Jacob Batalon interview

One of the reasons Spider-Man: Homecoming felt so fresh was because it centers on a young Peter Parker who is still in the early years of high school. That film introduced us to Ned Leeds, Peter’s loyal best friend who quickly discovers Spider-Man’s secret identity and becomes Peter’s “guy in the chair.” Jacob Batalon returns as Ned in Spider-Man: Far From Home, and during a group phone interview, the actor told us about Ned’s new “whirlwind romance,” his relationship with Peter in this movie, his unexpected reaction to Peter’s dusting in Infinity War, and more.

We saw Ned use a web-shooter in Homecoming. Does he get to use any more of Spider-Man’s gadgets in this movie?

Well, I feel like that would be giving away a lot of things, now wouldn’t it? Definitely maybe. Definitely just wait for any sort of sign of that happening. Until then, I’m going to plead the fifth, I guess.

Fair enough. How much of a struggle is it for Ned in this one to keep Peter’s secret?

It comes up in a number of different ways this time around. I think with the whole Elemental creature attacks, with that happening around the world and in Europe specifically where we’re at, it definitely gets hard for Peter to kind of disappear conveniently and do his thing. It gets really funny, to the point to where it’s almost ridiculous how no one can tell if he’s Spider-Man or not. (laughs)

Speaking of his relationship with Peter, we last saw that Ned was comfortable serving as the distraction in Infinity War. [Note: this interview was conducted well before Avengers: Endgame was released.] Has that relationship changed at all since we last saw them?

I don’t think it’s changed that much. It’s pretty much the same sort of deal. I think for the most part in Far From Home, he’s not really focusing on being a hero, per se. He sort of begrudgingly helps them fight off these monsters. What he really just wants to relax. That dynamic isn’t on display too much, but it’s still very hilarious how we try to keep it a secret from MJ, Flash, all the kids.

We’ve also seen Ned utilize some hacking abilities. Does he get to put those skills to the test in this sequel?

I think Ned has different plans on his mind this time around, and he’s still the guy in the chair and everything and the best sidekick ever, but Ned has a different agenda as well. Not just being the hacker or whatever. (laughs) That must have sounded really cryptic just now, but it’s really not.

Going into Homecoming, there was a lot of uncertainty about how what you guys were building would stand on its own. It’s a different interpretation of Spider-Man, different versions of his classmates. But coming off of that movie, people really dialed into that type of humor and liked what you guys brought to the project. Does it free you up a little bit more, putting the sequel together to know that people accepted you guys as part of the ensemble?

It’s definitely very liberating. The first time, we didn’t really know what would sell, so to speak, what the audience would like. Because of the expectation of it just being another Spider-Man movie. That pressure put it on where we had to make it different in every aspect, from it being a part of the MCU to Peter actually dealing with high school things, as opposed to high school being the backdrop of Spider-Man. So we’re really happy with the fans, and the fans love us and we love them, and their support just means everything to us. It’s really a lot easier to know what they like. It’s been a faster, funner process this time around.

One of the cool things about Ned that we learned on set is his relationship with Betty Brant. Can you talk about that?

Yeah, so Betty and Ned are kind of a distraction for each other during this point in time. It’s kind of like Ned’s first time being with someone, so to speak. It just plays into the whole story, she’s just always there with Ned. It’s a really cute pairing, and it just turns out really, really sweet and funny. Having that dynamic with Angourie [Rice] – who’s really amazing, by the way – it’s just another fun aspect of the film.

Ned and Peter Spider-Man Far From Home

How does Ned shift so quickly from being excited about him and Peter being single guys on a European vacation to having a serious girlfriend? Did that relationship between Ned and Betty start with one magical plane ride? How does that work?

Yeah, I definitely think it’s the definition of a whirlwind romance, and people will definitely love the relationship so quickly. It’s really hard to explain, because I don’t like cutesy relationship type of people, but Ned and Betty are so adorable. It’s great.

I think everyone’s going to be curious about the Elementals. What else can you tell us about filming with the effects going into creating those? What can people know about the Elementals going into the sequel?

They’re all just very big, massive, scary things that can actually kill people. I think what makes this so different from Homecoming and being another standalone version of itself is, in Homecoming, nothing really happened on a world scale. The Vulture was just terrorizing private parts of New York, essentially. But these monsters can destroy countries and states and everything. Look for them to be crazy scary and huge, gigantic Elemental monsters.

What’s the group dynamic like between you and the rest of the classmates both in the movie and on the set? Obviously you know each other better and it’s a much tighter thing.

On set, it doesn’t even feel like work. The first movie, it was pretty fun but we were still getting to know each other. When we weren’t working, we were always hanging out out of work anyway. We spent a large amount of time together – almost a ridiculous amount of time. I felt like I had just gained 4, 5, 6, 7, 8,000 family members. It’s been really fun. There’s never been a rough day at work.

Does Ned get a superhero sidekick nickname? Is that relationship formalized in any way between him and Peter?

(laughs) Definitely not. It’s cool just being the guy in the chair. I think that title itself is an honor. I don’t think Ned is looking for that sort of recognition. I really just think he wants to be a part of Peter’s life.

You were traveling all over Europe to film this one. Where was your favorite place to shoot: Venice, London…?

I definitely think Prague was the best time. It was just a really fun city. Venice was beautiful. London is just like New York. I don’t know, it’s hard to choose. I would say all of it, but definitely Prague was really fun.

Avengers Infinity War VFX Reel

Jacob, I’m curious about you personally, what was your reaction in Infinity War when the lead of your franchise dusted?

I don’t know, I don’t want to seem like I’m heartless. It was crazy, it was sad! (laughs) I felt really emotional. I guess just being on the other side of things, you don’t get as shocked as you think you would. So yeah, but it was a really good scene. In the theater, I was actually laughing, like really loudly, like hysterically laughing. All the people who were crying and upset stared and saw me, and when they started to recognize me, I turned my head away and stared at the wall. That was me watching the movie.

One of the scenes we saw you filming, you were in the Tower of London and something was trying to come through the door and get you, and we watched a bunch of takes and there were tons of alternate lines being thrown out. I’m wondering if that was representative for you of the entire shoot. Did that feel like how you guys shot this movie – was there a lot of room to play around, or was that just an anomaly that we happened to see that day?

No, I feel like the whole process was like that. As you film a scene, you figure out more things to it – more than you would on paper. So it helps a lot to just do it, constantly film and find new things through that. That’s definitely part of the process regularly for us. Yeah.

In terms of the actual making of this movie, Jon Watts previously came off of making indie films, and for this one, he’s now made one of the biggest films of 2017. How was the experience working with Jon on the set different from the first movie?

Jon was sort of in the same boat. Spider-Man was his first huge, big budget thing and before that he had done commercials and independent films. He was on that same wavelength, feeling the pressure and understanding that it takes a lot to make a movie – especially one that seems like a reboot, to make it stand alone from that. I think he’s done a good job from then until now handling the pressure of what the fans want and what we try to portray in our films. I think the difference is in his confidence. He’s definitely more sure of what he wants now.

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Spider-Man: Far From Home opens on July 2, 2019.

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