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Elizabeth Banks

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If you're a fan of 30 Rock (RIP), then you'll understand why we're obsessed with Elizabeth Banks. Her character, Avery Jessop, a shrewd and slightly scary news reporter, makes Lois Lane look lazy, not to mention she can hold her own against Jack Donaughy.

But we're not here to talk about how much we love her acting with Alec Baldwin (although we could probably write a thesis on it), no, we're here to chat The Hunger Games: Catching Fire in which she reprises the role of the Capital's Effie Trinket.

We sat down with the actress, who's also starred in Scrubs, The 40 Year Old Virgin and Catch Me If You Can, to discuss her role, the fantastic dresses she gets to wear and how long it takes to do Effie's hair (spoiler: a long time).

Let's talk about the Hunger Games. From the first to the second film, Effie's character changes quite a lot...

It's fun because we had three books to draw on even when we made the first movie so I always knew her heart was in there. But that's what's great about making sequels is that you get to reveal more and more about your character as time goes on. Actually, Effie evolves as a character and she's one of the few Capital citizens that we see and she's is very much on the wrong side of it. She really has a journey here. When you read the books, she's really not sympathetic at all. She hates change and she fears the districts and doesn't like Katniss. She's very oblivious at first and then her eyes are opened.

Her costumes were phenomenal. Did you enjoy wearing them?

For the most part they were pretty uncomfortable but they really made me feel fabulous. It's important to remember that Effie is the manifestation and representation in the film of the Capital and all things wrong and accepted about the Captial. She's the perfect juxtaposition against the districts too.

Any particular costumes you loved?

As a piece of art the butterfly dress from the reaping is simple stunning, in the flesh it's even more beautiful. It's actually made of about 10,000 feathers that were hand-painted to look like Monarch butterflies (pictured above). And in terms of something that I would just love to own, the dress I wear when I first arrive in District 12 at the top of the movie, we call it the ice queen, is a leather-cut Alexander McQueen coat and I just loved it.

How long did you take to get ready?

It would take about 3-4 hours per day but it was worth it. I had a lot of people to help me.

As you're a producer as well, where do you prefer being in front of the camera or behind it?

I really love my job but I love producing too. I feel very fortunate to have done Pitch Perfect and we're working diligently on a sequel and a few other projects. When you're an actor you're one of the last pieces of the puzzle - you're servicing someone else. As a producer you get to see something from the very beginning as the seed of an idea through to the end, and it's very gratifying when it actually happens. So, you know, it takes a lot of persistence and passion. I love being able to give people jobs and I love that we got to hire a writer who was a first-time feature writer and a first-time feature director. To put your faith in other people is really gratifying.

How do you pick projects?

It's the same as acting really, anything that you do requires intense passion. And so you have to believe in what it is and to stay excited. I don't mind being with you today because the movie is great and I love the character. There's no reason to do this if it's going to be hard.

You're set to play Brian Wilson's wife in a biopic on his life, Love and Mercy. Can you tell us a bit about that?

It's a really interesting biopic about Brian Wilson's life. He led the Beach Boys and some people would say that they're the greatest American band ever. Every song he wrote is amazing. He's a very interesting character as he suffered from mental illness and this film is the story of how he comes to realise that and then how he comes to take his life back. I play his second wife who really helps him to get well and they've been together now for over 30 years and have five kids. They were involved the whole way so I was terrified. You really feel a deep responsibility when you're playing a real person. Melinda [Brian Wilson's wife] is a wonderful woman, I adore her. The entire time we were making that film, I was just like I hope she's happy.

Do you enjoy being part of a project which champions strong female characters?

I love that we're telling this story through the point of view of a young woman. She doesn't have a special super power but she's so heroic and iconic, and not just because she's a woman. At the same time we also get a sense of her vulnerability.

Finally, because we love Avery Jessop, how much do you miss 30 Rock?

I really can't say enough about Tina [Fey] as a mentor. And with Alec [Baldwin] I just had way too much fun with that guy. When you see the episodes, you can see we're just having fun - I love that relationship between him and Avery. My favourite episode was when I had to give birth in Canada. That was a real humdinger and we shot outside at night in a snowstorn in New York on the side of a freeway. Then he took me out for a sushi dinner.

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire is out now

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