Why Watchmen's Yahya Abdul-Mateen II Tried To Keep Things 'Simple' When Playing Dr. Manhattan

Dr. Manhattan Watchmen HBO

HBO's Watchmen has quickly become one of the network's most buzzed-about shows, perhaps more now than when it was even on television. Now that the grace period for spoilers has long passed, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II is talking about his surprise role as Dr. Manhattan and the challenges of playing the most powerful being in the franchise's universe.

Abdul-Maheen spoke to Deadline about the role and, as one might imagine, playing a god has its challenges. The actor talked about how he made the transition from Cal to Dr. Manhattan and how he juggled playing a character that could be in many places at once, experience all moments of his life simultaneously, and also be two completely different people:

Well, I had to try to make it simple. There was no way that I could play all of these things at one time. I think a good actor would try to play two things at one time; sometimes, it’s hard enough to do one thing. But I wanted to make sure that he had humanity. He is a god, but at the same time, I said, ‘Well, he’s a god who left earth, because it was too much for him to bear. Why would a god come back?’ The answer to that was because he wanted to be in touch with humanity.

In regards to the performance as Dr. Manhattan specifically, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II said his primary objective was to be as present as possible with his character in scenes. This required some faith in Damon Lindelof, and that the story would translate in kind and show that Dr. Manhattan's unique existence would shine through in the story and plot. Anyone who watched Watchmen likely knows that was a task easier said than done, as Dr. Manhattan frequently alluded to events that had not happened yet.

This, as one would expect, made interactions between him and his wife, Angela Abar, a bit atypical compared to the average couple. Yahya Abdul-Mateen II touched on that in describing his method of playing Dr. Manhattan and described the complexity that is created in playing a god who wishes to be human:

So, I made it my mission to make him a godlike figure, but to have him be someone who was also accessible, and who also had a desire to be human. I tried to imbue him with patience, and understanding, and a lot of love, but then also make him a bit distant, as well. Because if you’re a god, there’s some things he just couldn’t afford to relate to.

Yahya Abdul-Mateen II seems to have a firm grasp on what it meant to play Dr. Manhattan, so it's not surprising his performance of the character was so well received. Unfortunately, it was also short-lived, and now there's a question of whether or not Watchmen Season 2 will happen and show what's in store for the next chapter of Dr. Manhattan and the other characters.

Watchmen is currently available to stream on HBO Max. Continue to stick with CinemaBlend for all the latest news happening in the world of television and movies.

Mick Joest
Content Producer

Mick contains multitudes and balances his time reporting on big happenings in the world of Star Trek, the WWE, reality television, and other sci-fi shows.