Hantaviruses, members of the Bunyaviridae family, are negative-stranded emerging RNA viruses and category A pathogens that cause serious illness when transmitted to humans through aerosolized excreta of infected rodent hosts. Hantaviruses have evolved a novel translation initiation mechanism, operated by nucleocapsid protein (N), which preferentially facilitates the translation of viral mRNAs. N binds to the ribosomal protein S19 (RPS19), a structural component of the 40 S ribosomal subunit. In addition, N also binds to both the viral mRNA 5' cap and a highly conserved triplet repeat sequence of the viral mRNA 5' UTR. The simultaneous binding of N at both the terminal cap and the 5' UTR favors ribosome loading on viral transcripts during translation initiation. We characterized the binding between N and RPS19 and demonstrate the role of the N-RPS19 interaction in N-mediated translation initiation mechanism. We show that N specifically binds to RPS19 with high affinity and a binding stoichiometry of 1:1. The N-RPS19 interaction is an enthalpy-driven process. RPS19 undergoes a conformational change after binding to N. Using T7 RNA polymerase, we synthesized the hantavirus S segment mRNA, which matches the transcript generated by the viral RNA-dependent RNA polymerase in cells. We show that the N-RPS19 interaction plays a critical role in the translation of this mRNA both in cells and rabbit reticulocyte lysates. Our results demonstrate that the N-mediated translation initiation mechanism, which lures the host translation machinery for the preferential translation of viral transcripts, primarily depends on the N-RPS19 interaction. We suggest that the N-RPS19 interaction is a novel target to shut down the N-mediated translation strategy and hence virus replication in cells.