Yahya Abdul-Mateen II has had a solid run in Hollywood recently. He played a superhero in Watchmen. He nabbed a high-profile role in DC’s Aquaman. He played real-life activist Bobby Seale in Netflix’s The Trial of The Chicago 7. As he is becoming more and more of a household name, he recently spoke out about Black actors in Hollywood and his feeling that there is the space for more Black personalities outside of the likes of Denzel Washington to be notable talents in the industry.
Yahya Abdul-Mateen II worked with Aaron Sorkin recently on The Trial of The Chicago 7 and for a cover story for W magazine, Sorkin gave the actor a nice compliment, saying Abdul-Mateen’s part of a wave of “talent” out there, but also making it clear “Yahya is particularly gifted.” Speaking to the magazine, Abdul-Mateen noted the compliment but wanted to make it clear there’s room for a lot of diverse talent out there to thrive.
First it was Sidney Poitier, and now it’s Denzel Washington. But the world is bigger than that. My mountain looks very different than yours or anyone else’s. When you put us all on the same path, it means that Black artists are competing against one another. That’s monolithic thinking and not good for either artistry or business. And besides, Denzel is still here! No one can do Denzel better than Denzel!
These days big name Black actors in Hollywood are becoming more and more common. Of course, there are still old school a-listers like Denzel Washington, Morgan Freeman or Samuel L. Jackson, but the newer round of Hollywood names features the likes of Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Michael B. Jordan, John David Washington and even newer newcomers like Jonathan Majors. The W cover story in question also mentions Kelvin Harrison Jr., LaKeith Stanfield, Jovan Adepo, and Aldis Hodge to name a few more rising stars in the industry.
But to Yahya Abdul-Mateen II’s point, there was a period of time in the early 2000s in which Denzel Washington was everywhere and probably the go-to name for Black actors in the industry. He's still the go-to name. Prior to that there was a time when Sidney Poitier was the name when it came to Black A-listers in Hollywood. Particularly in 2020 this attitude has been changing and a lot of young, Black actors are at the forefront of that change. For a more specific example, Michael B. Jordan's work with inclusion riders in the industry has been a notable way to get diverse talent into the field.
Yahya Abdul-Mateen II also has a bright future on the big screen. He's been doing interviews recently for The Trial of the Chicago 7 on Netflix, but he also had been filming The Matrix 4 in Germany until that blockbuster recently wrapped. And he's part of Nia DaCosta's Candyman movie coming up as well. That's not even getting into the projects of his that haven't gotten off the ground yet, like the next George Miller project and Aquaman 2, which is still expected to move forward. We'll keep you updated as he keeps doing his thing. In the meantime, I guess he's not looking to be Denzel as much as he's looking to be on as many movie posters as Denzel.