Actor Yahya Abdul-Manteen II is in “the best shape of my life” since beginning a training regimen to play the villain Black Manta in the upcoming Aquaman movie. While digital effects have done much to bring superheroes and supervillains to life on the big-screen in recent years, a number of old-fashioned practical measures are still required to build these larger-than-life characters. For actors such as Abdul-Mateen II, this means hitting the gym and hitting it often.
Best known for his role as Cadillac in Baz Luhrmann’s Netflix original series The Get Down, Abdul-Mateen II did not plan to go into acting as a full-time career. Originally studying architecture, he spent several years working as a city planner before a round of lay-offs forced him to consider other options. This led to his enrollment at the Yale School of Drama and his role on The Get Down.
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Abdul-Mateen II spoke briefly about his training regiment in a recent interview with GQ. While not going into detail about the extent of his martial arts training in preparing for the role, Abdul-Mateen II confirmed spending far more time in the gym than usual as well as not being overly fond of it.
“It’s been about five days a week in the gym and doing fight training, too. I have a love-hate relationship with working out. I do not enjoy the experience when I’m doing it, but I never regret it.”
This training and the building of a certain physicality is particularly important in the case of Black Manta, who has no super powers yet still dares to face Aquaman in his own element. The character’s background has changed several times over the years, with the one constant being an unending hatred of Aquaman.
At one point Black Manta was a racial-separatist, who sought to destroy Atlantis in order to start an undersea nation for black people seeking a place where they would be free of the racism and oppression that dominated the surface world. The current history has Black Manta wishing to avenge the death of his mercenary father, who a young Aquaman murdered in order to avenge the death of his father. There’s no word yet on which version of Black Manta Abdul-Mateen II will be portraying or which origin story Arthur Curry will have in Aquaman, but the actor is nothing but enthusiastic about the project.
“It’s going great. The scale is epic and this movie is going to be so good! I can’t say too much, but in the hands of [director] James Wan and with Jason Momoa at the helm, I think people are going to be really happy with it.”
Yahya Abdul-Mateen II can currently be seen in Baz Luhrmann’s The Greatest Showman, playing the role of trapeze artist WD Wheeler.
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