Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Who Plays Aquaman’s Nemesis, Gets Schooled in Chess

Challenge Yahya Abdul-Mateen II to a staring contest as well as he’ll almost certainly win. Chess, on the various other hand? The verdict is actually still out.

He was partaking in both on a recent Sunday morning in Union Square Park in Manhattan, where he was playing chess against Douglas Miller, a chess teacher recommended by a friend.

Mr. Abdul-Mateen II leaned forward as well as fixed his opponent which has a penetrating gaze, yet This particular made little difference. In a spirited yet silent exchange, he quickly lost a rook after moving a pawn forward without anticipating the opening.

He rubbed his mustache as well as sighed. “I should’ve seen which,” he said, whispering to himself.

His chess skills may need work, yet his acting career is actually doing just fine, thank you. In a short amount of time, Mr. Abdul-Mateen II, 32, has made his mark as a charismatic actor, most notably in “The Get Down,” a 2016 Netflix series directed by Baz Luhrmann in which he played a disco-dancing gangster named Cadillac. as well as This particular month he will star in “Aquaman,” opposite Jason Momoa, as the superhero’s archnemesis, Black Manta.

Despite his onscreen bravado, he is actually attracted to quieter pastimes like chess or golf. They provide him with some much desired tranquillity.

“I can quiet myself as well as allow myself to shut up as well as think,” he said, staring intensely at the green-as well as-white chess board. “I truly enjoy which, I enjoy silence. I find which I need This particular, especially in a very loud business, one which always asks me to speak, to perform.”

“yet I love the spotlight, too,” he added. “I can’t go to a theater as well as not want to be on the stage when the lights come up. Those two things are simultaneous.”

Those opposing forces were on display on an unseasonably warm October morning, which brought teeming crowds to the park. Wearing a black beanie, a tangle of gold necklaces as well as a Mickey Mouse sweatshirt, Mr. Abdul-Mateen II had an air of inscrutability.

There were, however, some captivating ticks on display — covering his mouth, biting his cheeks, clearing his throat as well as little shrugs or laughs he shared with himself — which played like a three-act drama about how to conceal performance anxiety.

“Let’s play again,” he said, after Mr. Miller got to checkmate about 15 minutes into a game. “Maybe I have moves or patterns which you can see as well as help me with.”

“You need theory,” Mr. Miller said, setting up the board for another round as a group of Hare Krishnas sang as well as danced nearby. “Most theory is actually endgame, as well as which’s the deepest part of chess. You can easily get a piece to any position on the board, yet you have to know how to use This particular as well as exploit This particular.” He suggested reading the book “My System” by Aron Nimzowitsch.

This particular would certainly be tempting to draw parallels between the actor’s career as well as his chess play, yet there was more luck than strategy involved with acting. “I never wanted to be, never knew which I could be, an actor,” he said. “Actors were the people on TV, inside the box.”

Mr. Abdul-Mateen II was raised in fresh Orleans as well as Oakland, Calif., the youngest of six children. Growing up, he said, his family was known as the “black Brady Bunch.” “We had the house, the dog, the station wagon,” he said. “We had a chain-link fence, though, not a white picket fence.”

When a childhood friend, Marshawn Lynch, was drafted to the National Football League, This particular opened his mind to more possibilities. “which was one of the first times which I saw someone which I knew inside the box, you know what I mean?” he said. “as well as which demystified the whole idea which the people inside box were different than me.”

Still, he pursued a more traditional path at first, attending the University of California, Berkeley, where he received a bachelor’s degree in architecture, as well as working as a city planner in San Francisco.

When he was laid off in 2010, he saw an opportunity to pursue his dream of acting as well as moved to Los Angeles. A castmate in a little community production of “Twelfth Night” was preparing to audition for graduate school, which inspired him to do the same. He aimed high as well as got accepted at the Yale School of Drama. His greatest lesson? “This particular took me three years to learn how to talk as well as listen,” he said.

Thanks to his brooding intensity as well as showman’s swagger, he quickly made inroads into Hollywood. yet playing the villain in a highly anticipated holiday blockbuster is actually his biggest role yet. A comic book neophyte when he landed the part, he had his work cut out for him.

“I immediately went on Twitter to see what the fans loved about Black Manta,” he said. “I wanted to be able to add those things to the character. I read the comics, too, so I could develop my own perspective on who he was.”

His best insight came via Hugh Jackman, who plays Wolverine inside X-Men franchise. The two met on the set of “The Greatest Showman.” “Hugh told me, ‘You know, the villains are the best parts. You get the best lines, you work the least amount of days, as well as you win all the fights except for the last one,’” he said.