Reginald The Vampire Star & EP Jacob Batalon On Beauty Standards And Taking Back The Word 'Fat' [Exclusive Interview]

Since launching his acting career in 2016, Jacob Batalon has stood side by side with serial killers, a knight errant, and Earth's Mightiest Heroes. But for his latest project, the Hawaii native is stepping into the spotlight to redefine what it means to be a vampire. Before he took the stage at this year's New York Comic Con alongside his fellow cast and crew, we had the chance to speak to Batalon about "Reginald the Vampire," the new series on SYFY about a newly minted vampire unlike we've ever seen before in media, one who has just as much trouble with his undead life as he did while he was still alive.

In our brief conversation, we touched on body positivity, representing his culture throughout his filmography, and what really drew him to the character of Reginald Andres. Plus, we get into their decision to alter the original name of Johnny B. Truant's books when adapting the story for live-action and talk about the impact Ned Leeds has had in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the Filipino American community.

'I feel like we were able to rewrite him into a sort of newer age Reginald from the books'

In a previous interview, you shared that you found the "Fat Vampire" series while reading it with your girlfriend. What did you find interesting about the series, especially compared to other vampire stories out there?

I think what's great about it is [Reginald is] very relatable. I think in pop culture, we made our vampires a part of this very unattainable of version of what Hollywood standard beauty is. What makes Reginald so different, and what pulled me into his story, was that he is just a very relatable person. He's the sort of not leading man who gets to be the hero of his own story. So I think that sort of underdog kind of thing really drew me into him, and he's just a really funny, charming person. I feel like we were able to rewrite him into a sort of newer age Reginald from the books.

Speaking about body image, unfortunately I'm not one of those people that owns their fatness, but I admire them and aspire to be like them. But normalizing the word "fat" without a negative connotation may go a long way. Why did you and your team decide to change the name of the show from "Fat Vampire" to "Reginald the Vampire," especially since Reginald says in the pilot that he's not afraid of the word?

I think that being the main focus of our storytelling may have been a bit of a disservice. With the term "fat," we are trying to take [control] of that word [and] take that word's power away. I think that we do a good job of it in the show. I find it to be a better title. That's just me, personally. It really had nothing to do with the embarrassment of being fatter [or] taking the power away from. I just feel like we wanted a new age title for our show. And me being a selfish person, I absolutely love that it's my [character's] name. [laughs]

'I'm super unapologetic about wanting to be inclusive and about diversity'

Being a vampire aside, Reginald Andres isn't your typical leading man. For me, main characters were never as big or as brown as I am. How important was it for you to represent for different body types in media and address that fat shaming is way played out by making this show?

Yeah, I really enjoy it. I think we love to make fun of people who are in that sort of mindset. We really tease the idea that that is such an outdated mode of what society should be. And for me personally, it's great. I'm doing all these interviews just saying Hollywood is not accepting of anybody, and it actually gets printed and put out there and I love that.

For us growing up, obviously we saw no one like us on TV. No one like us in media was ever being even considered or remotely seen as a respected person. So I think it's great. I'm super unapologetic about wanting to be inclusive and about diversity and all these things. We're saying, "All right, Hollywood, I'm telling you straight up to your face, you're not doing anything for representation. What are you going to do now?" Well, I think it's really good.

I love it so much. When I was watching the screeners, I was just thinking about when I was younger and how all the fat people in entertainment had to be really funny or really charming. So in my mind, I had strive to be like that in order to be taken seriously, which is weird.

Dude, now we're just taking it back and it's for us. I see you.

'I'm just glad to be a little symbol'

Speaking of feeling seen, seeing Ned Leeds in the recent Spider-Man movies from Marvel Studios was a really great moment in pop culture history for Filipinos. With October being Filipino American History Month, how does it feel to be a pioneering force for Filipino Americans, thanks to roles like Ned and Reginald?

Oh, man. That is such a really nice thing to say to me. Thank you so much. I really appreciate that. I would say that I don't want to take credit away from other people who've actually done service for people of color and the AAPI community. I'm not going to sit here and be like, "Yes, I'm the f***ing role model." I promise you, all I'm really doing is preaching about diversity and inclusivity as much as I can and really wanting to be part of that narrative. But I am not going to take away from all the hard work that people have done to put us in this place. To everyone that's really putting work out there for our community, thank you so much. I'm just glad to be a little symbol and I would hope to continually do that for our community, for sure.

When it came to Ned and Reginald's ethnicities, did the writers or filmmakers approach you to incorporate more of your heritage into these projects or was that something that you pushed for?

I feel like with Ned's heritage being in "Spider-Man: No Way Home," I would say that we didn't necessarily understand the cultural impact, but they were absolutely all on board with having my grandma being there and having it a really fun time [by] having her speak the language and truly putting Filipinos in a bigger light. I think it was just a really great introduction to our culture.

"Reginald the Vampire" airs on SYFY every Wednesday at 10:00pm ET/PT.