GETTY IMAGES/J. MERRITT
Let’s start with the premise that if you met Yahya Abdul-Mateen II on the streets of L. A. (where he was when we spoke), or in a coffee shop in San Francisco (near where he grew up), or down in Atlanta (where he’s been filming), you wouldn’t necessarily know his face, but you’d probably think to yourself, What am I going to have for dinner? That’s not to say that he doesn’t make an impression (on the contrary), but he’s not the most recognizable man on the street. The 32-year-old, New Orleans–born Abdul-Mateen is fairly normal. He goes to the gym, carries a backpack, and has a weakness for Apple Jacks.
Yet Abdul-Mateen is about to become very famous. This month, he’ll embody Black Manta, the supervillain who goes up against Jason Momoa in the latest DC Comics spectacle, Aquaman (December 21). He’s not exactly a Hollywood newcomer, but in almost record time he’s gone from playing a disco-dancing sociopath on Baz Luhrmann’s 2016 Netflix series The Get Down—his first role—to giving Aquaman a big wet punch in the face.
By Lili Göksenin