Karen Valby
April 20, 2011 AT 06:01 PM EDT

Today, Lionsgate and The Hunger Games team announced that newcomer Willow Shields will star as Primrose Everdeen in the movie adaptation. The New Mexican native will play Katniss’ beloved younger sister, for whom Katniss sacrifices herself. (It is sweet Prim who’s initially called to represent their District 12 in the annual televised fight-to-the-death.) “It’s so exciting to find an amazing young actress like the one we just met,” director Gary Ross said in a statement about the casting. “Prim is an emotionally demanding role and in many ways she is the cornerstone of the story. Willow Shields will make an amazing Prim and we’re very lucky to have her.” Lionsgate will release The Hunger Games on March 23, 2012.

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