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The Unexpected Way Yahya Abdul-Mateen II Describes Working On Films Like Aquaman

Yahya Abdul-Mateen II has had an undeniably remarkable career for someone who's only been active in Hollywood since his film debut in 2017's "The Vanishing of Sidney Hall." He's appeared in dramatic films like "The Trial of the Chicago 7," portraying real life figure Bobby Seale. He's also played incarnations of widely recognizable fictional characters, including a younger version of Morpheus in "The Matrix Resurrections" and Dr. Manhattan in HBO's "Watchmen" limited series. For the latter, he won an Emmy for Outstanding Supporting Actor In A Limited Series Or Movie, which is an incredible achievement considering it was his first ever Emmy nomination.

Beyond critically lauded roles, however, Abdul-Mateen also appeared in James Wan's "Aquaman" as the villainous David Kane a.k.a. Black Manta. He's set to reprise this role in the highly anticipated sequel "Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom," which will feature Black Manta as the main villain. It's quite clear that the actor is in high demand for both blockbuster films and more grounded dramatic movies as well. However, when it comes to his approach for movies like "Aquaman," Abdul-Mateen has an unusual descriptor for what it's like to work on them.

Yahya Abdul-Mateen II says films like Aquaman are clown work

During a recent interview with Vulture, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II had quite a bit to say about the process of working on films like "Aquaman" and other less complex films. "Everything should be about getting to the truth," he said. "But sometimes you got to know which movie or genre you're in. Something like 'Aquaman,' that's clown work. 'Aquaman' is not 'The Trial of the Chicago 7.' You have got to get over yourself."

While this may be something of a blunt take for a working actor to have, it's not something that Abdul-Mateen seems to see as a negative. In fact, he elaborated further that being in roles like this also allows him more opportunity to surprise audiences with moments of depth or more complex thematic elements. "In order to survive [as an actor] and to do it well, you have to play that game and then be crafty about when you want to surprise the audience, the director, or yourself with a little bit of 'Wow, I didn't expect to see a Chekhovian thing or August Wilson and Aquaman, but I did.'"

Overall, Abdul-Mateen's perspective here seems like a more nuanced and balanced opinion than fans might be used to, especially in an era where the legitimacy of superhero films as proper cinema is a topic that's often debated by big names in the industry like Martin Scorsese (per The New York Times). Still, it'll be interesting to see how comic book lovers especially respond to Abdul-Mateen's point of view.