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Yahya Abdul-Mateen II: You Have to ‘Get Over Yourself’ to Star in ‘Clown Work’ Like ‘Aquaman’

The "Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom" actor balances superhero movies by adding in a "Chekhovian thing or August Wilson" project.

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - APRIL 04: Yahya Abdul-Mateen II attends the Los Angeles premiere of "Ambulance" at the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures on April 04, 2022 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by David Livingston/FilmMagic)

Yahya Abdul-Mateen II


Yahya Abdul-Mateen II is resurrecting the superhero movie debate.

The “Matrix Resurrections” actor and “Aquaman” star told Vulture that he balances being in a DC film by working with filmmakers like Aaron Sorkin for Oscar-nominated “The Trial of the Chicago 7” and acting on Broadway in an upcoming rendition of “Topdog/Underdog.”

“Everything should be about getting to the truth. But sometimes you got to know which movie or genre you’re in,” Abdul-Mateen explained. “Something like ‘Aquaman,’ that’s clown work. ‘Aquaman’ is not ‘The Trial of the Chicago 7.’ You have got to get over yourself.”

Abdul-Mateen, who plays Manta in the upcoming “Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom,” continued, “In order to survive 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.'”

The “Candyman” alum also exited George Miller’s “Mad Max: Fury Road” prequel, “Furiosa,” in late 2021. He was replaced by Tom Burke.

“I had other opportunities to work, but it didn’t feel like a whole lot of hot scripts were out,” the “Watchmen” actor explained. “I got the indication that I’m going to have to wait and trust that the right thing will show up.”

Abdul-Mateen also starred in Michael Bay’s “Ambulance,” out earlier this year. While the actor knew it would be a “short and fast shoot” to work on the relatively “small” $40 million Bay film opposite Jake Gyllenhaal, Abdul-Mateen noted that he was filming “The Matrix Resurrections” when he signed on to “Ambulance” for a back-to-back production.

“[Director Bay] said it’s not about action; it’s about tension,” Abdul-Mateen recalled as to why he joined the film. “And I knew that he would dress the world outside of the ambulance, but I was really interested in what was going on inside of the ambulance, and that’s where we see a lot of the tension play out.”

Meanwhile, director Bay admitted he was unfamiliar with Abdul-Mateen’s work prior to Universal Pictures president Peter Cramer suggesting the “Black Mirror” alum star in the film.

Bay went back and watched Abdul-Mateen II’s films and came to the same conclusion as Universal: “That guy is going to be a movie star. I want to work with him.”

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