Spider-Man’s Best Friend Spins His Own Tale

By Paige Takeya, Midweek

Local boy Jacob Batalon is on the cusp of a breakthrough thanks to a role in Marvel’s “Spider-Man: Homecoming”. But the Damien grad sees bigger things on the horizon. Photo by Gage Skidmore | Illustration by Mark Galacgac

Local boy Jacob Batalon is on the cusp of a breakthrough thanks to a role in Marvel’s “Spider-Man: Homecoming”. But the Damien grad sees bigger things on the horizon. Photo by Gage Skidmore | Illustration by Mark Galacgac

Local boy Jacob Batalon is on the cusp of a breakthrough thanks to a role in Marvel’s “Spider-Man: Homecoming”. But the Damien grad sees bigger things on the horizon.

Sometimes fame just happens.

Case in point: Jacob Batalon, a 2014 Damien Memorial School graduate who, to borrow from the immortal words of Drake, went from zero to 100 real quick.

In 2016, he appeared in indie short film North Woods, directed by a friend of his from their time at New York Conservatory for Dramatic Arts. It was his first-ever film credit. He had never acted while home in Hawai‘i.

His very next film credit comes this year as Peter Parker’s best friend in a little blockbuster-to-be called Spider-Man: Homecoming, which swings into theaters July 7.

“I met the right people at the right time,” Batalon says, humbly.

Tom Holland and Jacob Batalon chat during a cast visit to Egleston Children’s Hospital in Atlanta, Georgia.  PHOTO COURTESY JACOB BATALON

Tom Holland and Jacob Batalon chat during a cast visit to Egleston Children’s Hospital in Atlanta, Georgia. 

But even as he sits on the cusp of a blossoming film career and bumps shoulders with the likes of stars Tom Holland and Zendaya, Batalon hasn’t forgotten his roots — or the importance of a helping hand.

“In film school, we had a limited amount of resources … Seeing a big-budgeted film being made with all these big stages and big lights and these fancy cameras and these wires and all these stunts was really breathtaking to watch.”

Batalon’s original dream was to be a musician — specifically, to sing and play the ukulele. After graduating high school, he enrolled at Kapi‘olani Community College in music theory, but he disliked school and soon dropped out.

“I tried making my own music,” Batalon explains, “and I basically got with this talent troupe from Los Angeles that came to Hawai‘i looking for talent, and through them I met my manager.”

He migrated to the Mainland and eventually ended up at NY-CDA. His manager, whose office happened to be nearby, sent him to different auditions.

Word eventually came around that Spider-Man: Homecoming casting director Sarah Finn was holding open auditions for a part in Marvel’s latest franchise: any ethnicity, any body type, as long as the actor “looks like he’s 15,” as Batalon describes it.

atalon speaks to students of his alma mater — Damien Memorial School — during a visit last November.  PHOTO COURTESY PAT BIGOLD

atalon speaks to students of his alma mater — Damien Memorial School — during a visit last November. 

Batalon’s manager encouraged him to submit a self-taped submission online. It was a long shot.

Two months later, the part was his.

It’s all been amazing, Batalon, who plays Ned Leeds (see accompanying sidebar), says with sincerity.

“In film school, we had a limited amount of resources,” he notes. “Seeing a big-budgeted film being made with all these big stages and big lights and these fancy cameras and these wires and all these stunts was really breathtaking to watch.

“It was really surreal for me just to even be there.”

Batalon’s scene-stealing moment in Spider-Man: Homecoming‘s trailer involves him shattering a 4,016-piece LEGO model of the iconic Star Wars Death Star when he discovers Peter Parker’s true identity as Spider-Man.

“They built seven or eight of them, and I broke every single one of them,” Batalon says cheerfully. “It was really, really fun. I felt really bad for the prop department, though, because they had to put it all together and clean it all up.”

Batalon says that he and Holland were actually tasked with building at least one of the Death Stars before filming began as a bonding exercise.

“At first we thought it was cool and really fun, but it got so hard,” Batalon remembers.

“We gave up a quarter of the way through.”

He says his cast members have all been fantastic.

“I love them to death. They’re like my family.”

He also has taken his new role as trailblazer in stride. Batalon is only the second actor of Filipino descent in the 15 Marvel Cinematic Universe movies released to date. (Dave Bautista, who plays Drax the Destroyer in Guardians of the Galaxy, is half-Filipino.) He’s also the films’ first Hawai‘i-born star.

