The RNA synthesis machinery of non-segmented negativesense RNA viruses comprises a ribonucleoprotein complex of the genomic RNA coated by a nucleocapsid protein (N) and associated with polymerase. Work with vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV), a prototype, supports a model of RNA synthesis whereby N is displaced from the template to allow the catalytic subunit of the polymerase, the large protein (L) to gain access to the RNA. Consistent with that model, purified L can copy synthetic RNA that contains requisite promoter sequences. Full processivity of L requires its phosphoprotein cofactor and the template-associated N. Here we demonstrate the importance of the 2′ position of theRNAtemplate and the substrate nucleotide triphosphates during initiation and elongation by L. The VSV polymerase can initiate on both DNA and RNA and can incorporate dNTPs. During elongation, the polymerase is sensitive to 2′ modifications, although dNTPs can be incorporated, and mixed DNA-RNA templates can function. Modifications to the 2′ position of the NTP, including 2′,3′-ddCTP, arabinose-CTP, and 2′-Omethyl-CTP, inhibit polymerase, whereas 2′-amino-CTP is incorporated. Theinhibitory effects of theNTPsweremorepronounced on authentic N-RNA with the exception of dGTP, which is incorporated. This work underscores the sensitivity of the VSV polymerase to nucleotide modifications during initiation and elongation and highlights the importance of the 2′-hydroxyl of both template and substrate NTP. Moreover, this study demonstrates a critical role of the template-associated N protein in the architecture of the RNA-dependent RNA polymerase domain of L.