Director Todd Haynes said Charles Melton's "looks were almost a deterrent" for casting him in the role
The Riverdale alum, 32, stars opposite Julianne Moore and Natalie Portman in the new drama directed by Todd Haynes (Carol). In the film, Melton plays Joe Yoo, a 36-year-old who began an affair with an older woman Gracie Atherton-Yoo (Julianne Moore) when he was 13. They're now married and share three kids.
In an interview with Vulture, Haynes revealed he was initially worried Melton wasn't right for the role.
"I’m so grateful Charles Melton came into our consciousness. I didn’t know him from Riverdale. His looks were almost a deterrent," said Haynes, 62.
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"I felt that Joe would be a good-looking man, but Charles has that sort of hunkiness and pin-up quality that wasn’t necessarily how I pictured him," the director continued.
Haynes said Melton "gained 35, 40 pounds for the role to change his chiseled self into something more familiar: a suburban man in this place."
"There’s such remarkable physicality in the choices he made as an actor," he said. "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."
Speaking to Netflix's Tudum, Haynes said Melton ultimately "stunned" him with his "understatement and a sense of understanding" in the role.
"The way he depicted somebody who was so stuck, so caged up, so bound up in this marriage, and who really had not learned yet how to take steps on his own behalf," the director said of the performance.
Melton told Variety in May about his preparation for May December, which he described as a "complex, compounded, voyeuristic experience of the human condition."
About prepping to play a father of three about to be an empty nester, Melton said, "I asked my parents what it was like when I left the house, what kind of conversations they had in their own relationship. They said they were very sad."
"My mother is Korean, and I’m first generation on my mother’s side," he added. "She cooked every meal for me growing up. My dad was really good at letting go — at trusting that this new chapter would work out for the best."
May December opens the New York Film Festival on Friday. It's in select theaters Nov. 17 then on Netflix Dec. 1.
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