SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING's Jacob Batalon on Iron Man, Batman and Being "The Ultimate Sidekick"

Featured Contributor; New York City, New York (@TheDivaReview)
SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING's Jacob Batalon on Iron Man, Batman and Being "The Ultimate Sidekick"
Playing the geeky computer nerd Ned Leeds in Spider-Man: Homecoming, Jacob Batalon talked with me about keeping Spidey’s secrets, bonding with co-star Tom Holland, and sharing a stage with Iron Man and Batman.
The Lady Miz Diva:  I just saw you having so much fun at the press conference, so I have to ask what this experience was like filming SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING?
Jacob Batalon:  You know, I think in any profession, you imagine yourself at the top of it – and I’m not trying to say I’m at the top of the profession, at all – but I do like knowing I did a good job, and I do like knowing that the people I worked with have put in a good job.  At the end of the day, making films is what I love doing.  We love having films that bring a positive message and we’re glad it does so.
LMD:  You’ve seen Ned Leeds in the comic books.  He looks a little different to you.
JB:  Nah, I don’t think so!  I’m pretty blonde {Laughs}
LMD:  SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING is the most diverse and colourblind superhero movie I’ve seen.  However, as I’m sure you know, there’s always some fans who take umbrage when a character is suddenly a colour or race that it wasn’t in the comics.  Did you get any of that?
JB:  Yeah, yeah.  You know, what’s interesting about that, is on both sides of the spectrum, it’s like those really hardcore fans are like - they’re not talking about, like, whitewashing, or changing the race, or anything like that, they’re just saying, ‘Stay true to lore.’ 
The other people on the other side of the spectrum; they are really for it and very supportive of the whole fact.  And there’s just like that balance you have to remember of the hard-core fans – like crazy, just hard-core people, and people who understand that society is moving in a more forward way.  I’m very proud to wear the name Ned Leeds.  I’m very proud for people to know that we changed the character and made it our own.
LMD:  The bond between Peter and Ned is so real and so vivid, I felt there definitely had to be some bonding offscreen, as well?
JB:  You know, the main cast, we love each other so much.  Before we even started working together, we made it a point to bond with each other.  I mean, the first day, we literally went on a picnic.  {Laughs} We got to know each other; we went to Waffle House.  It was really great.  We basically had like a six person date.  It was so cute.  Because of that and working together for four months, it was really easy to love each other; our chemistry is great.  We’re all the same age, so it’s like we’re all into the same things and we just love to hang out.  I love Tom, he’s like my brother.
LMD:  Ned is a nerd…
JB:  Yeah, no, he’s great though.  I love it, I love him.
LMD:  Yeah, but, nerds know comic books.  Nerds know superheroes.  Nerd rule number one, if you are the BFF of the superhero, you have to keep the secret.  What’s the deal with him just going blah-blah?
JB:  You know what?  You see, this is the thing; Ned wants to be the guy in the chair.  Ned understands the whole superhero responsibility and blah-de-blah, you know, that type of nonsense.  {Laughs} He wants to be the guy in the chair, but to be the guy in the chair, you gotta keep quiet.  That’s kind of the thing.  So, he knows if he just told the whole world, they’d be like the coolest people around, but that’s what comes with it.
LMD:  Since we know where Ned Leeds leads, has anyone told you that you would be in a costume at some point?
JB:  This is the thing, honestly, it’s really up to our director and our producers.  But I’m open to the idea of doing it, but at the same time, I also feel as if our version of Ned is just like the ultimate sidekick, the ultimate best friend.  I mean, I’d love to do it, I would love to be a villain.  I would love, love, love to do it, but it’s really up to them.  I’ve been like hinting and winking at things about like, possibly doing something crazy, but they are like, ‘Nah, we like you as the best friend, bro.  Just hang out there, for now.  Just stay in that little pocket.’
LMD:  You’ve got Iron Man and Batman in your movie.  What did you take away from watching Robert Downey Jr. and Michael Keaton, or were there things that you wanted to learn from their experience in the superhero movie world?
