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.