Earlier this year, Disney+ released their new musical Better Nate Than Ever, with Rueby Wood starring as Nate for his major screen debut, with the film written and directed by Tim Federle, and based on his 2013 novel of the same name. The film follows Nate’s dream to be a Broadway star, and Rueby worked alongside a cast including Joshua Bassett as his brother and Lisa Kudrow as his aunt, and he also recorded the film’s soundtrack. Rueby’s theatre experience saw him play Charlie in the first National Broadway Tour of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and for his first professional job, he played Michael Banks in Mary Poppins. Speaking with Rueby, he talks about starring as Nate in Better Nate Than Ever, working on the Tim Federle Disney+ release and touring with Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
How did you feel booking the starring role of Nate in Better Nate Than Ever and was there anything that drew you to the character?
Getting the part of Nate was a dream come true. From the beginning I felt a special connection with the story. I just thought it was so much fun and it was a story that needed to be told.
Can you tell us about the film and why would you recommend watching it?
The movie is about a kid who runs away to follow his dreams with his best friend Libby. I believe that this film is for anyone who has ever felt left out or unappreciated. I think that those people can see themselves in this movie and be inspired to just be unapologetically who they are, and find people who will love them for that. Plus, it’s a lot of fun. There’s singing, dancing, and Lisa Kudrow, what’s not to love!
The film was released through Disney+, how was the experience working with Disney on a big production?
Having my film debut be in a Disney movie was just so incredible. Tim Federle (the incredible writer and director) is so good at bringing people together and making everyone feel supported.
What was it like on set and what did you enjoy most about playing Nate?
I loved being on set, it was like a second home to me. I feel very lucky because I just felt loved and supported every minute I was in front of and behind the cameras. I also loved playing Nate. I’m so much like Nate, so it wasn’t hard to bring him to life on screen.
How was it reading the script for the first time and meeting the cast?
I fell in love with the script from the moment I auditioned. It was just so charming and funny, while at the same time being very down to earth and real. Meeting the cast was so fun, especially since there are so many legends in the movie: not just Joshua Bassett, Lisa Kudrow, Michelle Federer and Norbert Leo Butz, but also lots from Broadway as well!
Better Nate Than Ever marks your major screen debut, what’s it been like seeing the response to the release and how is it having Nate as your first screen role?
I’m really proud of the movie and how much attention it’s getting. I think that right now the world needs a story like this and a character like Nate. I also hope that people can see this movie and be inspired to be themselves and be loud and proud of it.
How did you find the experience recording the film’s soundtrack?
I had a lot of fun recording the soundtrack. It was hard at times because it was right when my voice was changing, so that was a struggle in and of its own. Our incredibly talented music director Mary-Mitchell Campbell, and our amazing music supervisor Jordan Carroll, really helped me through the hardest parts of that and I wouldn’t have been able to do it without them.
What are some of your favourite memories from your time filming as Nate?
My all-time favourite memory from filming is staying up until 3am in Times Square filming a musical number.
Can you say about attending the film premieres and what was it like at the red carpet events?
The premieres were so amazing! It was my first time doing anything like it and I just felt so empowered walking down the red carpet in my fabulous outfit styled by the very talented Andrew Nguyen, and Onch jewellery!
You played Charlie in the first National Broadway Tour of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, do you have any stand-out highlights from touring and playing Charlie?
I made some of my best memories when I was on tour. I travelled with the amazing cast and crew for a year and a half. We were always having fun. Whether we were on stage or off, there was always some sort of shenanigans going on. It was truly the best time.
Previously, you played Michael Banks in Mary Poppins, how was this?
Mary Poppins was my introduction into professional acting. Before that, I had been getting my experience doing community theatre. Once I had been cast as Michael Banks, I was on a Broadway schedule. Nine shows a week for three months was certainly a big difference from the community theatre which usually ran for just a weekend. I also got my agent from doing that show, and I’ve been with her ever since.
Do you have a favourite aspect of working on screen and stage?
I love both stage and film acting, but they do have their differences. When you’re on stage you have a live audience and you can feed off that energy. You also just go with whatever happens, and if you mess up you just flow with it. Whereas in film you can really take time to do it over and over to get it perfect so it will read well on screen.
Where does your love of acting and performing come from and is it something you always wanted to do?
I’ve always wanted to perform. I could sing before I could talk which sounds kind of crazy, but it’s true! So, ever since I was one and a half I knew I wanted to do something, but when I was six, I got cast in my first ever show as Charlie in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory Jr. It was just up from there!
How do you like to spend your free time?
In my spare time (if I have any), I like to write, cook, listen to true crime podcasts, make short films, and read. My creative juices are always flowing.
What are some of your favourite films, TV and theatre shows to watch?
I love Disney movies like Lilo & Stitch, Hercules, Luca, and everything Marvel. But I also love things like Little Shop of Horrors, Stranger Things, The Good Place, The Umbrella Academy, Friends, Tick, Tick… Boom!, and Glee. In short, I like a lot of things.
What are you hoping 2022 brings for your career?
One thing I’m really hoping for is some sort of sequel to BNTE. Obviously I’m not a Disney executive so I don’t have any sway in decisions that are made, but my fingers are always crossed.
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