Industry kids may land a commercial or two before moving on, rarely scoring roles in a series or feature film. And, of those few who do persist, even fewer continue to get cast after reaching their teens. That’s why 19-year-old Charlie Tahan’s steady work in television and film for more than a decade is quite remarkable. His roles in smart, challenging, and critically acclaimed projects make him even more of an anomaly in his field. “Honestly, I just got really lucky,” the New Jersey native says of his career. But, his résumé suggests talent and ambition play an integral role in the young actor’s success.
Since first taking to the big screen opposite Will Smith in the 2007 postapocalyptic thriller I Am Legend at just 8 years old, Tahan has shared scenes with Academy Award winners like Marisa Tomei and Cate Blanchett and portrayed DC Comics villain Scarecrow on Fox’s hit series Gotham. And, now he appears alongside Jason Bateman in the addictively chilling Netflix drama Ozark.
Though his acting experience skews toward the dark and sinister, Tahan says it’s no reflection of his personality or viewing habits. Consider his recent YouTube searches, for example. “It’s all skateboarding videos and Curb Your Enthusiasm bloopers,” he says with a grin. “I like to make people laugh, and I’d like to eventually do lighter stuff, maybe break into comedy.” In conversation, Tahan is dry, funny, and acutely self-aware. He fumbles through anecdotes with an endearing awkwardness, before apologizing for what he calls “terrible interview skills” and an “utter lack of style.”
But, get Tahan going about his current projects and all of his self-effacing tendencies immediately fall away. Case in point: Ozark, which follows the story of a crestfallen financial adviser named Marty (played by Bateman), who moves his family from metropolitan Chicago to a man-made reservoir in rural Missouri to launder money for a cartel. Tahan plays the role of Wyatt, a kind but troubled local whose cousin Ruth gets wrapped up in Marty’s dangerous scheme. Tahan first learned about the role from his agent and was immediately hooked after reading the script. “The writing was so good,” he recalls. “It’s a slow-building story. It’s fun and funny, but it has that suspense and stress to it.” Another selling point, Tahan confesses, was Bateman, who is the show’s executive producer, star, and occasional director. “Jason’s incredible. He’s a movie star, but he’s a movie star for a reason. He’s earned it,” gushes Tahan, who also describes Bateman as the most productive person he’s ever met. “He never stops working, and he’s a badass. I think I have a crush… but in that way where I just want to be like him when I grow up.”
Tahan is equally enthusiastic about his recent role in the exceptionally stylized throwback thriller Super Dark Times, which follows the story of two best friends (played by Tahan and Owen Campbell) who accidentally murder a classmate. “We shot six-day weeks, which was awesome,” Tahan says of the experience. The intimate shoot was new for the actor, who says the crew was composed of college friends staying at a Best Western and eating dinner together each night. “On set, there were no rules about who did what—everyone helped out with everything. It was this really weird, special thing that happened.”
The same could be said for Tahan’s growing industry credentials, which seem to only be getting weirder—and better—with each new role.