BRINGING HIS A-GAME – “Riverdale” star Charles Melton chats with DAMAN about his upcoming movie and the show that put him on the map
Some actors build up their career one small role at a time until they really make it big; others burst into the scene with a huge role right off the bat. Then there’s a third type, the ones who start off small—an uncredited part here, a short movie there, maybe a role as “Bystander A” in a big movie—but after only a handful of unremarkable gigs they find themselves front and center in film projects that turn out to be widely popular.
Charles Melton is, arguably, a shining example of the “diamonds in the rough” that make up the third group. Or, at least, he used to be, since he’s definitely playing in the big leagues now.
Melton’s early career is, at first glance, rather unexceptional: Several short films and a couple of minor roles in TV shows—although those two were “Glee” and “American Horror Story.” His big break came when he was chosen as the replacement for Ross Butler who played Reggie Mantle in “Riverdale.” His portrayal of the protagonist’s so-called frenemy proved to be quite popular with fans of the show. Unsurprisingly, he became a regular part of the cast in the third season, which is currently running.
At this point, Melton’s story already paints him as a popular rising star making it big in one of the most popular TV shows currently airing. But that’s not all. Apparently, he’s also cast as the male lead in “The Sun is Also a Star,” the upcoming big screen adaptation of the acclaimed novel of the same name by Nicola Yoon. It might sound a bit like a classic love story—chance brings together boy and girl with totally opposing worldviews, boy and girl fall in love but will have to separate in the end—but there is, more importantly, a very relevant conversation about topics like race and immigration blended into the tale. With a marked increase in films attempting to tackle real social issues, it’s certainly interesting to see what “The Sun is Also a Star” can add to the discourse—and how Melton’s performance will sell that message.
DAMAN: Hi, Charles. Thank you for making the time for us today. How are you?
Charles Melton: I’m doing great, thanks. I’m about to catch a flight to New york, which also happens to be one of my favorite cities.
DAMAN: So, we visited your Instagram account recently where we learned about your upcoming movie: “The Sun is also a Star.” How did filming go for you?
Charles Melton: Filming “The Sun is Also a Star” was a dream come true for me. We shot the movie over the course of eight weeks in New York, and it was an experience I will cherish forever.
DAMAN: Can you tell us a bit about how you first got tapped to play in the movie?
Charles Melton: Nicola Yoon, the author of “The Sun is Also a Star,” posted an announcement on social media asking who should play the role of Daniel Bae. The next morning, I woke up to hundreds of notifications and tags to the post. I immediately called my reps to try and get my hands on the script and read the book in two days. Ten months later, I finally got to read the script and had a chemistry read with Yara Shahidi. And I got the part.
DAMAN: All in all, what is it that makes “The Sun is also a Star” different from your typical romance flick?
Charles Melton: One of the things that drew me to “The Sun is Also a Star” is that it parallels one my favorite films, “Before Sunrise,” in which two strangers get to know each other over the course of a day. Yara plays my love interest, Natasha, who is completely cynical and doesn’t believe in love. And I play Daniel, who is a hopeless romantic. The film has a unique way of showing how they both start developing feelings for each other.
DAMAN: Now, despite being a love story at heart, “The Sun is also a Star” also touches on subjects like racism and immigration. What are your thoughts on how the movie deals with those issues?
Charles Melton: I think the film humanizes the struggle of the immigrant. Even though they come from such different backgrounds, Natasha and Daniel share the common goal of pursing the American dream.
DAMAN: In the novel, your character—Daniel—is described as someone who struggles to find balance between two identities and two futures. Do you see yourself—or parts of yourself—in Daniel?
Charles Melton: I definitely see parts of myself in playing Daniel, who is a first generation Korean American. He struggles between cultivating his own ambitions of being a poet and fulfilling his parents’ dreams of him becoming a doctor.
DAMAN: Ultimately, what do you hope audiences take with them after they’ve watched the movie?
Charles Melton: I hope audiences will come away with two things: to be proud of who you are. And the other is that love is a universal idea.
DAMAN: Right about now, we would be seven or so episodes into season three of “Riverdale.” What can fans of the show expect from the rest of season three?
Charles Melton: I can’t say too much, but there might be a new love interest for Reggie this season.
DAMAN: Now that we’ve introduced “Riverdale” into our conversation, how much of Reggie is his established persona inspired directly from the script and how much comes from you?
Charles Melton: Most of what you already see on screen with Reggie is his persona that has already been established in the Archie comics. My goal is to pay homage to him while putting my own spin on the character.
DAMAN: It’s easy to see that “Riverdale” takes a lot of stereotypical roles—jock, mean girl, popular guy, etc.—and gives them so much depth. On that note, what was it that surprised you most about Reggie in the script? Something that audiences may overlook at first?
Charles Melton: Reggie definitely has a softer side to him and is actually a lot more sensitive than most people would think.
DAMAN: Last year, we got the chance to talk a bit about “Riverdale” with Camila Mendes and Madelaine Petsch. When asked about what made the show great, they both emphasized the cast and crew behind it. What do you think is the key behind the show’s success?
Charles Melton: Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, creator and showrunner of “Riverdale,” did an incredible job of reimagining these classic comic book characters by making them darker, sexier and more relatable to today’s audience. We also have an amazing cast and crew and I’m grateful to be a part of this show.
DAMAN: Is there anything you can tell us about what’s in store for “Riverdale” post season three?
Charles Melton: You’ll just have to tune in to find out!
DAMAN: How about you? Will we see you in any other movies or TV shows in 2019?
Charles Melton: I have several projects in the works and I’m really looking forward to announcing them soon.
DAMAN: So, right now, you’re starring in a much-anticipated movie adaptation of a beloved novel and you’ve been bumped up to regular cast member in a popular teen drama series. What are the next career milestones that you want to tackle?
Charles Melton: I want to constantly grow and be inspired by the characters I play.
DAMAN: What would you say does it take for an actor to make it in today’s entertainment world?
Charles Melton: It’s important to surround yourself with people who always encourage you to dream big. And a lot of hard work.
DAMAN: What’s the best piece of acting or career advice that you’ve ever heard from someone in the business?
Charles Melton: The best piece of advice I’ve ever received is to always stay true to yourself.
DAMAN: On the flip side, what’s the most crazy-but-it-actually-works piece of advice that you’ve ever received so far?
Charles Melton: Don’t give up.
DAMAN: Of course, as you take on more prominent roles, there’s an increase in public interest in you—and your personal life. How do you deal with being in the limelight?
Charles Melton: I try to stay focused and commit to living in the moment.
Photography Mitchell Nguyen Mccormack
Styling David Bonney
Grooming Robert Bryan
Grooming Assistant Emma Carobini
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