Aquaman 2’s Yahya Abdul-Mateen II Responds After His ‘Clown Work’ Comments Went Viral

Yahya Abdul-Mateen II in Aquaman
(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

It’s no secret that comic book movies are everywhere, with various studios creating their own cinematic universe which competes for box office supremacy. Getting a gig in one of these projects as a hero or villain is a dream gig for many, and Emmy winner Yahya Abdul-Mateen II has an ongoing role as Black Mantis in the DCEU (although some fans want to see him in the MCU). And the Aquaman star recently responded after his “clown work” comments went viral.

Emmy winner Yahya Abdul-Mateen II will return to the DCEU in Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom, presumably serving as the primary antagonist. He recently went viral for referring to his work in James Wan’s franchise as “clown work”, while comparing his work on Netflix’s The Trial of the Chicago 7. And after that circulated around social media, he took to Twitter to offer a response, posting:

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Talk about having a sense of humor about yourself. While Yahya Abdul-Matteen II could have defended his comments or attempted to clarify what he meant, instead he poked fun at the situation. Posting a photo of himself with a clown nose on the set of The Trial of the Chicago 7, Mateen also plugged the new release date for Aquaman 2. So clearly he’s got love for both projects.

Yahya Abdul-Mateen II’s tweet comes as countless folks on social media have shared his comments about Aquaman being “clown work.” While the term might have offended hardcore comic book fans out there, that doesn’t mean he isn’t happy about his ongoing role as Black Mantis. Acting opposite tennis balls doing action sequences without visual effects likely does feel clown-ish at times for the actor, who also recently joined the Matrix franchise as Morpheus.

For those who don’t remember, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II’s now infamous comments about working on the Aquaman franchise come from a chat with Vulture about his flourishing career. Outside of playing Black Mantis, Mateen actually worked within the genre as Dr. Manhattan in HBO’s Watchmen show, winning an Emmy in the process. When discussing his job as an actor, he said:

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.'

These comments quickly circulated around online, piquing the interest of comic book fans who are patiently awaiting the release of James Wan’s Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom. While the term “clown work” might be a controversial one, his comments about finding something real to cling to within the genre make a great deal of sense. His performance in the first Aquaman movie felt authentic and emotional, despite also dealing with Atlantis and a helmet that shoots laser beams.

Fans will be able to see Yahya Abdul-Mateen II’s performance as Black Mantis in Aquaman 2 on its new release date December 25th, 2023. In the meantime, check out the 2022 movie release dates to plan your next movie experience. 

Corey Chichizola
Movies Editor

Corey was born and raised in New Jersey. Double majored in theater and literature during undergrad. After working in administrative theater for a year in New York, he started as the Weekend Editor at CinemaBlend. He's since been able to work himself up to reviews, phoners, and press junkets-- and is now able to appear on camera with some of his favorite actors... just not as he would have predicted as a kid.