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Friends, how many of us have them?  Geeky computer nerd Ned Leeds is the only one who knows the secret identity of a certain Wall-crawler from Forest Hills, Queens.  SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMINGís Jacob Batalon, talked with me about keeping Spideyís secrets, bonding with co-star Tom Holland, and sharing a stage with Iron Man and Batman.

Dig it!



Jacob Batalon


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 Ė and Iím not trying to say Iím at the top of the profession, at all Ė 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 weíre glad it does so.


LMD:  Youíve seen Ned Leeds in the comic books.  He looks a little different to you.

JB:  Nah, I donít think so!  Iím pretty blonde {Laughs}


LMD:  SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING is the most diverse and colourblind superhero movie Iíve seen.  However, as Iím sure you know, thereís always some fans who take umbrage when a character is suddenly a colour or race that it wasnít in the comics.  Did you get any of that?

JB:  Yeah, yeah.  You know, whatís interesting about that, is on both sides of the spectrum, itís like those really hard-core fans are like - theyíre not talking about, like, whitewashing, or changing the race, or anything like that, theyíre just saying, ĎStay true to lore.í

The other people on the other side of the spectrum; they are really for it and very supportive of the whole fact.  And thereís just like that balance you have to remember of the hard-core fans Ė like crazy, just hard-core people, and people who understand that society is moving in a more forward way.  Iím very proud to wear the name Ned Leeds.  Iím 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.  Weíre all the same age, so itís like weíre all into the same things and we just love to hang out.  I love Tom, heís like my brother.


LMD:  Ned is a nerdÖ

JB:  Yeah, no, heís 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.  Whatís 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.  Thatís kind of the thing.  So, he knows if he just told the whole world, theyíd be like the coolest people around, but thatís 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, itís really up to our director and our producers.  But Iím 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, Iíd love to do it, I would love to be a villain.  I would love, love, love to do it, but itís really up to them.  Iíve been like hinting and winking at things about like, possibly doing something crazy, but they are like, ĎNah, we like you as the best friend, bro.  Just hang out there, for now.  Just stay in that little pocket.í


LMD:  Youíve 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, theyíve been in the game for such a long time and they are such professionals.  Theyíre really hard-working people.  Honestly, I didnít 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 oneís above one another.

And from the superhero standpoint, theyíve been through the whole whirlwind of being a superhero: They know what itís 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 doesnít always stay in the chair.

JB:  No, he doesnít, 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 arenít really there, or building the bond between your character and Peter and the other characters in the film?

JB:  Iím trying really hard not to talk like an actor right now.  {Laughs} From an acting perspective, itís good to really immerse yourself in the world, and so when Iím with Tom and heís 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 thereís 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 thatís just part of the job.  Itís such a funny process, but I love it.  When Iím with Tom and heís doing his Spider-Man thing, Iím literally Ned flipping out, cos itís him. 


LMD:  Tell us about Jon Wattsí direction.  Heís 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 heís very detail oriented.  Heís 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 whatís crazy, whatís 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?  Iím 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 werenít 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 itís so true, this is where heís 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 youíre 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.  Heís a legend.  We just finished last month.  I donít know how itís going to be distributed yet.  Itís independent, so itíll be in film festivals.  We just finished that, and itís great.


~ The Lady Miz Diva

June 24th, 2017


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