The hills are finally alive tonight with the premiere of NBC’s much-anticipated adaptation of The Sound of Music Live! EW was on set a few weeks ago to watch rehearsals for this live version of the Rodgers and Hammerstein 1959 Broadway musical, which stars Carrie Underwood as Maria and Stephen Moyer as Capt. Von Trapp. The production will be broadcast live from a warehouse in Long Island that houses Music‘s seven working sets, including the Von Trapp house and the abbey. There will be no second takes, no audience except for the ones watching at home. In between scenes, leading lady Underwood talked to us about tackling such an iconic character and the challenges of her biggest acting role to date.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What was it like getting the call for this? Producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron tell me you were their first choice.
CARRIE UNDERWOOD: Well, I mean, first I remembered hearing [about it], ’cause they announced they were going to do this before they had any idea where or how or who. I remember reading that press release and thinking, “Wow, like that’s ambitious like wow, how?” I had questions even before I knew they were interested in me. And then we got a phone call so I sat down with Neil and Craig and it all started coming together.
Are you getting nervous?
This is different. I’m not nervous yet. Anytime someone says “It’s only such and such days away,” I’m like, “Uhhh, don’t say that yet! Shhhhhh, we have all the time in the world!” But of course we’ll all be excited and nervous, ‘cause we want more of this, just in general. Hopefully it’s a step in the right direction in just having more live things happening on TV.
They were telling me as soon as you got this role, you just immediately started working on this.
I did. I’m not stupid — I know I have the farthest to go in terms of acting. I feel like nobody has ever done anything like this, so we’re all newbies at this particular project. But we all kind of have our fortes, you know what I mean? I’m used to live television, that’s what I do, and being in the studio for the soundtrack. And then we have all these incredible Broadway veterans — that’s their forte. Then you have Stephen, who of course has done musical theater, but you know, hasn’t really been in the studio that much and doing that on live TV, I mean that’s newer for him, and so we’re all bringin’ what we got to this. But I knew I had the furthest to go, and I’ve never tried to memorize lines like that before, so I was like, “I better get started early.”
Did you have an acting coach?
I have since I’ve been on set. In the beginning, it was more about just making sure I knew all my lines, all the music. And then over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been working with somebody just trying to go deeper into myself and, every day, I feel like it gets easier to go there.
I heard too that you did a lot of vocal lessons to get this sort of Broadway, this different kind of singing.
When I’m at home, it’s so hard for me to work. I will never have a studio in my home because that’s home. So I needed to leave and go somewhere else and have monitored rehearsal where somebody’s playing the piano, and I got to know the material. That was important, and also, Rodgers and Hammerstein, they were always very particular about doing things the way they’re supposed to be done, so I wanted to pay the ultimate respect to that.
You went to Salzburg and did the Sound of Music tour?
I did! We were going to Italy, my husband and I, for our anniversary, and we had to fly back through Munich anyway, and I was like, “Let’s just go to Salzburg. Let’s stay for an extra couple of days.” It was such a beautiful town, and then we went to the lake district and our tour guide took us everywhere. We would have totally hiked up the mountainside but we didn’t have much time there so we took the ski lift to the tops of these gorgeous mountains where you could just see everything. It was beautiful.
Did you go up and twirl around, Maria-style?
I didn’t twirl because I thought people would be like, “What’s the crazy lady doing twirling at the top of a mountain?” But it really is so spiritual and we saw Nonnberg Abbey. We saw the real Von Trapp house and we saw where they filmed everything and it was nice to take in the vibe.
Has this been fun? What’s this whole experience been like for you?
It has definitely been fun. There’s not a day that I don’t look forward to coming to work. But it definitely is a challenge. I mean, this is completely out of my comfort zone.
Does it make you want to do more acting?
Well, I should first say that I will never take great performances in acting for granted again. I feel like we are so spoiled and we go to the movie theater and we just see these incredible performances or we go to a Broadway show and we see these incredible performances and we just expect them to be wonderful. I will never take that for granted again, because it’s hard. And I’m so glad I’ve realized that, not that I ever thought it was easy, but you know, it’s definitely a challenge.
Were you a fan of the movie?
Oh my gosh, yeah. My husband is the only person I know who hasn’t seen the movie. [Laughs] But he knows all the songs, and that’s the cool thing too, you do have the movie and then you have the music, and the music even transcends the movie. Everybody’s seen the movie, and the music goes even farther than that.
Any trepidation of entering something that’s such hallowed material?
I think so many people out there still don’t understand what we’re doing and, therefore, they do have this incredible ownership over the movie, like “You can’t remake that movie!” I get hate tweets and stuff like that and like, “You’re not Julie Andrews!” I know I’m not — nobody is, and I would never pretend that I was. I know my place, you know?
That does seem difficult. What’s been the most challenging for you — is it the acting element?
Yeah. ‘Cause, I mean, the music, that’s my life, that’s what I do. I even feel like so much about the character Maria and myself, I feel like we have so much in common. I didn’t grow up on a mountain, but I grew up outside, you know? And she just had this love for nature and this love for the things that God made, the beautiful outside, the mountains, the music, and I feel that. I grew up in a pasture, but I was singing everywhere! And I was outside, and I was climbing trees and scrapin’ my knees, and I was just a free child.
Have you heard from Julie Andrews at all?
Not personally. I do fully intend to write her a very nice letter, because she’s been very publicly supportive of this, which has meant the world.
What will you be feeling on Dec. 5 at 7:59 p.m.?
I’ll probably be praying at that point. I don’t want to lessen what we’re doing, but hopefully it’ll feel like another rehearsal. [Laughs] Like we’re just gonna rehearse it one last time, this is the final time, so give it your all!