Mae Whitman Talks Stepping Out of Her Comfort Zone in New Musical Rom-Com 'Up Here' (Exclusive)

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Mae Whitman has been acting since she was two years old, but her new Hulu series, Up Here, is like nothing she's ever done before.

"I've never done a musical. I've never gotten to dance," she shared with ET on the set of the upcoming musical rom-com. "For me, this is totally outside my comfort zone, but it's something I've always really wanted to try... I definitely was terrified, but it's definitely turned out to be the best working experience I've ever had."

The series, developed by Tony winner Steven Levenson and Oscar-winning songwriters Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez, stars Whitman andThe Flash star Carlos Valdes as Lindsey and Miguel, who meet in New York City in the late '90s and fall in love...though not without some hiccups along the way.

The fun twist in their tale -- apart from the epic original song and dance numbers -- is that the pair is followed around by the real-life manifestations of the voices in their heads, from their parents to their childhood friends to their work colleagues.

"You get to see these two people as they slowly fall in love, but they kind of keep missing each other because they keep trying to be something that they're not... And every time they go with their intuition, there's all these voices from their past saying, 'Don't do this. Don't do that,'" Whitman explained. "They kind of keep missing each other, and every time you're like, 'No, wait, but you're meant to be!'"

"I think the thing I love about it is, it's big and there's music and there's dancing," she added. "But in actuality, what you're really seeing is every tiny, single, small moment of these people's lives and decision-making process, which I think is a really cool juxtaposition."

Whitman added that another thing she likes about the series is that it takes smartphones and other post-Y2K technological interference out of the picture. However, she agreed that it feels strange to have something set in 1999 be referred to as a "period piece."

"But, it's kind of my dream," the actress admitted. "Also all the music and [style], there's just this nostalgia for it right now that I feel like is really special. Even younger generations are starting to look back and get into that style and that feeling."

While she was comfortable with the '90s vibes, it was a different story when it came to working alongside Broadway icons like Katie Finneran and Brian Stokes Mitchell, who co-star in the series. (Tony-winning Hamilton director Thomas Kail also directed the first episode.)

Whitman essentially went to musical theater boot camp before filming began, recording the album of the show's original songs and spending days on dance rehearsals. But she said even the most talented pros on set were "warm and wonderful" throughout the process.

"Everybody put their bleeding, bleeding hearts and truth and love into this and their most vulnerable selves," the actress shared. "So I do know that it will connect with someone, a few people, really deeply. That's kind of like why we do what we do, is even if a few people really feel this and feel kind of the truth and the honesty that we were giving to it, I think it's worth it."

"Even though, again, everything's so explosive, it doesn't try too hard. It's not saccharin, it's not overly manipulative," the added. "It's really genuine and grounded in reality and truth and love and warmth. And that's been something that we've really been trying to keep as the seed of the premise the whole time."

Plus, she does her own stunts! Whitman recalled her most grueling day on set filming a song called "Please Like Me," a cabaret-style number which called for some intense physicality.

"I do my own stunts unless they're hard and then I don't do them," Whitman joked, "but these ones I did."

Describing the song as "kind of a 'Blank Space,' Taylor Swift moment, where by the end, she's just a mess, just desperately melting," the actress said the number was the one she was both most scared of and most excited about.

"[It] is kind of my most intimate song," she explained. "It's kind of the people-pleaser number where she's desperately begging people."

As for the stunts? "I don't want to say I'm Tom Cruise or Patrick Swayze or Kurt Russell-level stunt person -- they all did their own stunts, right?" she added with a laugh. "I'm getting there. I'm open to calls. I'm also a very good driver. If there's another Fast & Furious coming up, I think it'd be funny to see someone so small driving so fast. I'm just putting that out there."

Up Here premieres on Hulu on March 24.


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