Wagatha Christie: In conversation with Nathan McMullen
By Katie Bray
The dispute between WAGs Coleen Rooney and Rebekah Vardy, which culminated in a 2022 libel case in the English High Court, has to be one of the biggest pop culture moments in recent British history. The dispute has been called “Wagatha Christie”, a pormanteu of WAG and detective novelist Agatha Christie. By the end of the year, there had been a TV documentary (Vardy vs Rooney: The Wagatha Trial), a television adaptation (Vardy v Rooney: A Courtroom Drama) and a staged verbatim dramatisation (Vardy v Rooney: The Wagatha Christie Trial)
After a hit run in the West End, Vardy v Rooney is reminding audiences all around the country just what went down between the two of the nation’s most esteemed WAGs.
Ahead of the show, we got to sit down with Nathan McMullen, who plays Wayne Rooney. McMullen has starred in several television series, most notable Misfits, and some might recognise him from the film Kelly + Victor.
How did you first get into acting?
N: “I was, someone who wanted to be a footballer but I was only little so when everyone else grew and I didn’t I had to look for something and something else. Then for acting… it was just in school. I just liked entertaining people, doing drama or stand up comedy. I just enjoyed being on stage and having that rapport with an audience in front of you, and slowly – I wouldn’t say quickly, but slowly – I realised that there was a possibility that could be something that someone would do as a job. It was quite alien to me.”
Have you got any particular inspirations?
N: “Growing up, hearing a Scouse accent on telly was few and far between, for me anyway. But then, I remember watching a series called Top Buzzer which Stephen Graham was in, and I just loved it, especially hearing that Scouse accent. So I guess any kind of Scouse accent. Anyone from Liverpool, but Stephen Graham to begin with because I was like, ‘Oh, that’s similar to how I sound! Maybe that could be something that I do’. People from the North as well. Even Mancunian accents too. I think its because any accents that I had growing up when I was younger and watching TV and film were either London accents or a well-spoken accent.”
How would you describe Wagatha Christie for anyone somehow unfamiliar?
N: “If people didn’t know about trial, I’d say it was two high profile public figures, both married to footballers, and it gives an insight into social media life from high profile public figures and the differences they have carry to private or public citizens who aren’t well known and how exposing it can be, or the level of communication that that social media brings in today’s society. I think it’s the insight into the trial [that] brings a lot of humour and drama, but also it’s not condescending in any way for how these people interact. It’s more enlightening and eye-opening into that world.”
What would you say makes it such an interesting case to make into a play?
N: “It’s something we can all relate to. The majority of people now do communicate via social media, and social media as we’ve all been aware of has people that are called trolls or keyboard warriors and it shows the abuse that high profile people are susceptible to – getting messages from random people that aren’t warranted… So I think it’s very relatable to any person now in society because of social media.”
Aside from your role in Wagatha Christie, what’s been your favourite role so far? Do you see yourself in any of your characters?
N: “One of my favourites was Finn from Misfits, just because it was something that I thoroughly enjoyed doing. Like, I loved it. I loved the time on the show. I love comedy! So being involved in something like that made an amazing two years.
“One of my favourites… I played a Liverpool every-man in The Big I Am, just because it was so wacky and bizarre and chaotic. Again, it was an adaptation, but more based again, around the north, around Liverpool. But that was something that I really enjoyed doing.”
How do you prepare for roles?
N: “I think this one’s been slightly different because there’s a couple of characters that are real like Rooney and Jamie Vardy, so being able to kind of look into little aspects of interviews and their lives has been interesting. But I think in any role that you do, you have to be able to research. Preparation is always essential. It’s not just about lifting the lines off the page or knowing your lines, it’s everything that comes with it: your attitudes and relationships with the people. So I think just being able to prepare as much as that before going into rehearsals and then ultimately finding it in rehearsals. And if you’ve got the creative freedom from a director then that’s always a pleasure to work with.”
How does theatre compare to television?
N: “It’s very different. I think the main differences are obviously, onstage, once you are on there in front of an audience, there’s no going back. Any errors happen live in front of you, and you have to crack on, and I think that is something that I thrive on. I love the immediacy of a response from an audience, especially when things go wrong. It keeps it exciting; you get your rehearsal process to try things out, and then you have to trust the process and what you’ve done and putting it on stage.
“Obviously in TV and film there’s a bit more pressure [because] time is money. So its about acting the best way that you can and hopefully in the shortest time that you can.”
And you’re a tutor Act Up North. How does it feel to work with other aspiring actors and what kind of advice do you give them?
N: “For me, I love that job as much as anything that I’ve done, and I think, like you’ve just said, its being able to work with actors that are up and coming and either looking for the first job or looking to hone the skills. I’m really passionate about that, and being able to guide aspiring actors in that and just give a little bit of insight into my own life and career, and how I’ve found working in the industry.
“I’m not someone who tries to be someone that knows everything. I don’t. As an actor, you’re always learning so I just try and pass on a little bit of insight, but essentially, I think it’s about actors finding who they are and what their niches are and how they best work, and encouraging that. They need to find their own identity and their own uniqueness in the world.”
What do you do outside of acting?
N: “Outside of acting I love sports. I’m a big football fan, but I feel like I’m getting old now. I play golf now… an old man sport. But I love watching old sports as well.
“I’ve got two kids so being a parent is something that I love doing that takes up time. So, that’s kind of me outside of acting. I don’t tend to consume all my time dedicating every minute to acting or what’s involved in the industry. I think it’s important to separate yourself as well and have a life away from acting as well, whether it’s being with friends or family. The kids are what’s most important to me so I just love spending time with them.”
Do you have any plans for the future?
N: “I think it’s hard to, especially in the job. You can have ambitions and aspirations… I’ve done a lot of theatre work recently, which again, I love, but as I’m getting slightly older, I definitely, definitely want to do a bit more television and film, just because I’ve done quite a lot of theatre over the last several years. What that may be, I’m not sure, but that would be hopefully a step in the next year or two.”
You can catch Nathan McMullen in Vardy V Rooney: The Wagatha Christie Trial, which begins its UK tour at New Victoria Theatre, Woking, where it plays from May 26 to 27. It tours the UK until June 17, with its penultimate stop being The Lowry (Lyric Theatre), where it plays from June 9 to 11.