“I always wanted to be the type of person to influence people to do great things,” Batalon says. “Diversity in the industry is a little sparse, a little scarce. I feel really honored to be part of that stepping stone to make the industry a lot more open.”

Funny that Batalon should say that, because he’s been quietly reaching out to upand-coming students on his jaunts back home in between projects.

He took time last November to visit the girls of The Priory after their production of Antigone.

“He couldn’t make the show, but he still kept to his word and showed up at the end to say hi, and that was really nice of him,” says Krista Chang, one of that night’s actresses.

“He stayed for a while to actually talk to us. He was telling us to keep working hard and follow your dreams.”

Batalon also stopped by his alma mater, where he answered questions about his experiences since leaving school, and even critiqued a performance by Damien’s freshly established drama program.

“He showed such an interest in (the students),” says Damien president Wes Reber Porter. “He gave them notes, he gave them real feedback.”

Damien did not have a performing arts division at the time that Batalon attended, but Porter is glad that the fledgling program has a mentor of sorts now.

“Now we have someone that’s come from our well-rounded education, that’s someone our students can look up to, can make contact with.”

Now that he has Marvel’s wind filling his sails, Batalon says that he’s just focused on establishing his presence. He just wrapped up filming his next project, playing Pancho in The True Don Quixotealongside Tim Blake Nelson.

Hopefully more things are ahead from here — as Marvel movies tend to go, it’s not unlikely that fans will catch Batalon in future Spider-Man installments. Batalon doesn’t know what’s next, but he’s open to just about anything that comes his way.

“It’s not enough to want to follow your dreams,” Batalon says. “A lot of people forget that everything you want comes with a price, and you have to be more than willing to accept the sacrifices and hardships and the hard work that you go through to get to where you want to be.

“Just always believe in yourself and your abilities because no one is going to believe in you more than yourself.

“At the end of the day, success is defined differently by everyone. I believe, truly, that if you are doing what you love, then you’re successful.”

By that standard, does he feel successful?

Batalon doesn’t hesitate before answering.

“I’m not satisfied.”


Past Spider-Man film franchises (namely those of Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield) positioned Harry Osborn as Peter Parker’s best friend.

In this reimagining, Harry’s nowhere to be found, and Ned Leeds is the man of the hour.

“He’s this really nice, sweet, innocent kid who really loves Star Wars,” Batalon describes. “He’s the only one who knows (Peter’s) secret identity, and for the most part he wants to be his sidekick.

“They just go through everything together: having crushes, doing homework, trying to fit in, trying to be cool. He’s just a really insanely intelligent and extremely sweet kid.”

This Leeds is very different than the characters that previously shared the name.

In the comics, Ned Leeds is a reporter at The Daily Bugle who becomes one of several men to don the supervillain mantle of the Hobgoblin. An animated series also positioned an Asian “Ned Lee” as Peter’s skeptical coworker (minus any villainous flair).

Batalon assures MidWeek that his Leeds — this time, a classmate of Peter’s — bears little resemblance to his predecessors.

View the story as published in Midweek here. 


Hawaii's Spider-Man star 'found himself' during journey to Hollywood


By Ian Scheuring, Digital Executive Producer, KGMB

Image Courtesy: Sony/Columbia Pictures

Image Courtesy: Sony/Columbia Pictures


Three years ago, in a classroom on the Kalihi campus of Damien Memorial School, Jacob Batalon was faced with the same daunting dilemma that thousands of high school students across the state must also embrace.  

Life after high school weighs heavy on the mind of any high school senior, though for most, dreaming about how best to own one's future – where to go, what to do, who to be – isn't usually the dilemma. Typically, it's more about trying to comprehend what will be required to realize that dream – and then having the willpower to actually do so.

For Batalon, the dream did not initially center around acting. There were no plans to embrace Hollywood, and there certainly weren't any plans to star as Ned Leeds – Peter Parker's best friend – in this summer's 'Spider-Man: Homecoming.'

"I wanted to be a musician," laughed Batalon, speaking to Hawaii News Now ahead of Wednesday's Hollywood premiere of the film. "Acting just sort of found its way to me. I was going to school in New York, and now I'm here doing what I love."

