HBO's Watchmen had a lot of hype leading into its premiere, and that excitement only built as the season went on. The series was lauded for telling a fresh tale in the acclaimed story's universe, as well as for bringing some added context and relevance to the previously established lore. Audiences got to see a culturally relevant and revitalized franchise, as well as actor Yahya Abdul-Mateen II naked and blue as Dr. Manhattan.
A year after the series originally aired, Abdul-Mateen II spoke to W Magazine about the series, as well as what it was like heading to set completely nude and painted to play one of the world's most powerful heroes. It's an experience that can either be really great or really bad depending on the person, and it seems like the actor was the former when filming:
It turns out that being naked on set is liberating! I needed to get some pump to my muscles. Acting without clothes is a little like acting when you’re exhausted. When I’m tired, I do my best work. When you’re naked and painted blue, you don’t have the energy to care about other things. I studied the character beforehand, I did a few push-ups, and then I took off the robe. Being naked and having the audacity to be Doctor Manhattan, who runs the galaxy, was very freeing. And that surprised me, because I’m usually very reserved. I don’t mind awkward silences.
Being nude in front of a bunch of people can be uncomfortable but, for Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, it can be a bit different when you're playing a hero like Dr. Manhattan. He described the experience as liberating, which could be seen as a bit ironic considering how Dr. Manhattan was bound to his fates despite knowing exactly how they'd play out for him in Watchmen.
The actor has also said in interviews prior that he worked with HBO's intimacy coordinator before each scene on anything he may be uncomfortable with. Slowly but surely, intimacy coordinators are becoming more commonplace and, in Abdul-Mateen's case, it undoubtedly helped ease any natural anxiety there may have been.
Audiences responded positively to Yahya Abdul-Mateen II's performance, and the actor ended up winning an Emmy for Best Supporting Actor for the role. He did not accept the award naked, but he did end up having to sit up until 3:32 a.m. in the morning, as he was in his Germany apartment during the time the ceremony was going on. Abdul-Mateen II joked about the award and, as he worked on the set of Matrix 4, questioned whether any of his experience had happened.