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It is hard to believe that Yahya Abdul-Mateen II has only been acting professionally since 2016 - after losing his city planner job six years earlier. The 35-year-old New Orleans, Louisiana, native has already accomplished challenges that many actors take a lifetime to achieve.
He has tried his hand at musicals (Netflix’s The Get Down and 2017’s The Greatest Showman), horror movies and horror TV shows (Jordan Peele’s Us, the lead role in the new Candyman cast, and an acclaimed Black Mirror episode), and has already played two different DC Comics characters, one of which earned him an Emmy Award (Dr. Manhattan on HBO’s Watchmen). He will also be reprising his Aquaman character in an upcoming sequel, which is just one of the many exciting movies he has on the horizon, such as The Matrix Resurrections, in which he will take over yet another iconic role.
The Matrix Resurrections (December 22, 2021)
I previously mentioned that Yahya Abdul-Mateen II starred in one of the best Black Mirror episodes in the introductory paragraph. The Season 5 tale from the technophobic Netflix exclusive anthology series was called “Striking Vipers,” and starred Abdul-Mateen II and fellow superhero movies star Anthony Mackie as straight friends who indulge in a bizarre and unexpected romance through their avatars in an extremely life-like virtual reality game. I wonder if walking in the shoes of someone who knows what it is like to get caught up in a vivid, digital simulation proved to be very useful when preparing for one of the most anticipated 2021 movies on record.
When Yahya Abdul-Mateen II joined the Matrix 4 cast (as the film was still known as at the time), fans speculated that he would be playing a younger version of Laurence Fishburne’s wise, rebellious leader, Morpheus. The first official trailer for The Matrix Resurrections, the fourth installment of the groundbreaking sci-fi movie franchise, confirmed that theory in September 2021. Despite Fishburne apparently not getting “invited” back, franchise veterans Keanu Reeves and Carrie-Anne Moss are reprising their roles as Neo and Trinity in the film (expected to come out in theaters and on HBO Max in winter 2021), along with director Lana Wachowski, who originally created the iconic series with her sister, Lilly Wachowski, in 1999.
Ambulance (February 18, 2022)
Another one of the most prolific filmmakers to come out of the 1990s who also specializes in action movies is Michael Bay. With the exception of the 2013 true crime comedy Pain and Gain and his retelling of an infamous attack on a Libyan CIA base in 2016’s 13 Hours, it seemed as if the Transformers movies had consumed his career, until he and star Ryan Reynolds released 6 Underground on Netflix in 2019. Well, the man behind the original Bad Boys and 1996’s The Rock is returning to his roots (post music videos, that is) with a new thriller without any shapeshifting robots (that we know of, so far, at least).
Yahya Abdul-Mateen II and Jake Gyllenhaal lead the cast of Ambulance as a pair of armed thieves who hijack the titular emergency medical vehicle in a desperate attempt for a clean getaway, after a bank heist does not go as planned. This remake of a Danish thriller from 2005 is currently set for a February 2022 release, and also stars Baby Driver and Godzilla vs. Kong actress Eiza Gonzalez, and Garrett Dillahunt, whose most recent action movie experience was the Netflix original hit Army of the Dead - another heist flick, but with a zombie twist, from director Zack Snyder.
Oddly enough, Ambulance marks the second time Gyllenhaal has starred in a movie based on a Danish thriller after Antoine Fuqua’s The Guilty, and the latest of several times Abdul-Mateen II has played a “bad guy” - most notably in the hit predecessor to his next big screen comic book adaptation.
Aquaman And The Lost Kingdom (December 16, 2022)
Here is another fun fact for you: superhero star Jason Momoa was once one of the main cast members of the hit lifeguard drama Baywatch, the star-studded big screen reboot of which was one of the first movies starring Yahya Abdul-Mateen II in 2017.
Just a year later, the actors would both return to an entirely different area of the water as co-stars in Aquaman - the story of Arthur Curry (Momoa) discovering and accepting his destiny as the rightful ruler and protector of the underwater city of Atlantis - which many comic book fans consider to be one of the best superhero movies in the DC Extended Universe so far. I would consider one of the most essential reasons for its modest critical and astonishing commercial success to be Abdul-Mateen II’s performance as vengeful mercenary David Kane, otherwise known as Black Manta.