Batalon's post-Damien move from Hawaii to New York City was one he says was born out of necessity – the type of decision usually only made by those who are willing to take risks in order to realize personal goals. Hawaii is still home, he says, "but there were no opportunities for me there."

He found them instead in The Big Apple, where Batalon decided to set aside his musical aspirations and attend the New York Conservatory for Dramatic Art, a film school in Midtown Manhattan whose alumni include Matthew Fox and Miles Teller. 

It was a place, says Batalon – who admits to having been insecure about "the way I looked" – that allowed him to unlock his potential as more than just an actor.  

"At first, I would sell myself short a lot. But when you learn about filmmaking and acting, you actually learn a lot about yourself," said Batalon. "I learned so many things about myself that I hadn't known in the first place."

The experience made him stronger, more confident in himself, and more ready to embrace the opportunities he had left his home in Salt Lake to seek. Batalon's manager – who he linked up with while still in school – caught wind of the 'Spider-Man' audition and convinced him to attend, something he's unlikely to have done before obtaining the self-certainty the Conservatory provided.

Aside from an appearance in a movie he identified "more as a passion project," the 'Spider-Man' reboot – which critics project as one of the biggest blockbuster hits of the summer – is Batalon's first major acting gig.

"I believe that you can only find yourself when you apply yourself, and your environment has a lot to do with that," says Batalon. "If you're in a place you're accustomed to, then you're not growing. You need to be in a place where you can learn more and grow more."

He did plenty of both on the 'Homecoming' set, where he was able to learn from Hollywood legends Robert Downey, Jr. (who reprises his role as Tony Stark in yet another Marvel Universe movie), Michael Keaton (the villain Vulture) and Marissa Tomei (Peter Parker's beloved Aunt May), though his most profound piece of A-list advice came courtesy of veteran actor and director Jon Favreau.

"He told me, 'Jacob, look. I started out with the best friend roles, always the sidekick, but it opens up a lot of doors for you. You're doing a great job, and I can't wait to see you work,'" says Batalon. 

Batalon's Damien classmates and Hawaii-based fans will finally get to see his work on July 7 – the school is reserving several screens in a local movie theater in order to host a viewing party on the day the film releases – and though he says he's anxious for the world to see the movie, he knows better than to take the moment for granted.

"I've been blown away by everything we've been doing, from making the movie to traveling the world," Batalon says. "I've been appreciating everything since day one. It still amazes me how we get to do all these crazy things."

Copyright 2017 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved. 

Visit the original post on KGMB here.  

Brother Rice Awards 2017

Athletic Awards 2017

HI-Movement Sports, Advanced Performance Training Clinic

Athletic-based Movement Training with Kealoha Pilares
Bio: A proud Damien Alum, Kealoha Pilares ’06, played collegiate football at the University of Hawaii where he studied Kinesiology and rehabilitation sciences.  A four-year standout at UH, he was drafted to the Carolina Panthers in the 5th round of the 2011 NFL Draft, where he set a franchise record 101 yard KOR.  Kealoha is excited to share his training techniques that he has experienced throughout his professional career to help develop better overall athletes.  

MORR – Training Philosophy
Movement, Overspeed, Resistance, Reaction
Teaches fundamental movement pattern techniques
Movement performance program
Addresses key concepts of proper running mechanics
Lateral acceleration, linear speed, on field movement training to develop dynamic athletes.
Fun and challenging environment

This is a 6-week (6 sessions) introductory clinic to a training system designed to improve overall athlete-based movements.  Training sessions will help increase speed, strength, agility, explosiveness, power and quickness.
Dates: Sundays - June 4, 11, 25, July 2, 9, 16  
Clinic Location:  Damien Memorial School Gym

