How Jacob Batalon, Let It Snow Actor and Spidey’s Best Friend, Feels About Always Playing the Best Friend
If you miss John Hughes films or ensemble cast romcoms, Netflix has the perfect Christmas present for you with their new holiday special Let It Snow. Based on a book by John Green, Maureen Johnson, and Lauren Myracle (even the book is an ensemble performance), Let It Snow follows the lives of several young men and women snowed in during the holidays.
The special stars Dora the Explorer’s Isabela Moner, Sabrina’s Kiernan Shipka, Descendants’ Mitchell Hope, Santa Clarita Diet’s Liv Hewson, Into the Spiderverse’s Shameik Moore, Goosebumps’ Odeya Rush, YouTube star Anna Akana, and Spider-Man’s Jacob Batalon.
If many of those shows and actor names aren’t familiar to you, it’s probably because this is an assemblage of some of Gen Z’s top talents and a couple of Millennials. Joan Cusack cameos as a tin-foil covered conspiracy theorist so there’s at least one old person in the film and of course she’s a little cuckoo.
Esquire Philippines caught up with Fil-Am Jacob Batalon who shared some of his thoughts about the film. Batalon plays the easy-going Keon, everyone’s best friend who aspires to be a DJ and plans to throw the dopest party during the holiday break. He works in a diner called Waffle Town, derisively called ‘Affle (Awful) Town by the younger town residents. Often introduced as “Spider-Man’s best friend,” Batalon has a good laugh about the danger of being typecast, saying, “It’s obviously great, I think. I get to work with a lot of talented people. And I don't mind being everyone’s best friend, you know, because ultimately I'm gonna have a better career than everyone!”
“No, but I really enjoy [my co-stars]. I enjoy having good people to work with,” he continues. Asked whom among the cast he enjoyed working with the most, Batalon gives a perfectly safe, everyone’s best friend answer: “I think they were all pretty [cool]. I can't really choose one over another, they're all pretty amazing. I think they were all together just great people.”
The ensemble rom-com is a charming story that features a lot of interactions among the characters, and it seems like the rapport among the cast members was genuine. Batalon relates how he cherished filming with the cast, describing the process as fun and the best time for everyone. "The people I was working with made it really great,” he says.
Is Batalon really everyone’s best friend in real life? Asked how similar he is to his character in the film, he says, “I think we’re different. I think he's a lot more energy than I do. I think he’s a lot more positive, a lot more just outgoing than I am.” He also shares how much the project and not just the character Keon interested him, “I think what attracted me really was the entire script and the people who were in it and is just our sort of collaborative effort on the film.”
Batalon, a John Hughes fan like many of the people behind the show, says, “I don't think we're trying to be like any of [the old John Hughes films]. I think we're just trying to pay homage, really. We were told it was sort of like a mix of Breakfast Club and Love Actually and so it’s a really nice compliment to have.”
The Fil-Am actor grew up in Hawaii, so filming in the cold weather of Ontario was a change of scenery for him. “I would definitely [prefer to] be where the sun is. Snow is very, very hard to deal with all the time. It was still pretty frozen up there.” Set in the fictional town of Laurel, Illinois, Let It Snow was actually filmed in several locations in Ontario, Canada.
With several stories unfolding, we asked Batalon whose arc in the film was his favorite. He ponders for a little, then says, “probably Liv and Anna's characters. They had a very open experience in terms of just human interaction and just growing up, so watching them coming together was very nice.”
Liv Hewson and Anna Akana play the waitress Dorrie and cheerleader Kerry, respectively, and their relationship is actually one of the most delightful parts of the movie. Let It Snow showcases some genuine struggles and experiences that LGBTQ youth go through, and the very important representation in the film is a terrific addition to an altogether feel-good story. In fact, Dorrie and Kerry’s relationship isn’t in the book, and is one of the biggest and most important changes made by the Netflix adaptation.
This high school ensemble rom-com follows the tradition of holiday rom-coms like Love, Actually, Valentine’s Day, and New Year’s Day with three intertwined love stories. Aside from Dorrie and Kerry, there’s Shipka and Hope as Angie (aka The Duke) and Tobin who are childhood best friends.
Tobin is head over heels for the one-of-the-boys Angie but he isn’t sure if she feels the same way. Things get complicated when all-around nice guy JP (Matthew Noszka) enters the picture as a potential love interest for Angie. There’s also Moner and Moore as the aloof Julie and reluctant pop star Stuart, whose chance encounter on a snowed-in train leads them to go on an adventure together. The Cinderella story between the small town Julie and the transient pop star seeking to experience normal life rounds out the three main love stories in the film.
Netflix’s Let It Snow is a lighthearted holiday present everyone can enjoy. It also has a terrific soundtrack, including an original track sung by actual crooner Shameik Moore and a cover of the Waterboys’ "Whole of the Moon" by Shipka and Hope. It is short film and music video director Luke Snellin’s first feature-length film and he does a commendable job bringing all the stories from a book with three authors together. Christmas carols in September may feel like it’s a little too early to celebrate, but Let It Snow is just in time to usher in the holiday feels.
'Let It Snow' is now streaming on Netflix.