Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

Why Morpheus From The Matrix Resurrections Looks So Familiar

One of the most prominent themes of the marketing campaign for the upcoming "The Matrix Resurrections" is that of déjà vu. If you've seen the first "Matrix" movie, you might remember that the sensation of déjà vu happens due to a glitch in the Matrix, usually when our machine overlords change something within it. But in the real world, you might have experienced a touch of déjà vu seeing trailers and other ads for "Resurrections," thanks to the actor who seems to be playing a young Morpheus, played by Laurence Fishburne in the original three films.

Don't worry, that feeling of déjà vu doesn't mean there's a glitch in our own Matrix. It just means that you've probably seen that actor, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, in a few things before now. Here's a rundown of some of his highest-profile roles thus far, which include a few iconic characters from the worlds of science fiction, horror, and superheroes. 

Abdul-Mateen played Aquaman's fierce foe

One of Abdul-Mateen's first big roles in Hollywood feature films came in 2018's "Aquaman," where he played pirate and mercenary David Kane, alias Black Manta. The movie has an overstuffed cast of young and old stars, from Jason Momoa and Amber Heard to Dolph Lundgren and Nicole Kidman, but Abdul-Mateen manages to make a big impression anyway as the technically brilliant nemesis to the King of Atlantis.

If you enjoyed seeing Abdul-Mateen in "Aquaman," you'll be pleased to know that he is reprising the character in the upcoming "Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom," scheduled for release in December of 2022. And according to a 2019 Entertainment Weekly interview with the actor, the character will be developed further in the sequel:

"Black Manta will be back — I feel confident in saying that. I'm excited to step into that world again and cause some more trouble. I really want to add more personality and more character to David Kane and flesh him out in 'Aquaman 2' and give him more of a journey."

He made an impression on The Get Down and Black Mirror

Abdul-Mateen is a bona fide movie star now, but he made a name for himself on two television series. In 2016 and 2017, he was part of the main cast of Baz Lurhmann's "The Get Down," a '70s-set music drama on Netflix. He played the part of Clarence "Cadillac" Caldwell in all 11 episodes of the show. In 2019, he had an even higher profile role on the science-fiction/horror anthology series "Black Mirror," specifically the episode "Striking Vipers." Abdul-Mateen stars as Karl, who finds his relationship with college friend Danny (Anthony Mackie) change in the realm of virtual reality. Even if you didn't see the show, it's possible you've heard about Abdul-Mateen's episode, and in a 2019 Essence interview, he said he knew the "Black Mirror" episode could serve as a "conversation piece" for viewers. The actor went on:

"This one definitely did speak to technology as escapism. And to say, 'Well, what can happen when we escape into an alternate universe? Are the rules still the same? Also, what are the rules about how we express our needs and our desires?' In terms of sexuality, in terms of relationships, in terms of friendships, in terms of connection, I think this episode was investigating what the rules are and how we go about defining those rules."

He breathed life into another comic book icon

Black Manta was Abdul-Mateen's first time playing a famous comic book character, but the following year he would step into the blue body of a much more important figure in the history of superhero comics: Doctor Manhattan of "Watchmen." In the first several episodes of the HBO sequel series to Alan Moore's seminal graphic novel, Abdul-Mateen appeared to be playing Cal Abar, good-natured husband to Regina King's Angela Abar, albeit with a strange way of talking about life and death. But eventually, Abar is revealed to be an amnesiac Doc Manhattan in another form, and Abdul-Mateen does an excellent job capturing the character's not-quite-human speech patterns and mannerisms. In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Abdul-Mateen revealed that not even he knew that he was going to end up portraying such an iconic role:

"I went into it not knowing I was playing Dr. Manhattan. I went into it knowing I was playing Cal. [HBO "Watchmen" creator Damon Lindelof] did say it would be a good role and worthwhile, so I thought maybe Cal would go on some type of adventure, but I never imagined it turning into something like this. Somewhere between the second and third episodes, I had another conversation with him where he wanted to talk to me more about Cal's journey and I came to his office and sat down on the couch. I think his words were, 'Cal is Dr. Manhattan.'"

Abdul-Mateen had an encounter with the "Candyman"

2021 saw the release of "Candyman," a sequel/reboot to the famous horror franchise first created by Clive Barker in his short story "The Forbidden." It was produced by Jordan Peele, whom Abdul-Mateen had previously worked with for the horror film "Us". Abdul-Mateen plays artist Anthony McCoy, who learns of and becomes fixated upon the legend of the Candyman. As the film proceeds, McCoy becomes more and more entranced and even obsessed with the legendary apparition and eventually is drawn into a plot to actually transform him into a modern-day Candyman himself. So yet again, Abdul-Mateen found himself stepping into an iconic genre character. Here's what he had to say about it in a Fangoria interview to promote the movie:

"This was something that just fit. It was a good fit, an opportunity to go do some good acting and to have some fun and to be a part of that 'Candyman' folklore. It was sort of a no-brainer and a really good opportunity."

He played real-life political activist Bobby Seale

It's not all supervillains, monsters, and cosmic beings in Abdul-Mateen's filmography. In 2020, he portrayed real-life political activist Bobby Seale in Aaron Sorkin's "The Trial of the Chicago 7." Here Abdul-Mateen is sharing the screen with a true ensemble cast, including Eddie Redmayne, Jeremy Strong, Sacha Baron Cohen, John Carroll Lynch, Mark Rylance, Frank Langella, and Michael Keaton, and he once again makes an impression in a key role.

In another Entertainment Weekly interview, this one from 2020, Abdul-Mateen spoke on his painstaking process to do the real Bobby Seale justice:

"Bobby talks about this in an interview where talks about being in the hole. He talks about how the things your oppressor will do to you are the things that he's afraid of being done to himself. So the way to overcome that is to not show fear, so that when he does the worst — the things that he will consider the worst things to you — and when it doesn't affect you, then you become his fear. And he becomes afraid of you, and you become stronger than him."

"That was really my mentality: that I am stronger than this moment," Abdul-Mateen continued. "Bobby wasn't defeated by that moment. I believe that he challenged them to give him their worst, and they did. And it didn't defeat him. I wanted to go into that scene and come out of that scene a winner. Then I also knew that there's a responsibility to tell those stories."