Yahya Abdul-Mateen II Calls ‘Aquaman’ Role ‘Clown Work’

Yahya Abdul-Mateen II arrives to 'Aquaman' Hollywood Premiere on December 12, 2018 in Hollywood, CA. (Credit: Shutterstock)

Yahya Abdul-Mateen II’s star continues to rise after roles in the award-winning HBO limited series Watchmen, the critically acclaimed Aaron Sorkin film The Trial of The Chicago 7, and the blockbuster movie Aquaman.

But Abdul-Mateen says he doesn’t find working on projects like Aquaman challenging. In an interview with Vulture, he compared his role as Black Manta in the DC film to “clown work.”

“Everything should be about getting to the truth. But sometimes you got to know which movie or genre you’re in,” Abdul-Mateen said. “Something like Aquaman, that’s clown work. Aquaman is not The Trial of the Chicago 7. You have got to get over yourself.”

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He added that to build a successful career, actors must appear in different types of projects.

“In order to survive [the industry] 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,’” he said.

Despite criticizing his work in Aquaman, Abdul-Mateen is returning to the franchise for Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom, which is scheduled for release on Dec. 25, 2023.

Abdul-Mateen, a Yale drama school grad, won an Emmy Award for playing Cal Abar in Watchmen. He’s also had roles in Michael Bay’s Ambulance, Nia DaCosta’s Candyman remake, Lana Wachowski’s The Matrix Resurrections and the Baz Luhrmann Netflix series The Get Down