Jeffrey Wright plays wizened former champion Beetee in The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1, reprising his scene-stealing role from Catching Fire.

Jeffrey Wright On ‘Mockingjay Part 1’

Wright’s Beetee, though he’s lived in the lap of luxury in the Capitol for years, would like nothing more than for the oppressive regime led by President Snow (Donald Sutherland) to fall to its knees. While he works in tandem with Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence), their motivations are different, according to Wright. Katniss’ quest is fueled more by loyalty and love than a genuine desire to fight against a system.

“I think [Beetee] is fairly conscious of the injustice of the society he inhabits. So, on a political level he engages too, which I think is different than Katniss, for example,” Wright explained to uInterview. “Katniss is not so much a political animal. I think she’s more driven by her sense of loyalty to friends, her sense of loyalty to home and a desire to recreate that sense of security that was lost and has been lost during the first two movies, which resonates I think for audiences in a very personal way.”

While Katniss is a relatively apolitical character at her core, the same can not be said of Suzanne Collin’s trilogy of books. But, as Wright points out, though The Hunger Games is laced with numerous political notions, it doesn’t take a firm political side. It’s not left versus right or blue versus red. It’s far more complicated than that – allowing for audiences to take away what they will from the narrative.

“I don’t think [Suzanne] really points the finger of judgment from a political angle,” Wright said. “I think if you’re on the left of the political spectrum, you can find an angle in this; maybe it’s a class angle. If you’re on the right, maybe you grab on to a Second Amendment – from a U.S perspective – right to bear arms against the tyranny of government or something like that. But there’s no single political message that’s being sent.”

Before landing a part in The Hunger Games franchise, Wright had already been acquainted with Philip Seymour Hoffman, who, like him, came on board for Catching Fire. Working alongside the Oscar-winning actor in Ides of March and in the final three Hunger Games movies, Wright recognized in Hoffman a singular talent.

“The thing that struck me about Phil, working with him on those two movies was that I can’t recall him doing two takes alike, ever. Each time he did a scene, he did a take, he was trying to invent it within the moment and create it spontaneously and dig down and try to find something original and new and meaningful, and not a lot of actors are like that. Most are not,” noted Wright. “He won’t be replaced.”

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 is currently in wide release.

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Q: Hey Jeffrey, congratulations on the release of the new Hunger Games movie. Now, your character is central to the revolution of Mockingjay. Tell us a little bit about how you got into his mindset? -

Well, Beetee, I think he is committed to the rebellion for two reasons. One, because he’s injured psychologically and physically by his participation in the games, but also because I think he is fairly conscious of the injustice of the society he inhabits. So, on a political level he engages too, which I think is different than Katniss, for example. Katniss is not so much a political animal. I think she’s more driven by her sense of loyalty to friends, her sense of loyalty to home and a desire to recreate that sense of security that was lost and has been lost during the first two movies, which resonates I think for audiences in a very personal way, which is why I believe that folks are so drawn to her and to these books and these storylines. But, Beetee, on the other hand, is a political animal. He’s a subversive and I very much appreciate that angle. Someone mentioned somewhere that I read that he infiltrates the system, pretends to be of the system, only to destroy it.’

Q: There’s been a lot of debate about the political implications in The Hunger Games movies. What sort of commentary do you think this film is making? -

I’m not sure. I say that because what’s wonderful about the cosmology that Suzanne Collins has created is that it’s fairly non-judgmental. There are some obvious, there’s a fairly obvious moral spectrum that folks are working within. I don’t think she really points the finger of judgment from a political angle. So, therefore, the viewer or the reader is allowed to interpret in their own way how they would respond from a political aspect. So, I think if you’re on the left of the political spectrum, you can find an angle in this; maybe it’s a class angle. If you’re on the right, maybe you grab on to a Second Amendment – from a U.S perspective – right to bear arms against the tyranny of government or something like that. But there’s no single political message that’s being sent. I think it’s a more personal message that Suzanne is sending about the need for protection, of love and protection of the home and security and loyalty. All of these things that are much more resonant on a universal level are the messages that come forward. Those things that violate the simple, granular, most human things that society creates are really the things that are to be destroyed.

Q: So this was sadly one of Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s last movies. What was it like working with him on set? -

I knew Phil for a long time. We both came up in the New York theatre scene together. We’d only done one movie prior to The Hunger Games movies and that was Ides Of March. The thing that struck me about Phil, working with him on those two movies was that I can’t recall him doing two takes alike, ever. Each time he did a scene, he did a take, he was trying to invent it within the moment and create it spontaneously and dig down and try to find something original and new and meaningful, and not a lot of actors are like that. Most are not. He was just really committed, serious, questioning. He was inspiring for anyone who worked with him. We were with him days before, we would get together after we filmed and spend time together offset. I was with him just days before and I had to come back to New York. When I got word back here that we had lost him it was just a terrible, terrible blow. Not only for us a family of actors on set but as the larger kind of global family of actors. He won’t be replaced.