Meet Charles Melton, the Breakout Star of ‘May December’

I’ll admit it took me a while to notice the blood, which was wet and daubed onto his right cheekbone like a birthmark. In my defense, Charles Melton hadn’t noticed it either, even though the blood happened to be his.

It was an unseasonably rainy November day in Los Angeles — a place where any evidence of the seasons is considered unseasonable — and I had gone to Melton’s house with a dual mission. The first was to discuss the new drama “May December,” in which the 32-year-old actor does more than just hold his own opposite Oscar-winning co-stars Natalie Portman and Julianne Moore: He gives the movie its bruised, beating heart.

And the second mission? Well, that was to make some truly excellent kimchi.

“These, you have to cut really thin,” Melton said, handing me a bulbous radish. We were in the kitchen of his cozy home in the Silver Lake neighborhood of Los Angeles, preparing to slice and flavor vegetables under the watchful eye of his mother, Sukyong, who was visiting from Kansas. The 32-year-old Melton keeps his fridge so well-stocked with kimchi that he often sends friends home with extra jars of it. “Just remember, kimchi is a probiotic,” he said, feeding me a piece of seasoned cabbage.

Six-foot-one, shaggy-haired and easygoing, Melton has the warm glow of a Himalayan salt lamp. (He also has a Himalayan salt lamp.) Though he spent six years playing a conceited jock on the CW teen soap “Riverdale,” Melton wears his beauty and brawn as lightly as a nice jacket, and while we cut vegetables and discussed “May December,” he tried to encourage me by pointing out his own errors.

With Julianne Moore in “May December.” Melton played the part as if “you were watching somebody learning how to see and how to speak and how to walk,” the director Todd Haynes said.Credit…Netflix

“I’ve already messed up,” he said after one particularly inelegant radish slice. Across the kitchen, his mother turned to us, somehow able to sense the misaligned cut. “If you hear my mom saying things in Korean,” he told me, “just assume that it’s all good things.”

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