Jacob Batalon will be making his big screen debut when Spider-Man: Homecoming premieres on July 7. The young actor plays Peter Parker’s best friend Ned Leeds, who discovers Peter’s been keeping a certain secret from him in the film. It’s a different path for a character that has, in the past, traditionally been portrayed as a reporter working with Peter at the Daily Bugle before eventually becoming Hobgoblin. It’s a change that works well for a movie centered more on Peter in high school than we’ve seen previously, and Batalon seems to be the perfect fit for the role as Peter’s loyal and trusted friend.
CBR spoke one-on-one with Batalon about Spider-Man: Homecoming during the movie’s press junket in New York City. Over the course of our conversation, the soon-to-be movie star told us all about his Ned Leeds, working with director Jon Watts, and the message he wants the kids in the audience to take away from the film.
CBR: Ned, Peter and the others have grown up in this world full of superheroes, and then Ned finds out his best friend happens to be one! How does that impact him?
Jacob Batalon: Ned, for the most part, just wants to be there for Peter Parker. Ned is like the quintessential best guy, the best man, the number two guy, the guy in the chair. I think the whole Spider-Man aspect for him, honestly, is just an extra bonus. Besides the fact that I love Peter, he’s also Spider-Man? What the heck? That’s amazing!
He’s like a big nerd so he loves all the superhero stuff, and he just really wants to meet an Avenger, and that’s really helped me. In my life, I was excited about the film, and that to me is, like, my Spider-Man, so it was pretty easy to translate that.
What was it like working with Tom Holland on that best friend dynamic?
I love Tom. He’s my brother. Since our screen test together, it was pretty apparent that our chemistry was pretty good. Spending four moths together working on a film gets you really close. We’re the same age, so we’re into the same things. It was really easy to bond that way.
Did you and the other cast members get the chance to explore Queens to get a sense of where these characters lived?
Yeah — I live in Queens, actually, and some of the exterior shots of the high school we shot at were literally 20 minutes away from my house. Laura [Harrier] lives in New York so she’s always here. Tony [Revolori] and I went out some nights when we were shooting. Zendaya’s been working here. Tom really loves New York. I remember him talking about how, “Nah, I don’t really like it, it’s too busy for me.” But then he actually stayed here and he loves it now. I’m just shoving it in his face, because he said he didn’t love it, because it’s my city!
What has been the most exciting part of this experience for you?
Making the movie. I think, honestly, what gets me really excited is that we get to give this to the kids. The children and the fans are what really drive us. What’s so gratifying and so satisfying to me is we’re able to give them something that they love and want.
Were you familiar with the character of Ned Leeds at all?
No, I had to read a lot of comic books, which was something I’ve never done before. I want to be a villain, but I think they just love me as number two, which is great.
Would you want to follow that path you discovered Ned takes, or change anything in potential future films about Ned’s journey?
I’ve been hinting and winking at Jon [Watts] like, “What if he just punches him in the face this one time because he’s kind of evil?” But then they’re just like, “Nah — just make sure he doesn’t fall.”
What was it like working with Jon Watts on the film?
Jon is probably the most detailed-oriented and meticulous person I know. He is so good at being an actor’s director. He really cares about our opinion, and our creative opinion, at that. Each character is so distinct and has their own thing. It’s because of his vision and his mind. He knew clearly what he wanted and working with him was really simple. He made things very easy for me, and he made everything easy for us.
With this version of Spider-Man being a part of the Marvel Universe, what do you hope people take away after watching this film and its take on the characters?
We love the fact that Peter is just a 15-year-old kid who happens to have super powers. We love the idea of having people know, hey, look — anyone can be a hero. Anyone can do it. Just for teenagers, honestly, we’re trying to spread the message that you don’t have to be something different to be cool. The best version of yourself is yourself. They’re all nerds in school. They’re all really intelligent. They all have their quirks, but they’re all still living great lives, and that’s our message.
Spider-Man: Homecoming arrives in theaters July 7.
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