The power of positive thinking is working out for Jorge Lendeborg Jr.
“I willed them into existence,” says the Afro-Latinx actor, showing off a gifted pair of Fear of God sneakers from inside a corner suite at the Mandarin Oriental in Manhattan.
The exuberant young sneakerhead is all smiles — and all about making those around him smile, cracking jokes with his team throughout the press tour his latest roles have required. And while many actors approach press as a necessary part of the job, the 22-year-old seems to genuinely enjoy the process. (The pile of Nikes that showed up in his hotel room probably don’t hurt matters.)
Lendeborg has amassed an impressive list of roles since making his feature debut at Sundance in 2016 in the indie film “The Land.” From there he starred in “Brigsby Bear” and “Love, Simon” before sizing up considerably to roles in “Spider-Man: Homecoming,” the romantic lead opposite Hailee Steinfeld in “Bumblebee,” and now, “Alita: Battle Angel.”
“I learned so much in that movie,” he says of the animé-based Robert Rodriguez megafilm. “I worked with Christoph Waltz, and Mahershala Ali was there. I literally met him the day after I saw ‘Moonlight.’ Jennifer Connelly’s in it. I’m there. I’m next to a bunch of heavy hitters.”
After the slate of large projects, Lendeborg was looking to prove himself in a more nuanced character-driven role. He hit those points with his next film, “Critical Thinking,” John Leguizamo’s forthcoming directorial debut. The movie is based on a true story about an inner-city high school chess team in South Miami who won the national chess tournament in 1998. Although originally in the running to play the main high school character, Lendeborg was interested in a supporting character who was Dominican and, as he describes, a little more complicated.
“It covers the identity of a person of color and their experience in America, specifically in school growing up. I remember vividly not having anybody who looked like me in the textbooks,” he says of the film. “Working with John really made me feel like not only should I sit at the table, but I helped build this table. I am in the fabric of America, so I have as much a right to everything here, no matter how much they don’t want to remind us or tell us that we too can accomplish those things,” he adds. “What I liked about it, too, was it was more than just hoop dreams. It was chess. It shows us in a very natural way, which I feel like John is good at, but towards a different goal.”
After that, the actor will appear in another major studio franchise, a part for which he even got to wear his own shoes. (“Pumas, the original silhouette,” he says.) He might also end up back at a film festival, with a project of his own; he recently directed a short movie and is hoping to make his own feature down the line.
“It’s a business, so you gotta be more of a viable option before you’re even considered,” he says of where his path might lead. “I’m looking to see what this exposure might bring. There are great movies out there, great scripts that I read. Hopefully, I can just book them.”
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