Luckily, the 2018 blockbuster was the not the last we will see of the DC villain on the big screen, as Yahya Abdul-Mateen II is reprising the role in the upcoming follow-up, along with Jason Momoa in the title role, Amber Heard as Mera, Patrick Wilson as Ocean Master, Dolph Lundgren as King Nereus, and Temuera Morrison as Tom Curry.
James Wan, additionally known for helming Furious 7 and horror movies like 2021’s Malignant, is also returning to the director’s chair for Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom, which is currently marked down on the 2022 movies schedule for a theatrical release that December. The plot of the sequel is being kept under wraps at the moment, but, apparently, Abdul-Mateen II already likes it better than the original just by going off of the script alone.
Furiosa (May 24, 2024)
In addition to the aforementioned sequels the actor is lending his talents to, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II also has a prequel in his future. Said film will serve as an origin story for one of the most badass female action movie characters in recent memory (or of all time, I would say), Imperator Furiosa. The rebellious, one-armed road warrior was played by one of the most badass female action movie stars of all time, Academy Award winner Charlize Theron, opposite Tom Hardy as the less-talkative title character of the thrilling, Oscar-winning masterpiece Mad Max: Fury Road, which itself was soft reboot of the influential, post-apocalyptic action franchise pioneered by George Miller.
For his first feature since the 2015 hit, the Australian physician turned visionary filmmaker is returning to dive deeper into the stories surrounding the mysterious character, who will be portrayed as a younger character this time by Anya Taylor-Joy.
George Miller was inspired to cast the British, Golden Globe-winning The Queen’s Gambit star as the lead of this spin-off (which is set for a release in the late spring of 2024) after seeing her performance in Last Night in Soho - an upcoming time-hopping thriller from writer and director Edgar Wright. Fellow Australian native and Marvel movies star Chris Hemsworth will also star in the Furiosa prequel along with Yahya Abdul-Mateen II - both of whom have been cast in currently undisclosed roles.
Emergency Contact (TBA)
Someone who has yet to join Yahya Abdul-Mateen II on the list of DC movies alumni (but is getting very close to it) is his Baywatch co-star Dwayne Johnson, who has been attached to lead the Black Adam cast as the anti-heroic title character since 2014. That being said, it is very possible that the actor and the former professional WWE wrestler could cross paths in a future DCEU installment as the respective characters, Black Manta and Black Adam, at some point in the future. However, we may also see another collaboration between Abdul-Mateen II and The Rock that is currently in the works before that happens.
It was announced in June 2021 that Yahya Abdul-Mateen II and Dwayne Johnson will both serve as executive producers on the film Emergency Contact, which has been described as a fast-paced, action-packed drama which uses Austin, Texas’ underground music scene as an unlikely backdrop.
The film, which still has yet to lock someone into the directorial position, comes from the minds of Rory Haines and Sohrab Noshirvani, the screenwriting duo behind Black Adam who are also known for penning the acclaimed drama The Mauritanian, which came out earlier in 2021 and earned Jodie Foster a Best Supporting Actress Golden Globe win. So far, Abdul-Mateen II is also the only actor who has been cast in the project, which is currently in pre-production and still has yet to determine a release date.
At the moment, it seems that all of the upcoming movies starring Yahya Abdul-Mateen II have one thing in common: they are all action movies. I am certainly not complaining about this revelation, considering how the actor has already proven a number of times that he is a great fit for the genre.
But, it also makes me wonder about the next time we might see him show up in another horror movie like Candyman, or another powerful historical drama like Netflix’s The Trial of the Chicago 7 (in which he plays Bobby Seale), or what his next award-winning small screen role could be after wowing us on The Get Down, Watchmen, and an episode of The Handmaid’s Tale. For the time being, though, which confirmed project are you most excited to see the star appear in?
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Jason has been writing since he was able to pick up a washable marker, with which he wrote his debut illustrated children's story, later transitioning to a short-lived comic book series and (very) amateur filmmaking before finally settling on pursuing a career in writing about movies in lieu of making them. Look for his name in almost any article about Batman.