Todd Haynes' latest movie May December is already racking up accolades, but surprisingly it's not for A-listers Natalie Portman and Julianne Moore who lead the film. Instead, we're firmly in Charles Melton season, with the 32-year-old actor drawing Oscar buzz after taking home Gotham and New York Critics' Circle awards for his portrayal in the film. In the acclaimed drama, which arrives on Netflix on Dec. 1, Melton and Moore play Joe and Gracie, a suburban couple with two kids and a very complicated past: They met when Gracie was a 36-year-old housewife and Joe was a seventh grader.
Melton, who's best known for playing Reggie Mantle on the teen soap Riverdale, has been lauded by critics and his costars for his nuanced portrayal of Joe, who must face his repressed trauma when an actress named Elizabeth (Portman) shows up to shadow the couple as she prepares to play Gracie in an upcoming movie. While the CW alum had previously appeared in other films, including rom-com The Sun Is Also a Star and action flick Bad Boys 4 Life, Melton is reaching a new level of fame as he promotes the Netflix drama.
If you want to learn more about the rising star, read on for a breakdown of Melton's close-knit family, his public romantic history, and his transformation for the award-winning role.
He grew up in a military family, living in several states and countries.
Charles Melton was born in 1991 to Sukyong and Phil Melton, one year after the couple relocated from South Korea to Juneau, Alaska. While Sukyong was pregnant with Charles, Phil left to serve in the Gulf War, while the expectant mother stayed behind with her husband's family.
Phil served in the army for over 20 years, and the Melton family—including Sukyong, Charles, and his sisters, Patricia and Tammie—moved around between several states, including Alaska, Kentucky, Georgia, Tennessee, New York, Texas, and California. The family even lived in South Korea for five years and Germany for four years, before moving to Manhattan, Kansas, where Charles attended high school. He later went on to play football for Kansas State University.
His parents are his biggest cheerleaders and inspired his love of film.
The May December star's love of movies started early. As a kid, he grew up going to the cinema with his dad every Sunday he was in town. Per Los Angeles Times, after seeing The Matrix in the third grade, he turned to his father and said, "Dad, I want to be in the movies."
Phil also shared his pride over his son's career to the outlet. "I feel great about it. He’s always been a romantic," the elder Melton said. "A real lover and a dreamer."
Charles also calls Sukyong his biggest cheerleader and his "hero." In a 2019 Good Morning America interview, he recalled his mother's support when he first moved to LA to pursue acting. He said at the time she and his grandmother packed "60 cans of tuna, 60 cans of chicken noodle soup" and almonds ahead of his cross-country drive.
"My mom said, 'It's gonna be good. It's gonna be tough for two months. If you don't work or make any money, you'll have this.' This is the best that she could do," he told the outlet.
"I wouldn't change my relationship with my mother for anything—like anything," he added. "That's my queen."
A photo posted by melton on
The actor also often praises his mom for keeping him connected to his Korean heritage. When Charles was in middle school, Sukyong became a U.S. citizen after practicing for the citizenship quizzes with her son every day. In a 2019 interview with Mixed Asian Media, Charles explained how his mother passed down Korean culture by teaching Charles and his sisters the language, cooking Korean food, and raising them to be proud of their heritage.
"What’s unique is that back home in Kansas my mom has four refrigerators, and she makes the best kimchi, man," he told the outlet. "Three of those refrigerators are for her spring kimchi, summer kimchi, and winter kimchi, and you know she cooks every meal... I grew up speaking both languages in the household. That was all normal in my mind but unique to other people. 'You’re parents don’t speak two languages at home? You don’t eat rice even for breakfast too?' People would come over and be like, 'What is that? That smells gross!' That’s kimchi, man!"
He's a devoted brother and uncle.
Charles is also super close with his younger siblings Patricia and Tammie, who have traveled with him for events and accompanied him to movie premieres. He recently gave a shout out to Tammie on Instagram, sharing pics from when they attended the 2023 Cannes Film Festival together.
“To my incredible sister @tammieymelton who has been such a rock for me on this journey and during the filming of #maydecember,” he captioned the post. “I'm so grateful to have you by my side.”
His Instagram is also full of sweet family pics, including some of him spending quality time with his nieces and nephew.
A photo posted by melton on
He previously dated a 'Riverdale' costar.
Melton has been linked to several actresses since he stepped into the public eye. His most well-known romance was with his Riverdale costar Camila Mendes. The pair first confirmed their relationship in October 2018 and dated for a year before splitting up in December 2019.
In 2022, the actor briefly dated Bodies Bodies Bodies star Chase Sui Wonders. They were first spotted together that March and confirmed their relationship on Instagram that July, per People. Though the timeline of their split is unknown, the pair eventually sparked breakup rumors when Wonders was spotted attending a New York Rangers game with Pete Davidson in December 2022.
People reported in May 2023 that Melton and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. star Chloe Bennett had been "quietly dating for a few months." Though they were seen attending Taylor Swift's Eras Tour in LA that August, the relationship appeared to end soon after. The actress was seen showing PDA with The 1975 bassist Ross MacDonald in November.
Though he typically doesn't speak publicly about his relationships, Melton did speak with Hunger Magazine about being a hopeless romantic.
"I think in society we have these [convictions] about what a relationship is supposed to be like – you’re supposed to do this on the first date, this on the second date, this on the third date – but it’s the passion and the love that matters and that allows you to be whoever you want," he told the outlet. "Life’s too short to not be a hopeless romantic. If you can believe in anything right now, believe in love."
He worked as a dog walker and delivery person before making it as an actor.
In a 2019 Los Angeles Times interview, Melton looked back at his early days living in LA and working odd jobs, before he won his long-standing role on Riverdale. In 2014, Melton worked as a delivery person for a Chin Chin location and was the top-rated contractor on the Wag dog walking app. He told the outlet that he clocked strolls with over 300 canines in two months, and always tried to leave a nice review about each dog.
He gained 40 lbs for 'May December.'
In an interview with Vulture, May December director Todd Haynes revealed that Melton's model looks were actually a negative when it came to casting him in the film, where the actor plays a repressed suburban dad.
"I'm so grateful Charles Melton came into our consciousness. I didn't know him from Riverdale. His looks were almost a deterrent," the director told the outlet. "I felt that Joe would be a good-looking man but Charles has that sort of hunkiness and pinup quality that wasn't necessarily how I pictured him."
The Riverdale alum chose to gain weight to portray the character, and Haynes was ultimately impressed by Melton's dedication to the role.
"He gained 35, 40 pounds for the role to change his chiseled self into something more familiar: a suburban man in this place," Haynes added. "There's such remarkable physicality in the choices he made as an actor. A friend of mine saw a cut of it, and he said, 'Charles moves like a child and an old man, a combination of the two' — which makes so much sense given his predicament."
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