“The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 2,” the concluding movie of four films adapted from novelist Suzanne Collins’ internationally popular “Hunger Games” trilogy, debuts in theaters Friday.
For actress Jena Malone, who plays rebel warrior Johanna Mason alongside Jennifer Lawrence’s archer-heroine Katniss Everdeen, it’s a bittersweet finale.
“Saying goodbye to friends,” Malone said from Los Angeles last week. “The cast and the crew, they’ve become like a family to me.”
Malone will miss her “Hunger Games” character, too.
“Johanna has been in survival mode since she was a teenager,” the actress said. “She’s used brutal truth and extreme humor in any way that she can to survive. If anything, she’s probably one of the most alive ‘Hunger Games’ characters because she doesn’t do or say what other people want her to do and say.”
In moving on from “The Hunger Games,” Malone finds satisfaction in the production team’s successful conclusion of this epic about a future society in which the subjugated, outer lying districts of Panem take their revolution to the oppressor-elites in The Capitol.
“It’s been three years of work to get to this point,” Malone said. “This is ending in the book, the ending that is now filmed.”
Without giving anything away, “Mockingjay — Part 2” also concludes Katniss’ struggles, from her harrowing participation in The Capitol’s mandated Hunger Games to becoming a symbol of the revolution.
“It’s nice to allow Katniss some peace,” Malone said. “She deserves it. That’s the one thing she hasn’t experienced through all four films.”
Lawrence and Malone share pivotal one-on-one scenes in the new film. Malone knew from day 1 on “The Hunger Games” set that the Oscar-winning Lawrence is a great actress.
“Jennifer is giving and responsive and open,” Malone said. “She can’t give a dishonest moment. It’s just not inside of her.”
Working with Lawrence inspired sibling-like affection in Malone.
“I feel like an older sister with her, a little protective,” she said. “And she’s so smart. She’s handled this crazy fame so well. I love her to pieces.”
A working actress since she was 10, Malone’s other recent films include the trippy, Paul Thomas Anderson-directed “Inherent Vice” and an indie drama with Richard Gere, “Time Out of Mind.”
“I don’t see movies as big or small,” she said. “I see it as role by role, director by director. Some things have money, some things don’t. It doesn’t change my work. The only thing money changes is the niceness of my hotel room and the catering.
“A lot of the times ‘Hunger Games’ felt like a small, intimate film to me,” she added. “ ‘Time Out of Mind’ talks about really giant subjects, yet in an intimate way. I just focus on working with incredible directors and playing great characters.”
Besides acting, Malone and Lem Jay Ignacio are one-half of musical duo The Shoe.
“It’s not about getting away from acting, I’m a storyteller more than an actor. That’s what I’ve always wanted to do and it’s what I’ve always been, whether it be through acting or writing or making music. Through a million things.”