WET & WILD
DOES HOMEGROWN BLOCKBUSTER AQUAMAN SINK OR SWIM?
Yahya Abdul-Mateen II felt like a big kid on the set of Aquaman. The New Orleans native plays pirate-turnedvillain David Kane/Black Manta in DC and Warner Bros’s latest superhero epic.
“I get to break things, run through walls and make a big mess,” he says.
“It’s one of those movies where it lets you be a kid all over again. Every day there was something new. You really felt like you were working on something that’s aiming for epic proportions.
“It just blew my mind to know I was a part of something that had this gigantic, magical scale to it.”
The 32-year-old had never been to Australia before landing in Queensland to begin work on the $160 million production, which took up all nine sound stages at Village Roadshow Studios on the Gold Coast.
“The Gold Coast was beautiful,” he says. “It was my first time to Australia so I assumed that all of Australia was just like the Gold Coast. But then I got to go to Sydney and Melbourne and see that it’s different.
“The people were nice and the food was amazing. I’d never seen whales before and I got to wake up and see them passing by on my balcony. I miss it.”
After his breakthrough role as ‘fly gangster’ and disco prince Cadillac in Aussie director Baz Luhrmann’s Netflix series The Get Down, Yahya showed off his comedic side last year as a bumbling Miami cop in Dwayne Johnson’s Baywatch reboot.
In Aquaman, he plays pirate Kane, who plunders the high seas as his father and grandfather did. But a confrontation with Aquaman during a heist sets him on a dark and dangerous path.
“As much as it’s an origin story for Aquaman, it’s also an origin story for Black Manta,” he says.
“You get to see who he was before he becomes known as Black Manta … you meet him when he’s on top. The really cool part about him is he experiences extreme triumphs and then an extreme low, and it happens really really quickly. There’s a real emotional depth and emotional reason behind his pursuit of Aquaman.”
Donning Black Manta’s heavy metal suit and signature helmet required a high level of fitness.
“A lot of hours were spent in the gym making sure that I was strong enough to carry the costume,” Yahya says.
“There was definitely some sophisticated wire work going on and it was a bit terrifying. You put on the suit and you just run really fast and trust that the cables work.
“The costume itself is extremely well-built and gives a lot of nods to the Black Manta costumes we know from the (comic book) canon, from the ’60s up to the present. But we also take a few liberties to add a few gadgets that the fans haven’t seen before.”
Now, between his roles in Aquaman and the upcoming Watchmen TV series, Yahya is fully immersed in the comic book world and aims to please the dedicated fan base.
“I want them to walk away from a movie that meets their expectations in terms of the comic (book) accuracy but find moments they didn’t expect,” he says of Aquaman.
“This film has a lot of emotional depth to it that people will be surprised by, but it’s funny at the same time.
“It’s a really cool action and adventure film, so I want them to come away from it reinvigorated and I hope they go back into the comics to see what else they can find.”
In the comics, Black Manta crosses over into other storylines including Suicide Squad. And with an Aquaman sequel now officially confirmed, it’s highly likely that we’ll see more of the villain.
“If the phone rings I’ll be glad to pick it up and to have another conversation,” Yahya says. “That was an appeal to me with doing a movie like this, but I just wanted to come in and do a good job. I think it’s better to take things one step at a time.”
Aquaman opens in cinemas on Boxing Day
I’D NEVER SEEN WHALES BEFORE AND I GOT TO WAKE UP AND SEE THEM PASSING BY ON MY BALCONY. I MISS IT
Yahya Abdul-Mateen II and Jason Momoa in a scene from much-anticipated blockbuster Aquaman, which opens in cinemas nationwide on Boxing Day.