29 sep 2021

Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, the bewitching hero of “Candyman” and the new Hollywood star

Starring in the terrifying and political Candyman , which opens this Wednesday, September 29 in theaters, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II has established himself at the age of 35 as one of the big names that are setting Hollywood ablaze. Portrait of a fascinating actor, as athletic as he is militant.

His torrid dance moves are still fondly remembered in the excellent disco series produced by Baz Luhrmann for Netflix, The Get Down (2016). Yahya Abdul-Mateen He played Clarence “Cadillac” Caldwell, a borderline gangster whose mother runs a popular club in the Bronx (as well as a big drug deal). In the role of the prince of the night, as dangerous as it is sexy, the 1m91 actor proved to the whole world that he excelled in terms of flexibility, almost in the order of elasticity. And it is precisely this art of the splits that will become the artist’s trademark and contribute to raising him among the most bankable names in Hollywood. And this, despite a constant refusal to compromise in his film choices or to shorten his surname, as the film industry urged him to suggest in his early days.


Born in 1986 in New Orleans to a Muslim father and a Christian mother, Yahya Abdul-Mateen, however, initially chose a path other than that of the seventh art. If he loved Denzel Washington as a child, he dreamed above all of becoming Michael Jackson one day. In high school, the youngest of a large family navigated between several worlds, playing brilliantly on an American football team, playing chess with geeks and winning the title of class king at the famous end-of-year prom. After graduating from the University of California at Berkeley with a degree in architecture, he finally chose another side, working for a time as an urban planner in San Francisco, before being fired. Fortunately, his acting lessons taken as a dilettante during his studies inspired him to take a new path. Determined and clever, he managed to enter the Yale School of Drama and act in plays. But the stage will not host him for long… Because a year after his first incendiary audiovisual performance in The Get Down, his protruding muscles and expressive face are everywhere.

Sculptural, charismatic and overflowing with humanity, the actor can play absolutely anything, linking a Sundance drama about a writer who disappears (Sidney Hall, 2017) with an action film, Baywatch: Baywatch where he plays a police officer. At ease in the deep end of popular cinema, he lit up the flamboyant musical
The Greatest Showman
with Hugh Jackman and made his mark in the blockbuster Aquaman (2018). In this adaptation of the aquatic comic, he plays Black Manta, Jason Momoa’s sworn enemy with a destructive look and a painful past. A dark and disturbing facet that does not frighten Yahya Abdul-Mateen. He appears in the credits of Jordan Peele’s horror film Us (2019) and the highly anticipated next installment of the gothic-cyber-punk saga Matrix

(2021). The actor reprises the role of Laurence Fishburne, that of the mythical hacker Morpheus whose look continues to inspire fashion.
To top it all off, since he won an Emmy in 2020 for his role as the stay-at-home husband of a vigilante who fights against white supremacists in the series Watchmen, Yahya has had the infinite privilege of being able to choose his projects. He then most often lets himself be guided by his fight against racism in order to build a career that makes sense. On his Twitter account, he does not hesitate to share his anger and pain when a black man is shot dead by a white police officer. The same goes for his screen presence, which puts political issues at the forefront. The scary Candyman, which comes out this Wednesday, September 29 and in which he plays the lead role, brutally questions the viewer about racial inequality and the gentrification of poor neighborhoods in the United States. Before that, we saw the actor who says he has a mission in series with a strong societal message such as The Handmaid’s Tale and
Black Mirror
. To maintain this requirement, the hero of the powerful The Chicago Seven (2020) would like to take a break and recharge his batteries. To see even more of his family and friends who do not belong to his environment. But his presence in two major adventures planned for 2022 – Michael Bay’s Ambulance and Mad Max: Fury Road, Furiosa – should not allow him to rest in the loft he dreams of buying in New York in the near future.


Candyman (2021) by Nia DaCosta, currently in theaters.