This year has been, by most standards, pretty awful across the board. Yet when it comes to Yahya Abdul-Mateen II’s career, it's been an epic 2020.
The “Aquaman” and “Black Mirror” star won an Emmy Award for HBO’s “Watchmen” last month and looks strong for an Oscar run with his role as political activist and Black Panther head Bobby Seale in Aaron Sorkin’s 1960s-set courtroom drama “The Trial of the Chicago 7" (streaming now on Netflix). His latest project isn't too shabby either: He's hanging in Berlin with Keanu Reeves filming the fourth “Matrix” movie (out Dec. 22, 2021).
“I’m definitely thankful," Abdul-Mateen says. "To be honest, these for me were much-needed points of happiness and joy as well. I actually find myself right there with everyone else concerned about the well-being of our country in terms of our physical health, our mental health, our political health. I don't think in any way I've been exempt, but when I have the opportunity, I definitely look at these moments as extremely bright spots for the year, and I'm so fortunate to be in the position that I am.”
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It also doesn’t hurt that life in “The Matrix” has been going well, even amid a global pandemic.
“It's nice to be working these days,” says Abdul-Mateen, who gets tested for COVID multiple times per week. “It was strange maybe the first week and a half, and after that I look forward to being tested because it makes me feel safe and if they're doing it to everybody else, then I feel safe in that environment, too.”
The 34-year-old New Orleans native, who stars in the new "Candyman" (expected next year) and just signed on for a "Mad Max: Fury Road" prequel, spoke with USA TODAY about "Chicago 7," winning a virtual Emmy and what’s on the menu when he returns to the States.
Q: What was important for you in portraying Bobby Seale?
Yahya Abdul-Mateen II: Bobby Seale is a character who the first word that comes to mind when I think of him is dignity. He's an honorable person and he did not want to be diminished. Those were the things that I was attracted to and that I sought to defend in this world.
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Q: So what was it like winning an Emmy at a virtual awards show?
Abdul-Mateen: It was weird, man, but at the same time it was all that I know, right? I got an Emmy then I had my virtual party with the rest of the family from 3:30 in the morning to 7 and then I think I might've went to sleep and then went to an overnight shoot on “The Matrix” later on that day.
Q: I did enjoy how you were looking quite dapper and didn’t get caught wearing, say, sweatpants.
Abdul-Mateen: Look, that's rule No. 1, man. My mama didn't raise no fool.
Q: How cool has it been doing a "Matrix" movie with Neo himself?
Abdul-Mateen: I still get excited being in the same space as Keanu. He keeps the morale very high, so he's just been a champion throughout. He's been an excellent example of how to be the leader on the set, so I try to get close to him and steal little things here and there.
Q: What will you miss most about Berlin?
Abdul-Mateen: (Laughs) It’s going to take a little while for me to miss anything. Berlin is great, but I'm so homesick, man. I want to go home. There's no place like home, like “The Wizard of Oz.” I wish I could click my heels and be there.
Q: What's the first thing you're going to eat when you get back to America?
Abdul-Mateen: My diet is always so simple. So it would be the same thing that I'm eating here: oatmeal, eggs, chicken and some greens. It follows me all around the world, literally.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: 'Trial of the Chicago 7': Yahya Abdul-Mateen II on 'Matrix,' Emmy win