'Bumblebee' Star Explains How a Female Lead Makes Transformers Better

Jorge Lendeborg Jr. tells Inverse why we need more nerdy male sidekicks.

Bumblebee isn’t your typical Transformers movie. Gone is the signature Michael Bay bombast (all explosions, no substance). Instead, the new prequel subverts everything we’ve come to expect, including the male lead, instead offering a touching story about a human and their robot friend by putting actress, Hailee Steinfeld, front and center.

Along for the ride is a nerdy male sidekick swept into the ongoing robot war. Sure, John Cena plays the obligatory xenophobic military man, but Jorge Lendeborg Jr. assumes the same kind of role that Megan Fox had in the original Transformers back in 2007 as a sidekick-turned-love interest. This time, however, it’s a nerdy supporting male character crushing on the female protagonist rather than vice versa.

“I love the direction the franchise is taking,” Jorge Lendeborg Jr. tells Inverse. “This gives the opportunity for younger girls to see themselves in a new fashion.”

In Bumblebee, Steinfeld plays a car-obsessed gearhead who struggles to get over the loss of her father and find a place in with her changing family. Then she finds a friend in the nerd next door, Memo.

'Bumblebee' Memo and Charlie
Memo and Charlie in 'Bumblebee'.

“To me, I feel like Memo’s kind of cool,” Lendeborg Jr. says. “He shows a lot of initiative trying to ask out the girl. He’s a dope kid that was totally cool with space robots and still manages to be really kind.”

Memo fills a certain kind of stereotypical male nerd that’s nervous around girls, but he’s also explicitly a good-natured kill trying to do the right thing. In this way, Bumblebee manages to flip the script a second time, offering a more nuanced version of nerdiness than you’d find in a typical blockbuster movie.

“To show the nerd stereotype in a more multi-dimensional way was really interesting,” Lendeborg Jr. said. “The nerd is the guy that has the girl’s back.”

Even though Memo has his sights set on something more romantic with Charlie, Bumblebee doesn’t bother to rush the romance for the sake of just having romance in the movie. Their friendship grows over the span of the film (just a few days), and there’s always the possibility for something more.

But at no point does Charlie ever need Memo’s help, even if she welcomes it. Lendeborg Jr. loves that Bumblebee went in that direction.

“Women are bosses and leaders,” he says, “and they deserve to be shown that way.”

Bumblebee hits theaters on December 21, 2018.

Check out the full Bumblebee trailer right here.

Learn Bumblebee's origin story.
Media via Paramount Pictures