Coach V's HPU Basketball Camp at Damien Memorial

Coach Darren Vorderbruegge and the PacWest Conference Champion Hawai'i Pacific University Sharks will hold a two sessions of Coach V's HPU Basketball Camp in June at Damien Memorial School.
The camp is set for June 12-15 and June 19-22 and is for boys and girls ages 8-14 at the Damien Memorial gymnasium at 1401 Houghtailing Street. Morning sessions are from 8 a.m.-11 a.m. are for ages 8-11 (third to fifth grade). Afternoon sessions are from noon-3 p.m. for campers 12-14 (sixth through eighth grades).
The Clarence "Big House" Gaines Award winner as Division II Coach of the Year, Vorderbruegge led the Sharks to a 29-3 record on the way to winning the PacWest Championship and Tournament Championship. The PacWest Coach of the Year also directed HPU to the West Region Semifinals in the NCAA Division II Men's Basketball Tournament.
Campers will learn individual drills they can work on to improve ball handling, shooting, defense, rebounding, and passing. Speakers will provide instructional and motivational presentations. Skill competitions will foster competitiveness and enjoyment throughout the week, while 5-on-5 play will include instruction on moving without the ball and team defense.
Registration for the camp is open online at http://camps.jumpforward.com/HPUMBB. Cost for each session is $85 if paid before June 1, and $95 afterward. Additional children from the same family are $75 each.
For more information about the HPU Sharks Basketball Camp, contact Tyler Harris at (808) 753-8659 or by email at tharris9@my.hpu.edu.

Registration link

Damien Track Gets Gold at States

Christian Padron of Damien powered his team to a third-place finish in the boys team standings. (May 13, 2017) Paul Honda/Star-Advertiser

Christian Padron of Damien powered his team to a third-place finish in the boys team standings. (May 13, 2017) Paul Honda/Star-Advertiser

Damien's results and medal winners at this weekends State Track and Field meet in Kea`au on Big Island.


Christian Padron first in the 100 meter dash in a new state record time of 10.63 seconds

Christian Padron first in the 200 meter dash in a time of 21.97 new school record

4x100 meter relay of Scott Lam, Shawn Borges, Shane Soga, James Kapilioha Livingston-Lopez and Christian Padron first in a new school record of 42.60 seconds

Isaac Sagapolutele third in the Discus with a distance of 151 feet 8 inches

Monty Payne fifth in the Shot Put with a distance of 50 feet 6.5 inches.

The team finished 3rd overall in the state meet.  

Congratulations to all competitors for a great year.

ILH 2 Champs Roll into State Championship

The way the Damien Monarchs are rolling at the plate right now, the wait for Saturday’s 4 p.m. Division II state title game will feel quite long.

After beating St. Francis four consecutive times to steal the ILH title and berth in the state tournament, the Monarchs have kept it going over the last two days, totaling 25 runs in 11 innings to advance to their first state baseball final in school history.

Left fielder Akila Arecchi went 3-for-4 with three runs scored and Kaimana Cameron was 3-for-3 with four RBIs for the Monarchs (17-5) in a 14-3 win over Hawaii Prep in five innings in the Division II semifinals of the Wally Yonamine Foundation/HHSAA Baseball State Championships at Les Murakami Stadium.

Cameron is batting 1.000 (5-for-5) in the state tournament with four RBIs and four runs scored as the Monarchs prepare to face Kauai in the final.

Damien has rolled over its two opponents, beating Farrington 11-6 in Thursday’s quarterfinals. Kauai has won two one-run games in extra innings to reach the final.

“Everybody is staying hot right now and everybody is coming in clutch for hitting,” Cameron said. “Our pitchers are throwing strikes like they have to and everyone is performing well right now.”

Kaycee Natividad threw 3 1/3 scoreless innings of relief without giving up a hit to earn the win. Starter Grayson Buenogave up three runs on two hits in 1 2/3 innings before leaving the game with an undisclosed injury.

Damien’s offense had his back scoring in all five innings.

Hawaii Prep (10-11) failed to record an out in the bottom of the fifth inning as all five Monarchs reached base. A walk, single and hit batter loaded the bases for Paul Mezurashi, who then walked in a run. After a wild pitch made it a 12-3 game, pinch hitter Chayne Wayton hit a two-run double to end it due to the 10-run mercy rule.

Mezurashi was 2-for-2 with two runs scored and an RBI and Kayson Kajiwara singled and scored twice.

at Les Murakami Stadium
Hawaii Prep (10-11) 030 00 — 3 2 2
Damien (17-5) 251 24 — 14 14 1
Finn Richmond, Sheldon Aribal (3), Michael Hughes (5) and Braden Kojima. Grayson Bueno, Kaycee Natividad (2) and Kana Schuman. W—Natividad. L—Richmond.
Leading hitters—DMS: Akila Arecchi 3-4, 3 runs, RBI; Kaimana Cameron 3-3, run, 4 RBIs; Jayden Cabbab 1-2, 2b, 2 runs, RBI; Shiloh Kaeo 2-2, run, 2 RBIs; Paul Mezurashi 2-2, 2 runs, RBI; Chayne Wayton 2b, 2 RBIs; Kayson Kajiwara 1-2, 2 runs.

