He was walking through TSA when it happened. A 50-something white man stopped hunky, young actor Charles Melton and asked to take a selfie.
“He said, ‘You’re that “Riverdale” dude. Can I get a picture with you?’ ” the Korean American actor who plays Reggie recalled. “Soon, I’m putting my shoes back on and the same man comes up again to introduce me to his wife who is Filipino. Then he says, ‘This is our son, Justice.’
“His wife leans down to this 14-year-old kid and goes, ‘Look, Justice, he looks like you and you look like him. He’s doing big things … and so can you.’
“For me, that was a moment of being very proud of who I am,” said Melton. “I always tell kids that M&Ms are all different colors, but they’re still M&Ms.”
Melton stars in one of the most anticipated films of summer, “The Sun Is Also a Star,” based on the best-selling Young Adult book by Nicola Soon.
Review-Journal: Tell us your idea of a perfect Sunday.
Charles Melton: A perfect Sunday for me would be waking up without an alarm. Best day possible means the sun is out. Maybe I Facetime my mom and talk to her for a little bit. Then I’ll listen to music, drink a lot of water and some OJ. Above all, a beautiful Sunday is connecting with my family and loved ones. I’m really close with both of my parents. My mother is a Korean immigrant who came to this country with my father and (she was) pregnant with me. She was the first one I called when I was cast as Reggie on “Riverdale.” Mom went around her town of Manhattan, Kansas, and told everyone that I was going to be a hit on a hit show. She told people she never met in her life. She told the cashier at the local grocery store. She told strangers in the street. To this day, my mom will trap you and fill you in on everything I’m doing.
And your dad?
My father does his own thing. If you’re a fan coming up for a photo, he will literally trap you into watching the entire trailer for “The Sun Is Also a Star.” So, if you really want that selfie, you better have an extra five minutes.
In the movie, you play Korean American Daniel Bae who has a chance meeting with Natasha Kingsley (Yara Shahidi). You tell her: “What if I told you that I could get you to fall in love with me. Just give me an hour.” Bold!
It’s a romance that must happen against so many odds, with her family being deported the next day. So much of it is based on the idea of fate. The question is: Are you meant to be with someone despite everything? Despite all the odds, the script was very hopeful and very timely. It’s about destiny and this deep care people have for each other that transcends circumstances. Ultimately, it says that true love always conquers.
That’s a hopeful message in 2019.
We lived in jaded times. People can become jaded with love. I love how Daniel aspires to embrace love. There is no fear. He doesn’t guard his heart. He loves like it’s his last day and his last moment. It’s a very pure and honest look at love — and I aspire to be more like Daniel in my own personal life.
Do you believe in love at first sight?
I do believe you can fall in love in the snap of a finger. Blame the fact that my head is in the clouds. I’m a dreamer.
Aren’t your millions of fans one of the reasons you got this movie role?
The book’s author, Nicola, went online to ask her fans who should play Daniel. The fans suggested me as one of the top choices. Thank God for this day and age of social media. I woke up one day and I was being tagged by hundreds of people. I guess that was fate playing its own game. All I know is I ran out and bought the book that day and started reading.
How did you connect with the character?
I’m also first-generation Korean American on my mother’s side. He’s a poet. I’m an avid reader of poetry and I write poetry as well. I always have a little notebook on me and I write down goals. I write letters to people — real letters on paper. It’s not a text that’s so fleeting. There is something great about a real letter that you can keep. I also carry around a book of Maya Angelou’s poems and just randomly open it and read a poem or two when I have the time.
There was a time when you did not see a young Asian American man as the lead in a major studio summer release.
It’s beyond amazing to be an Asian American lead in a big romantic film released by one of the major studios. It makes me a little emotional. I’m playing what is considered a traditional Caucasian character of Reggie in the comics on a great show and now there is this big studio movie. That might not have happened a few years ago.
You just wrapped “Bad Boys 3” opposite Will Smith and Martin Lawrence — a lead in next summer’s big thing.
It was very exciting. Will Smith was one of my movie star idols when I was growing up. To be able to work alongside of him was very surreal. Every single day, I’d show up for work to play this former cop/DEA agent and I couldn’t really believe it. But there was Will and Martin taking me in and telling me stories about life and cinema. I am so grateful. I’ve had a really great year.
What’s next? Total Hollywood domination? A call to Mom?
Directing and producing are both things I will do in the future. Right now, I’m just focused on being a good actor and doing things I’m passionate about. In life, you just want to do something you believe in. And yes, later today I will call my mom. She’s amazing.