Lainey gets full credit for engineering the Charles Melton hype train since 2019. I liked him as Reggie on Riverdale, but was not prepared to go all-in on him, but Lainey is right—that guy is a star, and he’s the best kind, the sweet kind, the humble kind. Or, he reads as humble and sweet in interviews. Like Austin Butler, I’m rooting for the impression to be real, because Charles Melton genuinely seems like one of the good ones, and it’s always more fun when you can enjoy a person’s big break without drama or controversy. It’s fun to be excited about things, and Charles Melton is in a very exciting place.
He's fronting an Oscar campaign for Best Supporting Actor for May December, in which he gives a remarkably sensitive, heartbreakingly delicate performance. He’s already a nominee at the Gotham Awards, and now to support his Oscar campaign, he has a glowing profile in the New York Times written by Kyle Buchanan. The interview is conducted while making kimchi in Melton’s kitchen, with an assist by his mother, and Melton comes across as a man who is a combination of sincere, easygoing, and grounded. He references Heath Ledger and Tony Leung as inspirations for his performance in May December, and he calls himself out when the actorly talk gets too heady. It’s endearing, in the best way rising dude stars can be, when they’re still setting the outline of their public persona.
But there is a trap here, one Jacob Elordi, also battling for a Best Supporting Actor nomination for either Priscilla or Saltburn, has already fallen into. Elordi was sh-tty about The Kissing Booth franchise, the cheesy teen rom-coms that gave him his break, pre-Euphoria. Lainey wondered if, given the chance, Melton would fall into the same trap about the irredeemably cheesy and stupid Riverdale.
Answer: no. In an interview with Vanity Fair, Melton took the Harry Styles route of acknowledging the importance of the cheesy thing that gave him his break, saying, “I'm so grateful for Riverdale. […] I got so much from that show. The fact that we filmed so many episodes in a short amount of time to where every minute mattered for 10 months, and working with over 100 directors, really helped when I came to working those 23 days of filming May December.”
Not only does Melton speak kindly of Riverdale, which is a total waste of an extremely talented cast’s time, he also specifically cites it as an important experience to teach him how to handle the intense, tight schedule of shooting May December. He’s complimentary in two ways! He could have blown Riverdale off and no one would have blamed him, so bad is Riverdale’s legacy. He could have rolled his eyes and tried to drive a wedge between that time and this time, like Jacob Elordi did—and Robert Pattinson did, back in the Twilight days. Instead, Melton opts for kindness and gratefulness, not sh-tting on his first real break and valuing the lessons he learned through that production, however idiotically it turned out.
Charles Melton is classy, that’s my takeaway. Besides being talented, he’s thoughtful and seems ready to meet the moment he’s in, and he avoids the “broody regret” trap like a pro. It’s a very competitive year and nothing is guaranteed, but I’m rooting for Charles Melton. He makes it so easy.