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The Indiewire Springboard: How 16-Year-Old 'Love Is Strange' Standout Charlie Tahan Stays Grounded

Photo of Eric Eidelstein By Eric Eidelstein | Indiewire August 22, 2014 at 12:52PM

Actors in their 30s and 40s have a rough time navigating through Hollywood. But at 16, "Love is Strange's" Charlie Tahan, seems to have it all down.
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Charlie Tahan
Charlie Tahan

Every Friday, Indiewire's Springboard column profiles an up-and-comer in the indie world who made a mark that deserves your attention.

"Love Is Strange," the latest film by Ira Sachs, is a sweet and often times heartbreaking dramedy that looks at the ins and outs of a nearly 40 year-long relationship. The ensemble cast, which includes Alfred Molina, John Lithgow and Marisa Tomei all give wonderful performances, but it's Charlie Tahan, 16 and the youngest guy on board, who is the biggest surprise. Tahan plays Joey, the teenage son of Tomei's character who is forced to share his bedroom (and bunk beds) with his great-uncle (Lithgow). Tahan gives a subtle, but powerful performance, one that is up to par with the likes of Molina, Lithgow and Tomei. 

Tahan began his career by winning a role alongside Will Smith in "I Am Legend" and has impressed in other films including Oscar-nominated "Frankenweenie," the Natalie Portman-starring "The Other Woman" and in his guest stint on "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit." "Love Is Strange" had a limited U.S. release on August 22.


READ MORE: John Lithgow's a Good Kisser, Alfred Molina's Candid and Other Reasons Why the 'Love is Strange' Cast Is So Lovable

Charlie Tahan in "Love Is Strange"
Charlie Tahan in "Love Is Strange"

I don’t think there really is any specific thing that I had to do. I just tried to put myself in Joey’s shoes, I guess. As much as I can. But I understand him, I think. Like I’m a 16-year-old kid too. 

I don’t think I do that much to prepare for roles in general. I mostly kind of—I don’t like to rehearse. When I rehearse it ends up doing more harm than good. I think I work a little bit better when it's right off the bat. Mostly, I try to wrap my head around a role as much as I can without rehearsing and then kind of make it as fresh as possible on the day. 

I guess it's been difficult transitioning from child to teenage roles. I think it's more difficult on the business end, maybe. Because there's a lot of child labor laws. It's cheaper to higher someone older to play a 16-year-old. It's easier for production to hire like an 18 or 20-year-old to play 16 than hiring a 16-year-old to play 16. So, I guess it could get a little harder to find work. It hasn’t been TOO horrible.

A number of things draw me to projects. Mostly, I try and just look at the script. Every script has things that would draw me away or draw me towards it. But, I just try and choose as wisely as possible—when I get to choose. But mostly it's just auditioning and seeing what feels right for you. That's really it.

Charlie Tahan and John Litghow in "Love Is Strange"
Charlie Tahan and John Litghow in "Love Is Strange"

I don’t really think that there's any one person that I try and model my career after. I don't think of it like that. I'd like to work with people—maybe something in comedy.

I would love to work with Paul Thomas Anderson. Just a quintessential, great director.

There's so many youth parts that I read where you can tell it's written by an adult who doesn't really understand. It doesn't seem like they understand kids too well. And the dialogue is kind of forced and almost condescending, sometimes. And this (Fox's upcoming television series "Wayward Pines") was not that at all. It was really realistic dialogue on my front and for everyone.

I got a lot of great advice from working with Samantha Morton. She was really helpful. Everyone kind of says a similar thing and she was just like, "Pick projects that you believe in. Pick projects that you like. Basically try and maintain good relationships with other people in the business. Actors or writers or producers or whatever." I think it's good to keep in touch with people and maybe try and work with some of the same people over time and develop that kind of thing. 

When everyone is starting out there's always a period where it's just auditioning and it seems like you're never gonna actually find work. First of all that's not true, but you have to let things go a little bit after you audition or try out. That's kind of always helped for me. Not fall in love with something before you start working on it because you are gonna end up being let down if it doesn’t work out. And you can become a little bit more nervous about things if you become overly attached to something and then are forced to walk away from it. It's healthier if you kind of just walk away from things and not really care about what happens. 

This article is related to: Love Is Strange, Charlie Tahan, Indiewire Springboard, Ira Sachs, John Lithgow, Alfred Molina, Marisa Tomei