Riverdale actor Charlie Melton says he believes the hand of fate helped him land his debut movie role in new immigration-themed love story The Sun is Also a Star.
Adapted from a hit YA novel by Nicola Yoon, whose debut novel Everything, Everything was also adapted into a movie, the film tells the touching story of how aspiring poet Daniel Bae falls in love at first sight with Natasha (Yara Shahidi), a Jamaican girl he spots by chance from a window high up in Grand Central Station in New York.
He finally tracks her down on the bustling streets of the Big Apple and convinces her to spend the day with him. However, there is a rather large catch - Natasha and her family are due to be deported from the US the following day.
Former Glee star Melton (28) landed the role after Yoon sent out a tweet asking her followers who should play the role of Daniel. He immediately read the book and went on to land the part, in what is clearly an echo of the story's theme of how fate can lead to life-changing love.
Speaking to RTÉ Entertainment, one-time model Melton, who rose to fame playing Reggie Mantle on Riverdale, said, "Fate 100% played a part in me landing this role.
"They say what’s meant to be is meant to be but that doesn’t mean being complacent and waiting around so I did what I did and bought the book and read it in two days and fast forward to ten months later and I get the script and then I did the movie and now I’m doing the press.
"I believe everything I experienced played a role in me getting this project."
The book and the movie centres on the old-fashioned concept of love at first sight and self-confessed romantic Melton is fully signed up to the idea, despite our current era of swipe-and-you’ll-miss-it dating and mayfly attention spans.
"Romance is kind of jaded in this age when people are glued to their phones and using dating apps but that's not to say that that’s a bad thing - things evolve," he says.
"But I do believe in true romance and curiosity when you see someone you don’t know and you genuinely want to get to know them. It’s something you can’t explain and that can be measured as love at first sight."
His own mother was an emigrant who became an American citizen when she married Charles’s father. Donald Trump’s ramping up of rhetoric on the US’ immigration issue is not lost on the young actor.
"It’s funny, I was looking at this bowl of M&Ms, right?" he says reaching for another analogy. "And you have different colours. You have red, you have blue, you have brown, you have green . . . they’re a different colour, they’re a different flavour but they’re still an M&M and that to me is a representation of what America is.
"Things always eventually change for the better. I'm a firm believer that like a diamond we’re being refined and cut in times of pressure and extreme heat."
"It’s not so much me saying hey, I’m American-Korean or Korean-American but it’s this idea of being American is understanding that you are an immigrant, that our country was founded on immigrants and I think what this film does is really humanise the face of all these timely things that are going on in our society."
His own mother makes a blink and you’ll miss her appearance in the film during a subway scene and he says his parents will attend the premiere ("My mom is going to be treated like a queen!"). It will be a proud moment for the family especially as it is exceedingly rare to see an Asian-American lead in a movie, not least a romantic one.
"There are two different things - a personal life and a professional life but at the same time we live in a new era of social media"
Why does he think that is? Melton takes on the poetic mien of Daniel Bae himself for his answer. "We’re in a unique time and I’m just so honoured to be an Asian-American in a studio film in a romance . . . I think that in different political times the art is almost a rebellion against what we see and what we do. Things always eventually change for the better. I’m a firm believer that like a diamond we’re being refined and cut in times of pressure and extreme heat.
He has been in a relationship with his Riverdale co-star Camilla Mendes for over a year and he regularly writes her letters, another sign of that romantic soul, but surely being in a relationship with a co-star with the whole world watching on screen must be tough . . .
"Look, you’ve got to keep it professional, right?" Melton says. "There are two different things - a personal life and a professional life but at the same time we live in a new era.
"We live in an era of Instagram and social media and not only is it a platform for you to stand and voice what you believe in but also to express a part of who you are in your life and that’s something you can’t really shy away from especially being in some sort of limelight or having a following so it’s like a unique road to manoeuvre and I think everyone is finding their own line."
Just like his hugely talented co-star Yara Shahidi, this young actor is a rising talent but he’s in no huge hurry.
He says he has "a few projects I’m excited about" coming up and with such a laidback attitude to fame and a gift for a poetic turn of phrase, it’s clear that Charles Melton is also a star.
Alan Corr @CorrAlan
The Sun is Also a Star is in cinemas now