PHOTOS: Raul Romo
TALENT: Jacob Batalon
STYLING: Benjamin Holtrop
GROOMING: GRACE PHILLIPS using Deciem / TraceyMattingly.com
STYLIST ASSISTANT: Emily Johnson
INTERVIEW: Tony Revolori
PRODUCTION: Jasmine Perrier at Studio J•T•P
SPECIAL THANKS: Rogers & Cowan PMK & Circle Of Confusion
This feature is taken from Grumpy Magazine’s ISSUE NO.17, available soon in digital and print worldwide
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It’s been a busy year for Jacob Batalon. Not only is the 25-year-old actor part of one of the biggest franchises, reprising his scene-stealing role as Peter Parker’s best friend Ned Leeds in Marvel and Sony’s record-breaking film Spider-Man: No Way Home, he is also enthusiastic about getting the chance to become a leading man. Lately, the Hawaiian native now based on the East Coast has been splitting his time between New York, Los Angeles, and Vancouver — where he has been in production to film his next project — and he is incredibly motivated to embark on a new chapter of his life.
It was only natural that we turned to Tony Revolori, Jacob’s great friend and Spider-Man co-star since the first film, to be our guest interviewer. In the middle of a Spider-Man: No Way Home press day in New York, Tony joined Jacob on Zoom from Wales during an hour, for a lively and in-depth discussion about the “Spidey” journey that they started together back in 2016, what it feels like for Jacob to be number one on the call sheet for his next Syfy project — known for now as “Reginald the Vampire” — and his personal growth since making it to the entertainment industry.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity. Check out some extracts below.
On the Spider-Man journey…
TONY REVOLORI: Look at you, looking all fresh! How have you been, brother?
JACOB BATALON: Good, man. [I have been] traveling and working in Canada, doing my TV show. It’s been hectic and stressful, but it’s been fun for sure.
TR: I find that since everyone came back from the pandemic, everything is just rushed and no one has any time to spare. Anyway, we should probably start this interview. I’ve been saving all these questions since last time, so don’t worry.
JB: Let’s do it! I don’t want to keep you busy.
TR: You are now 25 and I’m 25. This is ridiculous how long we’ve known each other [and] how long we’ve been on this journey in such formative points of our adulthood. I’m curious, what in your mentality has changed from shooting [Spider-Man: Homecoming] to [Spider-Man: No Way Home]? Or are you still the exact same person?
JB: I think you know I’m probably the exact same person [laughs].
TR: Yes, you are! That’s the answer I was looking for.
JB: But [from a business perspective], I conduct myself in a different manner. Before, I wasn’t sure how to really operate in a press junket [or] on set. I was very uncertain about a lot of things. But now that I’m fully in it all, I think I’ve become a lot more confident and I’m not afraid to speak my mind. I guess I’ve grown in a sense that I’ve formed better opinions about my point of view of the world. Because we’ve done so much traveling together, I think being in different cultures and different countries makes me realize there’s more to it.
TR: So, you’ve been in a bunch of stuff. It’s taken you to different places, now you have fans all over the world, you are a fan favorite… Who knows if [Spider-Man: No Way Home] is the last one, but if it is, how do you feel about this being the end of the journey that we all saw from the beginning?
JB: I feel like it’s a storybook ending. We all started out very naive and unsure of what the future held for us. I could speak for all of us — we’ve accomplished everything that we wanted to do with the films and our character arcs. I think we can absolutely walk away from it knowing that everything has satisfactorily ended.
On becoming a leading man and vision of the industry…
TR: I read in your recent interview that you were ready to take these leading parts, and I agree. But let the people know in this interview how hard it’s been.
JB: I believe that everyone’s story should be told. And again, I think it’s important to understand that there’s more than one type of person out there in the world — the world is diverse, it’s an entire melting pot of cultures, people, and diversity. Speaking solely for us, as people of color in the industry, I think people are blinded. You need to understand that there’s more than just white people out there.
TR: Is there anything in the industry that you want changed?
JB: I think what bugs me the most is this hierarchical thing. In a way, I get [that] you get what you deserve and what you have based on merit. But especially on a press junket, I feel like they prioritize people who are more “famous” if you know what I mean. In that way, you feel like you’re not worth as much. [But] I think we’re moving in a way there might not be “movie stars” anymore because not one person is gonna get every role anymore. So, that’s a really big thing.
On “Reginald the Vampire” and dream role…
TR: Speaking of parts, what is your dream role?
JB: Right now, Reginald is probably one of the best parts that I’ve had, besides being number one — I love saying that out loud, I literally bring it up all the time [laughs].
TR: I knew you would [laughs].
TR: Ok, here is my theory — [with] Reginald, you get bitten by a vampire, and that is [his] true origin. I know it’s untrue, but for right now, that’s what I’m saying. Can you confirm or deny any of this? [Laughs]
JB: So, Reginald does get destroyed by a vampire to become a vampire. That’s the one trope that we had to make happen.
TR: Did you know about Reginald before you even auditioned for it or were you a fan?
JB: Yeah. So, I had a meeting with the executive producers who came to me: Harley Peyton who serves as the showrunner, Jeremiah S. Chechik who directs the first block and second block of the series, Lindsay [MacAdam] and Todd [Berger]. They wanted to really put a different take on what it means to be a vampire. They had a very clear direction [which] was a person who may not seem as the leading man. That thrilled me in itself, and the fact that they were really willing to listen to what I had to say, my opinions, how I perceive what that means… I think that right now, a show like that poking fun at the dumb tropes that vampires have in the media will be refreshing. It’s hilarious, full of humanity, and there is a lot more to it than just biting people and sexual content. That’s probably why I love it so much.
TR: I’m super proud of you and I can’t wait to watch the show with you.
On what to expect from Spider-Man: No Way Home…
TR: Seeing as our very good friend Tom Holland is very good about spoilers on this one, what do you think you can tease on it?
JB: [Laughs] I think a lot of the press that we’ve been talking to, they’ve only seen the first 38 minutes, right? And they are all very excited by that. I think that when they see the entire movie, as you know, they’re gonna be in for a surprise that they just won’t believe. They will be in for a ride that is so unbelievable. They are gonna have to watch it a few more times because it’s all happening in such a crazy way. I cannot tease anything specially. All I can say is that people are gonna be blown.
TR: And… we’re gonna end it there.
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