JB:  I think watching them operating on set is like a totally different thing, because they take on different lives, you know?  I mean, they’ve been in the game for such a long time and they are such professionals.  They’re really hard-working people.  Honestly, I didn’t really ask them anything; I just learned from watching them.  And they were just consummate professionals; the ultimate in just being great, being open and good to people, understanding that everyone is equal, no one’s above one another.
And from the superhero standpoint, they’ve been through the whole whirlwind of being a superhero: They know what it’s like dealing with fans, dealing with the press, dealing with the pressure.  I mean, like, they are them - I love how they are just so themselves.  And that just really proves the best version of yourself is yourself.
LMD:  For someone who said he just wants to be the guy in the chair, Ned doesn’t always stay in the chair.
JB:  No, he doesn’t, no, no, no. {Laughs}
LMD:  Ned does have a rather explosive action moment of his own in the film.  As someone new to features with a lot of visual effects, what was more challenging for you; reacting to things that aren’t really there, or building the bond between your character and Peter and the other characters in the film?
JB:  I’m trying really hard not to talk like an actor right now. {Laughs}  From an acting perspective, it’s good to really immerse yourself in the world, and so when I’m with Tom and he’s doing all these Spider-Man things; I am literally Ned watching Spider-Man do his thing.  Like, everything falls away.  
I was talking about this yesterday, sometimes you kind of just feel like such an ass, like acting in front of the green screen when there’s supposed to be a falling building, you know what I mean?  I think that after a while.  You kind of start thinking about how you look {Laughs}, but that’s just part of the job.  It’s such a funny process, but I love it.  When I’m with Tom and he’s doing his Spider-Man thing, I’m literally Ned flipping out, cos it’s him.  
LMD:  Tell us about Jon Watts’ direction.  He’s known for his direction of young actors.  What did you take away from working with him that really helped you create Ned?
JB:  Well, the thing with Jon that I think people kind of overlook, is he’s very detail oriented.  He’s very meticulous and he knows what he wants; his vision is very clear.  He made it very known how he wanted our characters to be.  But what’s crazy, what’s so cool about that, at the same time, he also gives us our creative freedom with the character.  He basically gives us just a general outline and we flesh it out.  Because of that, we were able to make all our characters so unique and so different.
LMD:  It really looks like you guys were in Forest Hills.
JB:  Yeah!  Well, I will say this, we were doing exteriors here.  
LMD:  What was that like?  I’m sure Queens residents found out what was being filmed.
JB:   Yeah!  Tom was just talking about when we were here, he was doing a scene where he was literally sideways on a rail with the wires and all, and literally like 500 New Yorkers watching him do this, and it was really crazy.  He talked about how we weren’t shooting in the city, but shooting with the city.  And I felt that that was the perfect way to put it.  It was a really interesting take, because it’s so true, this is where he’s from, and we are proud of that fact, and we are proud of that diversity; proud that he is from a unique place.
LMD:  During the press conference, Zendaya mentioned looking at 80s teen films as part of her research for her character.  What research did you do to help create Ned?
JB:  I read a lot of comics.  The first story arc, the amazing Spider-Man, the first issue when Ned Leeds appears.  I was reading about Ganke Lee, because I drew a lot of comparisons to that person.  But for the most part, we just kind of took the name and then created our own thing with it.  I watched a lot of Lord of the Rings, because of Samwise Gamgee, I watched a lot of Harry Potter.  All those franchise movies with a best friend in it.
LMD:  I assume you’re on board for chapter 2 of this new franchise with a best friend in it, but is there anything else we can see you in coming up?
JB:  I actually just wrapped this film called The True Don Quixote.  I play Sancho Panza.  Tim Blake Nelson is the main guy.  He’s a legend.  We just finished last month.  I don’t know how it’s going to be distributed yet.  It’s independent, so it’ll be in film festivals.  We just finished that, and it’s great.
This interview is cross-posted on my own site, The Diva Review. Please enjoy additional content, including exclusive photos there.
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Iron ManJacob BatalonMarvelMCUMichael KeatonRobert Downey Jr. BatmanSpider-Man: HomecomingTom Holland

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