Over the years, we’ve seen actors put on and lose weight to play certain characters. While once upon a time, it might’ve been commendable for someone like Renée Zellweger or Charlize Theron to put on weight for specific roles in films like Bridget Jones’s Diary or Monster, now it incites fair commentary and critique. The first is why can’t casting directors find performers who are already the size of the protagonist (which brings up the whole can of worms of misogyny, fatphobia, and beauty standards of Hollywood/the world), and the next is if the final result is worth the strain the actor’s bodies are under. While no doubt in good physical health to watch Hemsworth in Thor: Love and Thunder is almost painful.
All of this is to say that it’s been a while since an actor’s weight gain or loss has been newsworthy. Charles Melton, former Riverdale star who now appears alongside Julianne Moore and Natalie Portman in Todd Haynes’s May December in an incredible, moving performance, is being asked about his diet leading up to the role.
The actor shares that he gained 40 pounds for the role of Joe, who is married to Moore’s Gracie, a woman he met and began to be groomed and abused by when he was 12, with Gracie painting it as an affair. His weight gain isn’t a part of the character’s storyline but seems to have informed how the actor carried himself as Joe, a man whose pain is telegraphed in every moment and look even if he doesn’t understand it. In an interview with Entertainment Tonight, he spoke about what led to the decision.
“It was more of a collective discussion with Todd and me. We talked about what Joe would feel like, not so much as look like. Looking at the facts of him being a suburban father with three kids and being a loving husband. He doesn’t really have too much time to spend on himself.”
He followed it up by speaking about the specific indulgences he allowed him to put on the weight, which has to be a big difference from the usual diets of Hollywood types, mentioning Five Guys and pizza as frequent picks.
Haynes also spoke about Melton’s physical transformation with Vulture and how they needed to move away from his usual striking, chiseled looks.
“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.”
So often, when an actor or performer is forced to change how they look to accommodate, the result is to wonder why it was necessary — mainly, speaking with the DC and MCU world these days. At the very least, with Melton and his tremendous work in May December, he justifies it with how he embodies the role.