The student news site of Whitney High School in Rocklin, Calif.

Whitney Update

The student news site of Whitney High School in Rocklin, Calif.

Whitney Update

The student news site of Whitney High School in Rocklin, Calif.

Whitney Update

Sofia Sanchez takes role in ‘The Hunger Games’

On the set of “The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes,” Tom Blyth, Sofia Sanchez and Rachel Zegler pose for a photo. Photo by Jennifer Varanini.

Publishing the grand release of “The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes,” Lionsgate Films gave excitement to audiences. Revealing their cast in the new movie of the Hunger Games series, Sofia Sanchez, a local Ukrainian-American actress with Down syndrome, brought attention to fans and people around her. 

Before and during her eighth-grade year, Sanchez filmed the movie out of the United States. Participating in independent study with a designated teacher, Sanchez was able to catch up with school work.

“Filming was a dream. I got to live in Europe for four months. We filmed in Poland and Germany, and we had a lot of time off to explore other places. I loved the food, the people, and the beautiful places,” Sanchez said. 

Sanchez played the character Wovey, an orphan tribute from District Eight during the 10th Hunger Games. Through this role, Sanchez displayed her capability to win the viewers’ hearts through her acting. 

“I really liked getting into [the] character. I would change my emotions to Wovey when I would get into costume. It was fun saying ‘goodbye Sofia, hello Wovey’ every day on set,” Sanchez said. 

Explaining the impact filming the movie has made in her life, Sanchez noted her favorite experiences. 

“The whole experience has been the best and so amazing. I loved going to the premieres and seeing me and all the cast on the big screen. I loved meeting fans and signing autographs. The director, Francis [Lawrence], was such a good director. He let me be Wovey and do things like grab Rachel [Zegler]’s hand when we walk into the arena. That was my idea,” Sanchez said. 

Although the character did not originally have Down Syndrome, the film industry has prioritized normalizing inclusive casting rounds. 

“I think the fact that Sofia was cast in a role that was not designed to be a character with a disability is actually quite profound. There is no mention of her disability in the movie, and she is just there as one of the tributes, and it’s just true inclusion at its best. She shines as an actress who is capable of moving the audience,” Jennifer Varanini, Sanchez’s mother, said. 

Not only did her family motivate her with support, her cheer team also encouraged her experience. 

“Sofia has really just brought a sense of positivity to the cheer team. It’s really easy to get stressed when we’re preparing for a team or trying new skills, and she’s just always there to check in on you and comfort you or give you a hug,” Mariah Bragg said. 

To convey a message of the inclusion of the disabled community, Varanini noted her expectations moving forward.  

Varanini said, “We hope that Sofia being in this big movie will just help spread awareness and acceptance of the fact that all people [with] disabilities or not have a place and purpose.” 




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