DMS Robotics, World Championships, Houston

After facing 400 teams from all the US and countries from around the World. Our robot, literally held together by zipties and duct tape, held its own against plasma cut, laser cut, water jet printed, professionally engineered, metal monstrosities.  I was proud that our "little robot that could" was able to defeat some of them.  And we coulda, shoulda won more without minor errors, missing by one inch, and "mis-judgements" We are half way up the stairs to going all the way to the top, and we owe so much to all of you who blessed us with your support. Thank you, thank you, thank you again.

We, Damien, had 4 wins and 7 losses ranked #57 Hopper Division

Kamehameha 4W-6L ranked #50 Hopper divisioN

St. Louis 4W-6L ranked #32 Turing division

Mid-Pac 2W-8L ranked #63 Carver division

Kalani and McKinley were semi finalists in their respective sub-divisions

No Hawaii teams made it to Final playoffs, but we all learned much and had fun.

Former Ms. Hawaii Stephanie Steuri visited our pit

Damien walks off with ILH D2 championship

STORY BY: Kalani Takase | ScoringLive

STORY BY: Kalani Takase | ScoringLive

Pomai Kim drew a bases-loaded, four-pitch walk with one out in the bottom of the eighth inning to score Jordan Donahue and Damien walked off with a 2-1 win over Saint Francis in eight innings to capture the Interscholastic League of Honolulu Division II championship on an overcast afternoon at Ala Wai Community Park Friday.

The Monarchs rode the pitching of Javin Cortez, who went the distance and scattered four hits, to extend their winning streak to eight games. They improved to 15-5 on the season and clinched the ILH's lone berth into next week's Wally Yonamine Foundation/HHSAA State Championships.

"It feels unreal. Three years of playing and never making it to states, but finally we did it," said Cortez, who threw 105 pitches in his longest outing of the season.

Cortez, a senior right-hander, outlasted Saint Francis senior Jared Yara, who went 6 2/3 innings before exiting the game with 106 pitches. The Saints' ace allowed just two hits with five strikeouts and six walks.

"Great pitching. I think today both pitchers matched up well," Damien coach Timo Donahue said. "Yara threw a hell of a game. Our guy threw a hell of a game, so they always say good pitching is going to stop good hitting and I think we're a pretty good hitting team."

Damien took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the fourth on Shiloh Kaeo's two-out RBI single that scored Akila Arecchi.

However, Saint Francis evened the score on a Shawn Ellis RBI-single that plated Bubba Akana with two outs in the top of the sixth.

The Monarchs got back-to-back one-out singles in the bottom of the eighth by Jordan Donahue and Jayden Cabbab. A wild pitch by Saint Francis reliever Zach Alcos allowed both base runners to move up to scoring position, which led to an intentional walk to Kaeo to load the bases.

Kim, who was 0 for 3 up to then, stepped to the plate and took four pitches from Alcos to drive in Donahue for the game-winning run.

Alcos was the losing pitcher. He surrendered two hits, walked two and struck out one in 2/3 of an inning.

Each team recorded four hits in the game. Saint Francis catcher Makana Poole was the lone player to pair hits.

Cortez threw first-pitch strikes to 15 of the 31 batters he faced and stranded six base runners — five of them in scoring position. He got nine ground-ball outs, eight fly-ball outs and picked off a base runner.

It was the fifth time that Cortez had faced the Saints this season. He was tagged for a combined 24 runs — 14 of them earned — on 21 hits in his previous four outings against them this year.

"I think with him today it was just more of a command of certain pitches that he throws," Donahue said. "Today we threw curveballs and change-ups that didn't get hit as bad as they did early in the season when everything was up in the zone. Today he kept it down, for the most part, and then the scouting reports got better throughout the year."

Cortez got out of a jam in the third inning when he issued back-to-back one-out walks to James Yamasaki and John Paul Tilley, but got Bubba Akana to pop out to first for the second out, and retired Makana Poole with a ground out to first base to escape unscathed.

