The popularity of “The Hunger Games,” the first book in Suzanne Collins’ young-persons’ trilogy about a girl trapped in a dystopian society she struggles against, insures that the careers of the young actors featured in the film of it will never be quite the same. Three of them—Josh Hutcherson (Peeta), Isabelle Fuhrman (Clove) and Jacqueline Emerson (Fox Face)—came to Dallas to promote the picture by making appearances at malls, where they were met by frenzied fans. But they also took time to talk to the press about the experience of making the movie.

Had each of them known the book before becoming attached to the movie? “My agent actually gave me the [first] book right when Lionsgate optioned it,” Fuhrman said, “and I read it that night and got the second one the next morning and read it all day, and then I had to wait for the third one to come out. I think it’s one of those things where you…you just can’t stop reading it—you get so involved. I actually sent a letter to [writer-director] Gary Ross asking if I could audition, and [telling him] how much I wanted to be in the movie. And they called me a week later and said they’d love it if I could come in and read for Clove. I got a call two or three weeks later saying that I’d gotten it. I cried, I was so happy.”

Emerson said, “’The Hunger Games’ was actually the all-school read at my school, so everybody had to read it. I quickly became hooked, read the first one and the second one, waited until midnight for the third one. And I actually knew Gary Ross’ daughter Katia, and her dad was interviewing kids who’d read the book. So I went in and did an interview with him, and two weeks later I got a call and he wanted me to come in and read for Fox Face. I was completely flipping out that I even had the opportunity to go in and audition, and so the fact that I got the part is mind-boggling.”

“When I found out they were making the movie, that’s when I first heard about [the books],” Hutcherson recalled. “I got ahold of them right away and loved the story. I connected with my character, Peeta, on so many levels. I had a couple of auditions, the second being with Jennifer Lawrence as a chemistry reading. They all went fantastic, I thought, but I thought that before and not gotten jobs; you never know. It was a week and a half, two weeks after the second audition that I found out. [Waiting] was absolute torture.”

Of course “The Hunger Games” has legions of passionate fans. And sometimes their emotions can get the better of them. “They’re very enthusiastic,” Fuhrman laughed. Emerson recalled, “I was recognized once on a street near my school. It was pajama day, so naturally I was wearing bright pink pajamas covered in cats, with sheep slippers. And these girls across the street were smiling, and then they yelled, ‘We love you, Fox Face!’ I remember just standing there, thinking ‘Oh God, what am I wearing?’”

For Hutcherson the passion hit closer to home. “For me the mall incidents have been really wild and out there. But my strangest thing is when I was back home in Kentucky with my family for the holidays. After Christmas I was having dinner with my grandparents. We just finished dinner and my doorbell rang, and there was a mom and two girls. They do that scream at a level you don’t understand, and they’re crying. And they have clothes that literally have my face and all sorts of things all over. They tell me that they had driven down to my house from Chicago on the chance that I might be home for the holidays. And they said that they’d seen me eating dinner and waited so they didn’t interrupt my dinner. They were polite stalkers, I guess.”

The physical demands of the story meant that the shoot was not easy one. “I did a hundred percent of my stunts in it,” Hutcherson said, “which is great, because I love doing stunts and a lot of times they freak out and won’t let you. But my biggest injury was not doing a stunt, it was Jennifer Lawrence. She decided that she was going to show that she could kick over the top of my head. I said, no way. So she tried and kicked me in the side of my head and gave me a real concussion. She felt so bad, she was crying, and said ‘You can kick me in the head if you want to.’ I said, Jennifer, I’m not going to kick you in the head.’” Fuhrman related how she fell off an exercise bar (“We thought she was dead,” Hutcherson interjected), and Emerson how she gave herself a black eye while training.

But all three agreed that the effort was well worth it. “I think it’s important for kids to see a strong female lead,” Fuhrman emphasized, “because there’s not much of that out there in literature and in movies, and in the culture today. I think that is something important for girls to see.”

And Hutcherson added, “I was blown away [seeing the finished film]. I haven’t walked out of a movie, let alone one of my movies, where I felt so moved. The movie captured the essence of the story in so many ways, and from the begging to the end you’re emotionally invested in the entire story. Reading the book I felt that way, and I wanted to make sure that came across in the movie, and it does. I’m very, very proud of it.”