"He was very receptive to it, so I was just so happy about poking him," the actress said of costarring with Blyth
Viola Davis isn't above delighting in villainy!
At Monday's premiere of her new film The Hunger Games: Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes in Los Angeles, the EGOT winner told The Hollywood Reporter that she thoroughly enjoyed stepping into the sinister shoes of Head Gamemaker Dr. Volumnia Gaul, joking that it was in part due to how uncomfortable she made her costars — and one in particular.
"Just seeing how many times you can make someone squirm — like Tom Blyth, oh man it was a joy because he was very receptive to it, so I was just so happy about poking him," said Davis, 58. “Even in the scene when I had to inject him and give him stitches, I think, loved it."
Speaking with PEOPLE at the premiere, the actress said the most fun part about playing a villain is "that I get to show people a different part of myself."
"I think that people see me as nurturing and kind, and I'm all those things — I'm shy, I'm introverted — to just get out of my comfort zone; to just be sort of uncomfortably just fun and evil," she explained. "The scope of it was a joy for me."
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In the upcoming origin story, Davis' eccentric, quirky and ruthless Gamemaker character concocts experiments to make the annual Hunger Games more of a violent spectacle for Panem.
"There was this wild, kind of quirky creativity and joy in creativity that character had but with this kind of sinister underpinning," the filmmaker, 52, said of Wonka. "I have to admit, I was a bit nervous to tell her that reference. But she got it immediately, luckily."
Lawrence — who called Davis "one of the best actors of all time" — explained that Dr. Gaul "may appear to be sort of the villain in this, but she actually really believes in these things and thinks it's the right thing to do."
"It was really fun to see that come together," he added. "Obviously the character from the book informs it ... then you get into hair, makeup, wardrobe, all of that. And Viola puts it all together and came up with this version of Dr. Gaul."
Costume designer Trish Summerville said the inspiration for Davis' look was something of a "Willy Wonka mad scientist, Dr. Frankenstein kind of vibe" — basically a "whimsical feel" with a "dark side to her that's devious."
"She has to have this jovial side where she draws you in, but then she is really terrifying at the same time," explained Summerville.
"It was everything, because when you see yourself like that, you have to step into what you see on the outside. That's the most important thing," Davis told PEOPLE of her character's look at Monday's premiere. "So, after four hours in hair and makeup, I'm looking at myself and when I smiled, my skin [was] crinkling, I loved it. I remembered when I was a kid and I wanted to be an actor playing dress-up. That's what it felt like."
Set 64 years before the events of The Hunger Games, the upcoming prequel film follows a young Coriolanus Snow (played by Donald Sutherland in the original series and in the new film by Blyth, 28) as he serves as a mentor in the 10th annual Hunger Games.
The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes is in theaters Friday.
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