The sixth inning saw Cortez wiggle his way out of another predicament. Bubba Akana hit a one-out double and eventually scored on Ellis' RBI bloop-single to right, but Cortez minimized the damage by getting Alcos to pop out to center to strand two runners in scoring position to end the inning.

"Our boys backed us up and did their jobs and came out hard," said Cortez, who improved to 6-4 on the year with a 3.27 ERA. "Even when I messed up, they were there behind my back no matter what."

Cortez dug deep to get through the top of the eighth inning. He went 0-2 to leadoff batter Tilley, but hit him with his next pitch to put him aboard. However, he got Bubba Akana to pop up on a bunt attempt. Cortez made a diving basket catch on the bunt and threw to first to double-up Tilley for the second out. Poole hit a two-out single to center to represent the go-ahead run for the Saints, but Cortez got the third out on a pop up by Yara.

"I knew my pitch count and as long as I let them hit the ball, my team would get the outs. I knew it," Cortez said.

Timo Donahue said Cortez was resilient on the mound in a high-pressure situation.

"He showed a lot of grit. He showed a lot of grit this whole season pretty much," Donahue said. "He came on as a sophomore two years ago and didn't pitch much. Last year we asked him to pitch, he struggled through it. This year, he really took it by the reins."

It was the ninth meeting between the teams this season. Saint Francis, the first-round champion, won the first three games, but Damien, the second-round titlist, was victorious in the final six — the last two coming in must-win games.

"I think it shows a lot about the character of this team, as far as perseverance and staying with the process," Donahue said. "I think we finally put things together several weeks ago and it just continued and you know, you start having success, learning how to win games and I think it just carried on and build up that never-give-up attitude in us."

Saint Francis, which won its first nine games of the season, dropped its third in a row — all against the Monarchs.

"It was a good pitcher's duel," Saint Francis coach Kip Akana said. "It was a pretty clean game, we just tip our caps to Damien. They came on strong and they maintained that momentum all the way through the championship game."

The Saints lost four of their final fives games to end the season at 14-7. They were seeking a second straight ILH championship.

"It's a little bit easier (to stomach the loss) because of the way the game was played," Akana said. "It was a championship, fifteen-round, extra-inning game and you never want to come out on the short end, but we just tip our caps to Timo. He's a good friend of mine and he makes me better."

The D2 state tournament opens Thursday at Hans L'Orange Park in Waipahu and concludes with Saturday's title game at Les Murakami Stadium at the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

Good Friday Class of 2017 Beach Clean Up

IMG_1270 (1).JPG

The Senior Class of 2017 showed their Damien Monarch pride this past Good Friday, April 14 at Sandy Beach.  65 Seniors spent the morning of this solemn holiday, combing the beach and park areas of garbage and recyclables.  They proudly represented Damien Memorial School.  There were even tour buses that drove by thanking students over their loudspeakers for their efforts.  

I'd like to give a big mahalo out to the faculty that assisted with supervising the students, as well as assisting in the clean up.  Thank you so much to Br. Casey, Erica Chun, Dexter Asuncion, Jeremiah Carter, and Eric Mau, for taking the time out of your schedules to be there.  We couldn't have done it without you.

Let's hear it for our Senior Class of 2017.

Hawaii Speech & Debate State Tournament

Congratulations to our Hawaii Speech & Debate State Tournament competitors Juniors Courtnee Elento & Tymir Streeter and Damien 8th graders Jonah Faumuina and Ryan Fitzgerald.  As the only double entered Damien competitor - Courtnee placed 7th in Dramatic Interpretation for the State with her overall record.  Courtnee went into the final round by winning over judges in preliminaries with her touching rendition of "God, If You're Really There."    Middle Schoolers Ryan Fitzgerald and Jonah Faumuina surprised high-school competitors and judges with their tenacity and aggressive politicking in Congressional Debate placing them in 7th and 9th overall positions respectively.  Congratulations to all our competitors for representing Damien!

Alumni Update: Jacob Batalon

Jacob Batalon is on the road to becoming a major star thanks to his role in Spider-Man: Homecoming. The just-released second trailer shows Batalon stealing a more scenes from star Tom Holland, who plays the new Spidey in the Marvel/Sony film. Batalon plays Peter Parker’s best friend, Ned Leeds.

Batalon doesn’t have a public Twitter account, but you can follow him on Instagram at @lifeisaloha.

