Five years after his notable portrayal as Peter Parker's best friend Ned Leeds in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, 25-year-old Filipino-American actor Jacob Batalon is all set to break stereotypes as he transforms into a blood-sucking creature in the new Syfy horror-comedy series “Reginald the Vampire.” Batalon plays the titular role of Reginald Baskin.
“I think the most exciting thing for me is that it’s definitely a different take on a very stereotypical trope in that vampire things are usually broody, emotional, dark, and deep,” Batalon told Cinema Blend.
The series was created by Harley Peyton based on Johnny B. Truant's “Fat Vampire” books. It follows the story of Reginald, an atypical hero who navigates life’s challenges while discovering his unknown powers in the world of the undead. Batalon believes the show’s comedic take on vampires is what makes it compelling. It also promotes body positivity, veering away from the usual depiction of the vampire creature as built with a supermodel body.
“Reginald is a person who can be overlooked as just another person, and people don’t really care to look behind the curtain,” Batalon told Entertainment Weekly, describing his character. “The fact that he has been judged by people and has gone through all these negative things in his life puts him in a place where he has accepted his fate.”
Reginald, in other words, is so unlike the actor who portrays him. Batalon is the type who doesn’t leave anything to fate. To pursue his Hollywood dreams, he knew he needed to be armed, and so he enrolled in a two-year acting course at the New York Conservatory for Dramatic Arts. During his stay there, his manager put him up for a self-tape for a Marvel project. This eventually led him to land the role of Peter Parker's best friend and act alongside young British actor Tom Holland.
"I was very nervous and afraid and I was definitely not, like, confident in myself. But you know, that grew over time with the more work I've done, and the people that I've worked with, and I was fortunate to really be progressing to the actor that I am now and I'm given opportunities that I feel like I wouldn't have been able to handle before,” the actor told ABS-CBN in January.
Batalon was born and raised in Hawaii to Filipino parents. Despite his family’s initial hesitation about the career path he’s taking, he said they never fail to support him every step of the way. Coming from an Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community, Batalon said his role in the Reginald series can serve as an inspiration to others like him. “It's a very powerful message to see someone like me, an Asian-American – specifically a Filipino-American – be a lead of a series," he said to Entertainment Weekly.
Batalon has noticeably lost a big amount of weight (110 lbs) which he attributes to cutting down on junk foods, eating smaller meals high on lean protein and vegetables, and working out six days a week. As someone who considered food as a remedy for stress, he said physical activities have become a form of therapy for him.
In his interview with Cinema Blend, the actor talked about being vegan and that he has a special liking for the vegan cooking of Filipina Chef Reina Montenegro who’s based in San Francisco and makes vegan versions of Filipino food like kare-kare, sisig, adobo, caldereta among others. He says he lost weight for his own health. When he got the role of Reginald the Vampire, he even had to gain some of the weight back but then returned to his diet after wrapping up work on the series.
Aside from being the main character of the “Reginald The Vampire” series, Batalon also serves as the show’s executive producer and helped with its casting. Reginald the Vampire premieres October 5 on Syfy.