What two things do the sun and Charles Melton have in common? They both melt things (the sun melts ice cream, Melton melts teenage hearts), and they’re both stars, since according to this film, The Sun is Also a Star!
The film, based on the best selling book by Nicola Yoon, chronicles a single day between a top-student Korean American poet, named Daniel Bae (Melton), and a spirited African American social justice warrior Natasha Kingsley (Yara Shadidi of Black-ish and Grown-ish fame), who cross paths just one day before Natasha’s family is scheduled to be deported to Jamaica.
Corny dad jokes aside, recently The Nerds of Color had the fortunate opportunity to speak with Melton about The Sun is Also a Star, the chemistry between him and his co-star Shahidi, and even got a mini-scoop about his role in Bad Boys For Life. Here’s what he had to say:
NOC: It’s difficult for people of different descent to get leading roles in films today when it comes to your typical comedies, action movies, and romances. And you and Yara broke through that ceiling, leading a teen romance for our ages. We don’t see that happen a lot in this industry. So how do you feel about that? And how do you feel about the barrier potentially breaking for people of color getting these critical mainstream roles in Hollywood?
Melton: I feel proud. Want to hear a story? I was wrapping up Bad Boys III in Atlanta, and I was going through TSA security. And this guy, who’s about my dad’s age taps me on the shoulder and goes “Riverdale?” and I go “Yeah.” And he goes “Can I get a photo?” And I say “Sure.” And usually when a guy his age asks me for a photo he tends to say the photo is for his daughter or his wife or his wife’s sister’s accountant’s babysitter. But this guy, no shame, asked for a photo. And after we go through security, I see he’s with his wife and his son, Justice, who’s 9-years old. And he introduces me to his wife, who was a Filipino woman — full Asian. And as he’s introducing me to his son, his wife goes down to his son, Justice, and goes, “You see? He looks like you. You look like him.” And that was emotional for me. When it comes to films and Hollywood, we have a long way to go. But just to be a part of this process and this change, I don’t take it lightly. I feel honored to be in this position.
I’m really glad to hear that, and we’re lucky to have you representing Asians on-screen.
I wanted to ask, you and Yara have excellent chemistry in the film. It really gave me those sort of Before Sunrise/Before Sunset vibes.
Oh my god! You just made my day. I LOVE those movies!
Right? That’s what you guys did. And I thought that it was brilliant that we’re getting to see a Korean-American and an African-American lead really pull of those Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy vibes. So what was it like working with Yara, and how do you feel about that chemistry between you guys?
The chemistry was pretty organic and seamless. And when it came down to portraying these characters that we both believed in on various personal levels we came to work. And when we came to work, our genius of a director, Ry Russo-Young definitely set the tone, and laid the landscape of opportunity to collaborate and be creative within these scenes, along with our DP, Autumn [Durald], who is also Asian. There were very powerful women in important roles when it came to making this film happen, and I think that also played a factor with the atmosphere of the set. For me personally, when you find a role like this and a project like this that you’re really passionate about, you really put your heart and soul into it and it becomes very real. And that’s what it was like for me.
There’s a memorable scene in the movie where you’re in a karaoke studio, and you sing “Crimson and Clover.” And I have to say, man, you got some pipes! Did you practice to prepare for this role, or sing at an early age?
(Laughing): If you were to tell my mom what you told me, she would ask you what you were smoking! It’s so funny! Every time I would sing, my mom would say, “Charles! Put a bucket over your head so you can hear yourself!” And that was kind of her way of saying I was terrible! But when it came to the song, I really loved the song, so I was really nervous in singing it. But you just gotta let go of that fear and sing. In our rehearsals with Ry and Yara I would sing the song, and there was a beautiful trust between Ry, myself, and Yara that really allowed us to do scenes like singing (in my case) without any fear of judgement. And that’s beautiful when you have that as an actor, when you come on a set and you’re doing something, you never want to feel insecure about what you’re about to do. And thank you man! I never considered myself to be a good singer, but thanks!
Daniel is this awesome romantic — a poet, artist, and a true believer in love. Did you feel you related to him at all when you were filming this or when you were reading the script?
I feel like I truly embodied him when it came to filming. It’s great when you read the script, let alone have a book, to help you do research on to help you find clues for your character — to understand your character on a whole new level. There’s a lot of similarities. He’s not jaded by the possibility of love or possibly getting hurt. He’s just such a hopeless romantic and he’s got this masculine vulnerability. My father would tell me things like “Son guard your heart” And Daniel Bae is someone who doesn’t guard his heart, because why would you want to guard something that you want to give? And he gives his heart into everything… He’s not so much finding reasons as to why he’s going to love, he just loves. And that’s a very inspirational love story.
You mentioned it at the top of the call. I wanted to ask about it ever since I heard I would be able to interview you but — Bad Boys III! How is that going? What’s it like working with Will Smith and Martin Lawrence, and what can we look forward to?
I’ll keep it short and sweet. Will Smith is one of my idols! Amazing to work alongside with him and Martin Lawrence. We filmed for two months in Atlanta — that was fantastic. I play Rafe, a former DEA agents who’s part of the AML unit. And I can’t wait for it to come out January 17!
Though we may have to wait a bit longer to see Melton as one of the Bad Boys, we won’t have to wait long to swoon over him and Yara Shahidi when The Sun is Also a Star hits theaters this Friday, May 17!