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Aquaman 2’s Yahya Abdul-Mateen II Calls His DC Role 'Clown Work' Before Explaining How It Fits Into His Career

Yahya Abdul Mateen II as Black Manta in Aquaman
(Image credit: Warner Bros)

In 2018’s Aquaman, Yahya Abdul Mateen II delivered us with one of the most memorable DCEU villains with his portrayal of Black Manta, and in the upcoming DC movie, Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom, he’ll return in the role. Since many of us were introduced to the talented actor through him entering into the superhero world, he has starred in all kinds of films and TV shows, like Watchmen, Candyman, The Trial of the Chicago 7 and The Matrix Resurrections. The actor has recently referred to his DC role as "clown work" while explaining how it fits into his blossoming career.

Yahya Abdul-Mateen II’s most recent role has the actor venturing to Broadway for 16 weeks this fall in the play Topdog/Underdog alongside Corey Hawkins. While contrasting his recent experience with starring in Aquaman movies, he had this to say: 

Everything should be about getting to the truth. 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 gotta get over yourself. 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.'

During the actor’s interview with Vulture, Yahya Abdul-Mateen shared that each project he stars in is different because he has to remain aware of the genre he’s embodying each time. When it comes to the DCEU, he said he had to “get over” himself and surprise the audience and his peers in the best way he can. 

The actor certainly did just that with his role as Black Manta. The villain could have easily been laughable, especially with his not-necessarily menacing costume, but when Yahya Abdul-Mateen II took on the role, he really deepened the role of David Kane, who becomes vengeful of Aquaman after his father dies. There’s a grounded-ness about Black Manta that Abdul-Mateen captured, likely because of this approach he brings to sets. 

While the return of Black Manta was previously set to hit theaters in spring 2023, Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom was recently delayed down to December 2023, making the wait for the sequel over a year away now. The move comes as Warner Bros. deals with numerous behind the scenes shakeups following its recent merger with Discovery and the CEO shift. 

The Aquaman sequel finished filming back in January, and along the way, the actor has been sharing his Black Manta body transformation as the ruthless pirate and his Atlantean-powered suit gets ready to face off against Jason Momoa’s superhero character. And as Momoa recently revealed, Batman and Aquaman may reunite in the sequel as well. 

Yahya Abdul-Mateen II’s Broadway runs begins on September 27, and the next DC movie hitting theaters Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson's Black Adam, which arrives on October 21.

Sarah El-Mahmoud
Staff Writer

YA genre tribute. Horror May Queen. Word webslinger. All her writing should be read in Sarah Connor’s Terminator 2 voice over.