Here’s what you need to know about Batalon.

1. ‘Spider-Man: Homecoming’ Is Only His Second Movie

The 20-year-old Batalon has only made two films in his young career. Before being cast in Spider-Man: Homecoming, he made his film debut in 2016’s North Woods.

North Woods is a short comedy-horror film written and directed by Anthony Raus. The film also starred Amber Allen and Jesse Boone. It’s about five film students who made a documentary about the Wendigo and are slowly picked off by a hungry creature.

2. He’s a Graduate of the Private Roman Catholic School Damien Memorial School in Hawaii

Batalon, an actor of Filipino descent, grew up in Hawaii. He’s a graduate from Damien Memorial School, a private Roman Catholic preparatory school in Honolulu.

After graduating from high school in 2014, Batalon traveled to the mainland, where he attended a two-year program at the New York Conservatory for Dramatic Arts, reports the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. It was the first time he performed on the stage, since Damien didn’t have a theater or stage program.

“Singing and (playing) the ukulele really was my thing,” Batalon told the Star-Advertiser. “My mother would make he go up and sing in front of everyone all the time, hahaha, and I didn’t particularly enjoy it so much as a child because I thought it was torture. But in retrospect, I think that’s what helped me get over my fear of being in front of people.”

3. His Ned Leeds is Far Different From the Character in the Comics

The version of Edward ‘Ned’ Leeds that Batalon plays is very different from the comics iteration. In the comics, Leeds doesn’t come into Peter Parker’s life until after high school, when he starts working at the Daily Bugle.

Peter meets Leeds at the Daily Bugle, where Leeds works as a filed reporter. One day, Leeds is assigned to investigate the villain Hobgoblin. During the assignment, he was captured and brainwashed into thinking he was the Hobgoblin. He was later targeted in a gang war and, since he didn’t have the real Hobgoblin’s powers, he was killed.

Leeds’ ethnicity has been changed for other iterations of Spider-Man. For The Spectacular Spider-Man, Leeds was renamed Ned Lee and became a Korean-American. However, in this version, he was still a reporter. Batalon’s version of Leeds is the first time the character has been shown as a high school friend of Peter’s.

4. He Says His Character is a ‘Genuine, Sweet Kid’

In a meeting with performing arts students at Damien Memorial School after filming Homecoming, Batalon described his character as “really innocent” and a “genuine, sweet kid.”

“Ned is a really innocent and genuine, sweet kid,” he said. Since he hasn’t been any of those things since he was a kid, he explained that he had to draw from his experiences as a kid to play the role.

“He’s really naive in a sense,” Batalon said of his character, who is five years younger than he is in real life. “You know, he just loves Star Wars and he’s super smart and he just loves to play around. So, I just went back to when I was a kid, playing Power Rangers and Yu-Gi-Oh and Pokemon.”

5. Director Jon Watts Describes ‘Homecoming’ as a ‘Straight-Up High School Movie’

While many of the Marvel movies are about adult super heroes, Homecoming is a little different. Peter Parker and his friends are only 15 in the movie, and director Jon Watts doesn’t want the audience to forget that.

As Entertainment Weekly reported, at Comic-Con 2016, Watts said Homecoming is a “straight-up high school movie, about a 15-year-old kid.” That feeling is definitely there in the trailers so far.

“We know what it’s like to be a billionaire playboy inventor. We learned what it’s like to be an alien God… We’re going to learn what it’s like to be kid in 10th grade going through puberty,” Watts said.

We’ll see how much of that “high school vibe” survives in the final cut of Homecoming when it hits theaters on July 7. 

Story by: Daniel S. Levine - http://heavy.com/entertainment

Story by: Daniel S. Levine - http://heavy.com/entertainment

Winners Announced in Essay and Artwork Contests

Mahalo to all students who submitted entries for our Essay and Artwork Contest celebrating the diversity of Damien’s campus community. The winning entries are published in the winter issue of Kamiano Magazine posted on our website and can be viewed below.

The following students will receive prizes for their essays: Dominic Boland '17, Karly Navas '18 and Nicolas Spiegel '22. And Vivien Nguyen '18 will receive a prize for her artwork.

Again, a big mahalo to all students who participated in the contest.

Dominic Boland '17

Karly Navas '18

Nicolas Spiegal '22

Vivian Nguyen '18