Charles Mayer was born in South Tidworth, Hampshire, England, the son of Jennifer-Ann Wright, a retired RAF Intelligence officer and Martin Mayer, an RAF test pilot. He has one elder and one younger sister, with two nieces and two nephews. He passed the Regular Commissions Board and in 1992 entered Sandhurst, from where he was commissioned into the Welsh Guards. After the Platoon Commander's Battle Course, he took over a platoon in Northern Ireland in January 1993. He spent four years as an officer in Northern Ireland, two years as an instructor at the Infantry Training Centre, Catterick, two years on ceremonial duties in London, and a further two years in Tidworth, working in an office 100 yards from where he was born. After completing ten years of service, Mayer left the army, decided to become an actor, and entered the Guildhall School of Music & Drama in 2002.
In writer/director Daniel Hsia's feature film Shanghai Calling (2012) Mayer plays the supporting role of Jensen.
In Mandarin Films' Ip Man 2 (2010), a large budget kung fu film shown in cinemas across Asia, Mayer plays the villain opposite Sammo Hung. He is the corrupt, ruthless 1950s Hong Kong Police officer Chief Superintendent Wallace. His greed and violent temper are finally brought under control when he is arrested at a boxing match.
In Greys Inbetween by Ambient Film Ltd, a romantic tragedy written, directed and produced by Andrew Rajan, Mayer plays the villain, the philandering husband who breaks his girlfriend's heart.
In The Ultimate Truth, a comedy written and directed by Nick Clarke with Wysiwyg Films, he plays a confused meglomaniac gangster turned politician with a sweet moll. It premiered at the Curzon Soho, London in 2003.
Mayer has a major role in a feature Ghosts of Old Shanghai (2011), an independent film written and directed by Eric Heise.
For short film, Mayer played a leading role in Analysis by director Richard Trombly and in Goodbye Shanghai directed by Adam Christian Clark, has written and directed Against All Odds for the Meiwenti Shanghai Short Film Competition 2009, and produced and acted in China White Night for the 2009 Straight8 Film Competition. He has acted in many others.
After drama school Mayer made brief appearances in BBC One's prime time series Spooks and Hotel Babylon, and more recently in Piers Morgan On... Shanghai as the MC at Chinatown. Through 2011 and 2012 he was host of International Channel Shanghai's daily culture programme City Beat. He appears in the 2014 children's television series Sam Fox: Extreme Adventures.
In London in 2006 he appeared in the West End in Martin Sherman's Bent, with Alan Cumming. The revival was directed by Daniel Kramer, under whom he has enjoyed several exploratory workshops.
Mayer's parents are retired and live in his father's native county, idyllic rural Lancashire. Charles is married to Australian Cate Fittock; they have three children and live in Adelaide.