Spider-Man’s Jacob Batalon Reveals When He Realized The Impact Ned Has On The Asian Community

For the first time in big-screen Spider-Man history, Peter Parker has a true best friend beside him on a trilogy of adventures in Jacob Batalon’s Ned Leeds. The character is the self-proclaimed “guy in the chair” and a true confidant to Spider-Man even before Zendaya's M.J. learns the truth about the web-slinger. As Batalon’s fifth MCU appearance comes to theaters in the form of the highly-anticipated Spider-Man: No Way Home, the actor is reflecting on Ned’s impact on the Asian community. 

Jacob Batalon is Hawaiian-born and the son of Filipino parents, and he caught his big break at the age of 21 with the release of Spider-Man: Homecoming. Along with bringing some hilarious moments to the MCU Spider-Man films, seeing a character like Ned Leeds be best friends and take part in some of the action with Spider-Man has been a major moment of on-screen representation for Filipino boys and men and the larger Asian community. CinemaBlend’s own Law Sharma recently spoke with Jacob Batalon and asked the actor when he realized his impact. He said,

This is really funny because I feel like I didn't really feel [an impact] at first. I think that I only started to feel impactful on the issue on the community after we came out with the movies and doing press and things of that nature. And I think that personally people thought that I was just going to be like another token character in the films and not necessarily have a bigger part. And so at the beginning, I didn't really understand it. And then as soon as people started messaging me about being an inspiration and talking about how they're being seen and represented and heard for the first time, that meant a lot.

Ned Leeds breaks the mold for the Asian community in the Spider-Man movies because he’s truly embraced as a main character in the films. Since Homecoming, Ned has been the right-hand man to Peter Parker as he navigates being a superhero and a high school kid. Jacob Batalon continued, saying

I think since then, I've absolutely understood that there's more to this sort of job than just being an actor. There's a sort of responsibility that you carry because again, you're sort of being the person for everyone who's not seen and heard and understood. And I think that's really important. And I've sort of learned to accept that responsibility in the way that I was kind of just doing my own thing and not really grasping the idea that other people are looking up to me in that sense. So in that way, I feel like I absolutely changed my perspective and it's been great. I'm really proud and happy to be that person for everyone else.

It’s been four years since Jacob Batalon began his run as a Spider-Man star and it sounds like he’s really grown into the role of not only being the globally recognized best friend to Tom Holland’s Spidey, but also being a voice within Hollywood’s growing Asian community. Batalon is unfortunately one of the few Filipino young actors being represented in major studio films, especially films with such a large audience. 

Spider-Man: No Way Home is set to be one of the biggest movies of the year, with projections prognosticating the Marvel film will have massive opening numbers, bolstered by amazing reviews from critics, including CinemaBlend’s own Eric Eisenberg (who gave the film a perfect five out of five in his review). 

At this moment in time, Jacob Batalon feels the weight of being a symbol of the Asian community on the big screen, but while his presence in the MCU is progress, it goes to show that there’s a lot more work to be done in Hollywood to represent different communities through characters in cinema, such as Filipino-Americans like Ned Leeds.

Spider-Man: No Way Home is playing in theaters now. 

Sarah El-Mahmoud
Staff Writer

Sarah El-Mahmoud has been with CinemaBlend since 2018 after graduating from Cal State Fullerton with a degree in Journalism. In college, she was the Managing Editor of the award-winning college paper, The Daily Titan, where she specialized in writing/editing long-form features, profiles and arts & entertainment coverage, including her first run-in with movie reporting, with a phone interview with Guillermo del Toro for Best Picture winner, The Shape of Water. Now she's into covering YA television and movies, and plenty of horror. Word webslinger. All her writing should be read in Sarah Connor’s Terminator 2 voice over.