Recently, I got a chance to chat with the lovely Eugenie Bondurant. Eugenie plays the role of Tigris, a woman-cat hybrid who is fascinated by tigers and is a shopkeeper in the Capitol, in the upcoming final installment of the The Hunger Games series, Mockingjay Part 2.
Eugenie started out her career as a model and transitioned into acting after a successful career as a model in the US and Europe. Other than acting, Eugenie is also a cabaret singer and a radio theater enthusiast, as well as a Meisner acting technique teacher.
You started out your career as a model, what drew you towards acting? Were you always interested in acting?
Well, I was modeling for years, and I was dating a guy. I was in New York and he moved to LA, and while I was in New York, or Paris, or wherever I was at the moment, he said come and visit, so I did. He bought me plane tickets and I came out to LA. Breaking up with that guy is the thing that pushed me into acting.(Laughs) So, actually I have to thank him for that. With a crazy relationship, you know how your life turns and twists, well that was a twist alright. And my family was also out here too, so I just stayed down here.
Which do you enjoy more, acting or modeling?
Ooh, I LOVE acting! I love it! I love getting in the head of a character, I love making choices. Don’t get me wrong, certainly walking down the runway and wearing a beautiful wardrobe and having someone do your hair and makeup–I also get that when doing acting as well–is fun. I just love assuming so many different roles. You get to meet so many interesting, very talented people when you’re in that field. So, absolutely, I love acting!
Had you seen the Hunger Games movies or read the books before you were cast in the role of Tigris?
Okay, I’m gonna let you in on a secret, I had not. My students made me actually. They did not know I was auditioning for The Hunger Games because when I got the audition originally, there was a different name on the role. There was a different project name so it wasn’t ‘The Hunger Games: Mockingjay’ blah blah blah. But I knew my students were reading those books and everyone I knew was reading those books, and I was like what is with this? And they saw the films and I was like I need to watch these films.
Well, I ended up booking this role, and, immediately, dove into the books. I remember one time my husband and I were driving and we’d read books live, not books on tape, but books read live. So, we’d get a book and I’d read it out loud while he’s driving. So it was way late at night, it was snowing, and my husband’s driving. Normally, I wouldn’t read, we would watch the road, but here I am with a pin light. We were so set to get through the book because it was so good!
The last one I read three times because I was in that one and I really wanted to dig into the book and read it and find more out about my character. It’s really fascinating! They’re such good reads! People even ask me that now, “should I read the book?” I automatically say, “Yes! Don’t just walk to get the book, you need to run to get the book. And then see the films.” The films are so rich and beautiful and vibrant. I feel like when I’m watching the films, it’s this three-dimensional absorption of the film and the story. It’s almost like your senses are overloaded, it’s so amazing.
What was it like to be stepping into the cast in the final film of such a popular film series as a new cast member? Was it intimidating?
Well, no. I didn’t allow myself to think that it would be. I have a certain protocol, I don’t–when people have been on a set and they’ve been working together, especially in this capacity, I don’t want to ruffle any feathers. But I want to get to know them because then that brings out a more cohesive product. I will say this, they were incredibly inviting and gracious. Jennifer Lawrence was wonderful. She was the first person–she sat there in the chair next to mine in the makeup trailer. Everything is in the makeup trailer. So I was in my chair for a very long time, so I got to see people come through that door, and she sat down and was just so gracious. She welcomed me to the set and introduced herself to me. They did everything they could to make me feel a part of the group. It was really wonderful.
Tigris is a very unique character. How did you prepare yourself to play her?
One of the first things I did, obviously you already know that I read the books more than one time because I really wanted to get as much information as I could about this character. And also being a teacher, I’m a Meisner instructor and I teach scene study, one of the things that I teach my students is that if it’s not written then it’s your job to create it, to create the back story. One of the first things that I did was I worked with a very dear, close friend of mine, Paula Kramer, who is a choreographer, on this character. I couldn’t tell her that I booked it so I just said ‘it’s a role and she’s passionate about tigers’. (Laughs) That’s pretty much all I could tell her. She came in and sat me down and we worked on it. We studied cats, how they move and how they stalk their prey, from tigers down to common tom cats, and the gracefulness to that. Having a background in modeling too, I felt like I was a duck in water. So, that was one of the ways that I prepared for her.
How long did the Tigris makeup take?
When we first started, when Ve Neill and Glenn Hetrick first started working on me, it took about six hours. Then they cut it down to about four and a half. But that also includes the hair and me getting into my wardrobe. The entire process took about six hours and then about two hours to remove it. At one point I would have about two to three people working on me. It was very enjoyable and I would meditate and get into my character. But it took a lot of time.
So, why is Tigris so enthusiastic about tigers?
(Laughs) Because they are somewhat mysterious. They don’t show their cards. She has had extensive plastic surgery. Like, why do people like certain animals? At one time in my life, I collected frogs. Why did I like frogs? I don’t know, there was just something about them. But for her I think, it’s the grace and mystery of the cats. The tiger is actually very beautiful with its stripes. So, that’s why I think she’s attached to becoming a tiger. And, she’s a stylist in the Capitol so she has to stand out. She’s a former stylist now, but she was a stylist.
If you could have plastic surgery to look more like an animal, which animal would it be?
Oooh. Now that is an interesting question! It would not be a frog. (Laughs) Okay so the first thing that comes up to mind is what am I similar to? I’m similar to a giraffe because I have a very long neck and I have a long body. Or a gazelle. It’s kind of hard to tell, you know. I’m not sure. So now I’m thinking would I be able to move like that animal? Would I be able to move like a giraffe? I don’t know. I’ve never really thought about that. I’ll go with the giraffe. (Laughs).
I like giraffes. They’re very nice.
They are very nice. Or so they seem. (Laughs).
Who did you enjoy working with the most?
Is she just as quirky in real life as she is on-screen?
Oh I wish you could see what I saw Absolutely. She is very funny. She is constantly talking and making jokes. It’s just that level of comfort. Her work ethic is out of this roof. She has an incredible work ethic, which trickles down because she’s carrying this thing and if she’s working hard, everyone else is working hard. It was lovely working with her. But everyone was fun.
Were there any funny behind the scenes stories that you can share with us?
I haven’t shared this story yet, so you’re the first one to hear it! I was all dressed up in my makeup, I wasn’t in my wardrobe, just my makeup. So, they told me to go to my trailer and get in my wardrobe and I was like okay. Two seats down from me, right by the trailer door, is Woody Harrelson. Now, mind you, I don’t look like me. I look like Tigris. So I have the whole thing on. I have got the tattoos and everything. He just sits there and looks at me, and I’m just–this is my first time meeting Woody Harrelson.
Can you imagine? Meeting someone for the first time and you’re seeing this weird character and you have no idea who it is. He just doesn’t know what to say and he’s just sitting there. So I’m like okay, what do I do now. Do I say hi? What do I do? And I had to go around him to get to the door, so finally, I said “Hi, I’m Eugenie, I play Tigris,” and he didn’t say a word! (Laughs) Because I looked so strange and funny, you know. So, yeah, that was my funny story.
Our website is called TalkNerdyWithUs, so what’s one thing that you’re nerdy about?
Hmm. Ooh, I can tell you. I don’t know if you’ll think this is nerdy but I’m nerdy about it. I sing, I do radio theatre, live old-fashioned radio theatre, and I’m really nerdy about it. I listen to it, I do it in front of a live audience with an ensemble. We get together and we have these followers that follow us. So, yeah I’m very nerdy about that.
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 comes out in theaters on Friday, November 20th.
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