of the coolest actors ever. I was star struck that day and very nervous. But once the cameras were rolling, and I was actually working, I thought now THIS is what it is all about.
Willow’s experience on The Hunger Games series has been an amazing one, building her character, Prim, is one of the many factors Shields loved working on the series. ”I guess I could say I learned pretty much everything I know about movie-making at this point from being on this series. It’s so rare to be able to work on a single character through four films. I was able to grow up with Prim and that is an amazing thing. As far as the scale of the film, I think most films are pretty similar, whether they are smaller films or huge blockbusters. Everyone is doing a job and most people just love being there. There’s something magical about a movie set and it doesn’t matter what size the movie is.” Shields is currently experiencing more of that movie magic filming her latest project The Wonder. She talked about the film and where filming is taking her. “The Wonder is a fantasy adventure, family film, about a teenage girl living a normal, everyday life, who, with her best friend does something incredible. They fly in a rainbow to China, where they find themselves pursued by a mysterious organization as well as trying to avert a major natural disaster. It’s amazing being in China and working with the crew here. We are from all over, but in general, it is a Chinese and New Zealand crew. We will be shooting in New Zealand next.” She was also excited to share what’s coming down the pipeline with upcoming projects as well. “I will be doing a film directed by Jennifer Lynch, called A Fall From Grace. It is a psychological thriller that stars Tim Roth, Vincent D’Onofrio, and Forest Whitaker. I think David Lynch will also star, which will be pretty cool. Anything with the Lynch family is exciting to be a part of.” Wilow has been blessed to work with some great actors, but everyone has a bucket list and for her, when it comes to who is on her acting wish list, she had two very strong candidates. “Jody Foster for one. She is amazing and has worked for so long. She had an amazing career when she was still a teenager and it has never stopped. I admire that greatly. Joaquin Phoenix would be incredible to work with. He’s a genius!”
At 15, Shields has quite a few productions under her belt. When it came to her goals for the future and what she would like her legacy in film to be, Shields chooses to look at the here and now. “I don’t know about legacies! I try not to think that far in the future. I just want to keep doing what I’m doing right now. It’s a great thing to be able to pursue the thing you love.”