We had the opportunity to talk to the talented Lucy Hunter James who plays the iconic Maria in The Sound of Music
13 March 2016| Last updated on 31 March 2019
We had the opportunity to talk to the talented Lucy Hunter James ahead of her 5th performance as the iconic Maria in The Sound of Music.
So of course, we were a little too excited to have the opportunity to talk to the wonderfully talented woman behind Maria's memorable voice in this year's The Sound of Music in Dubai! Lucy Hunter James has been working as an actress since graduation from her London drama school at the age of 21, and has since worked in performing arts, singing, a talent judge and owning her own production company!
Understandably, we had a lot of curious questions for her and about her experiences so far.
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EW: What influenced you to start acting?
LHJ: I think performing has always been in my blood. I danced as a child, but knew in my heart that it wasn't the path for me. My strengths were my singing and acting, and so I focused on these.
As I grew up and went through school, college and then drama school, I was lucky enough to have several inspirational teachers who believed in me and nurtured my abilities. Along with my determination, hard work and commutment to this chosen career path, they, along with the support of my mother and step-father, helped me to become the very best that I could be... Then it was up to me!
EW: Do you enjoy performing in musicals than regular theatre? Why?
LHJ: I love both equally. I trained as a classical actress and for a long while, that's the area I worked in but then musical theatre came into my life and it never left. I'm lucky to have had a career that has spanned drama, film, TV, musical theatre, concert work - I love the diversity of the business, and I thank my lucky stars that I have been fortunate enough to work in every realm of the industry.
EW: What is the best part of being a performer overall?
LHJ: I'm not sure I can give just one answer to this question... So I'll give three!
I love taking a journey, a leap of faith, embodying a character and becoming someone else. I'm big on method acting, so I do a lot of research before playing any role. I like to be 100% informed on the period, the back story, the language, the behaviour of my character... If I hav all of this done before rehearsals, then I can really enjoy the process of creation in the rehearsal room.
Secondly, having an impact on people's lives. If an audience leaves The Sound of Music singing the songs, feeling uplifted, happy in their hearts and wanting to hold those they love just that little bit tighter then our work is done. Let's not forget, this is a real story and I am telling someone's story, there is a huge sense of duty in that respect.
Finally, I love the working environment. With ever new cast comes a brand new family, many of whom become life long friends. No matter how many times I have done this show, before I know that a new bond will always be created with this cast, and that we will share something magical and very, very, special.
EW: We can imagine matching Maria’s voice can be quite daunting… What do you do to prepare? How do you practice? What research has gone into your work as her?
LHJ: This is the 5th time I have played Maria, so on this occasion I am trying to build on what I have done before. No matter how successful a performance there is always an opportunity to improve.
Maria is a huge role, she’s barely off the stage so it’s very important that I am fighting fit for all twenty-one performances.
The stamina and fitness required is of the maximum. Vocally, I am looking after my voice as much as possible. I’m using all the singers tricks daily such as steaming, staying hydrated, taking my vitamins, warming up etc. Physically, I have an advantage this time round as I’ve been in training since September for the London Marathon in April.
EW: You are involved in many aspects of the performance arts, from acting, to singing, to being a talent judge, to having your own production company etc. What do you enjoy working with most?
LHJ: Performing is my number 1, I adore it. However, these days I would find it very difficult to just turn up to a rehearsal and not have a hand in the Productions process. As a Producer of shows, I am involved from conception to the very end - working on the company management, contracting, sponsorship, marketing, press, finance aspects, casting…. And I do get a tremendous amount of satisfaction from it.
EW: What are your personal aspirations for the future?
LHJ: To do more of my favourite things! I want to continue to challenge myself professionally, to create more theatre, to play new roles, to evolve, to educate and inspire…. And to finish the marathon!
EW: What would you say for young or aspiring performers who would like to take part in this entertainment industry?
LHJ: I have four pieces of advice...
1) People sometimes make fun of actors for ‘not doing real work’ but don’t be fooled! Being a successful actor is not easy – you have to work hard, keep fine tuning your skills, connect with the right people, take risks, be dedicated, be versatile - It’s not handed to you on a plate! It really is a tough industry where you face rejection regularly.
2) Be prepared to to work other jobs around acting in order to survive. Not many performers make a living simply from acting, you need other skill sets.
3) It’s nice to be important but it’s more important to be nice. The industry is fraught with negativity but don’t let it bring you down. Be kind, be humble and it will come back in abundance.
4) If you love it, do it – follow your heart and if you feel like you are flying (to quote Audra Macdonald) then that’s your soul telling you that it’s a ‘yes’.
EW: What advice would you give to parents to encourage their children to take up acting?
LHJ: Creativity should always be encouraged. For a child to be able to express themselves through any art form is so integral to development. Simply, acting builds self confidence and we all want that for our children. They may not become an actor in adulthood but on the way they will pick up countless benefits – social interaction, listening skills, risk taking, responsibility, self esteem etc. Sit back and enjoy their journey. I can’t wait to watch my son take his.
EW: Out of curiosity – did you see Lady Gaga’s TSOM tribute? What were your thoughts?
LHJ: I did… She performed a medley of the songs to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the films release. Lady Gaga has a tremendous voice and the performance was quite unusual for her in that she didn’t do any of her usual tricks!
I loved the medley itself but I thought it was disconnected; she had no relationship to the lyrics. That said, I’m all for bringing the musical to a new audience and Lady Gaga is a huge icon who many look up to, so I’m sure this contributed to a new audience connecting with the show. From what I have read Julie Andrews loved it and that is all Lady Gaga will have wanted to hear!