Sink your teeth in SyFy’s deliciously delightful vampire comedy series ‘Reginald the Vampire’ starring Jacob Batalon.
When you think of a vampire character from a movie, almost always, what comes to mind instantly is this image of sparkling figures who burn in the sunlight, who are vain, who have a supermodel physique, who sometimes are as towering and intimidating as Alexander Skarsgard in True Blood, and above all, who are flawlessly and blindingly white. These are just some of the tropes of the overwrought subgenre that SyFy’s latest dramedy, Reginald the Vampire, tries to sink its fangs to.
Starring Filipino-American actor and Spider-Man alum Jacob Batalon, Reginald The Vampire tells the story of Reginald Andres (Batalon) whose monotonous life as a slushie-seller takes a bloody turn as he’s transformed into a vampire by one of his customers. While trying to surmount obstacles like being unable to be with the girl he loves, mercilessly bullied by his manager, and pursued by a vampire chieftain who wants him dead, Reginald also navigates his way as an unlikely hero in an exclusionary society of more typical, beautiful, and slender bloodsuckers.
SUBVERSION OF THE VAMPIRE
Reginald is based on Johnny B. Truant’s Fat Vampire book series, which came out in 2012 and takes a satirical jab at the conventional vampire tropes. “I also hope it will appeal to anyone who’s ever felt like a misfit or an outsider,” shares Truant in an interview. “Several people have said they were afraid I’d mock my overweight main character, but found that he’s the hero and that you inevitably end up cheering for him and laughing with him, not at him.”
An overweight freshly turned vampire, Reginald serves as an antithesis to the tired tradition of a vampire society where beauty is much foregrounded than anything else. “For us, the world that was created by Johnny Truant in the original book really posited this interesting dichotomy between the vampire world, where vampires are really vapid, vain, runway models. They seek a kind of perfect perfection. It’s all about beauty. And that’s where we get into issues of body shaming and body positivity,” explains showrunner Harley Peyton.
While Reginald melds comedy with horror and a little bit of drama, the story also tackles the struggles of the underdogs who are left out because of their looks and stigmatized for the way they deviate from what society expects them to do.
“The heart of our show is very different than a lot of the other vampire shows out there,” says executive producer Lindsay Macadam. “And what really appealed to me was that this is such an underdog story, and there’s a really positive message that’s baked into all the entertainment and comedy. So it’s very aspirational and it’s so much fun. But all those other shows don’t have Jacob and the cast that we have; they just nailed it right off the top.”
Reginald’s struggles also find a parallel in Jacob’s own story. “I’ve been overweight all my life,” he explains in an interview. “I was bullied for looking the way I did, while through the media I was told that I wasn’t attractive or worthy, and that I had to look a certain way to succeed in life. And for a long time that made me feel like I would never win at anything.” With Reginald, the twenty-five-year-old actor hopes that featuring guys who do not fit the Captain America mold as leading men will be normalized.
“What’s relatable about [Reginald] is he’s not trying to be anything or be anyone,” says Jacob. “He’s just genuinely himself in that he may not be the typical hero of the story…he’s very much human in that he’s never realty experienced love. He’s never really experienced what it’s like to have friends, so he’s very much in this gray area of trying to figure life out.”
Jacob was born to Filipino parents and grew up in the outskirts of Honolulu, Hawaii. “It’s a very powerful message to see someone like me, an Asian American–specifically a Filipino-American–be a lead of a series,” says Jacob who not only stars in the series, but is also the show’s executive producer. Jacob is also widely known for his role as the dorky and adorable BFF of Tom Holland’s Peter Parker in the Spider-Man franchise.
“I find that a lot of Asian actors, especially someone who looks like me, are overlooked. But there are more stories to tell than buffed-up Hollywood dreams,” he shares. But now, as a leading man in his own series, and as the star of three of the top ten highest-grossing movies of all time, Jacob has surely paved the way for more people in the minority to continuously aspire and be proud of their individuality.
“I’m so lucky to be part of this narrative which really pushes the idea that you don’t have to look a certain way, and follow a societal stereotype, to be the hero. Everyone can be the hero of their story. So it’s a very big deal,” Jacob rightfully says.
Reginald the Vampire debuts at 10 PM ET on Wednesday (Oct. 5) on SyFy.
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