"Acting without clothes is a little like acting when you're exhausted. When I'm tired, I do my best work," the actor said

By Robyn Merrett
October 27, 2020 01:46 PM
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Yahya Abdul-Matteen II
| Credit: Wolfgang Tillmans

Yahya Abdul Mateen II found filming nude scenes for HBO's Watchmen to be quite "liberating."

The actor, who stars as Cal Abar/Doctor Manhattan in the series — a role that earned him a 2020 Emmy for outstanding supporting actor — opened up about the experience in W Magazine's New Originals cover story.

"Acting without clothes is a little like acting when you're exhausted," said Abdul-Mateen, 34. "When I'm tired, I do my best work."

As fans recall, viewers first meet Abdul-Mateen as Cal, who is the husband of Angela Abar/Sister Night (Regina King). However, it's revealed that Cal is just a disguise for Doctor Manhattan — a god-like being, who was a nuclear scientist that was caught in a radioactive particle test. As Doctor Manhattan, Abdul-Mateen appears as a blue, translucent figure in the nude.

"When you're naked and painted blue, you don't have the energy to care about other things," Abdul-Mateen said. "I studied the character beforehand, I did a few pushups, and then I took off the robe."

"Being naked and having the audacity to be Doctor Manhattan, who runs the galaxy, was very freeing," he continued.

Yahya Abdul-Matteen II
| Credit: Wolfgang Tillmans
Yahya Abdul-Matteen II
| Credit: Wolfgang Tillmans

The actor said that his ability to be so comfortable in his role as Doctor Manhattan "surprised" him, as he's usually "very reserved."

"I don't mind awkward silences," he added.

Yahya Abdul-Matteen II as Doctor Manhattan in Watchmen
| Credit: DC/HBO/Sky Atlantic/Kobal/Shutterstock

In addition to Watchmen, Abdul-Mateen appeared as David Kane/Black Manta in Aquaman, and will star as Anthony McCoy in the Candyman remake, set to be released in 2021.

He explained to W Magazine that he's drawn to roles and stories "that will get people talking."

"When I graduated from Yale, I was still very bright-eyed and wanted to have fun," he recalled. "But now I have my talent and a bit of recognition, and I'm thinking, 'What do I want to do with it?' I'd like to keep that same sense of joy, but also add a mission, another layer of responsibility to tell stories that need to be told."

The star also revealed that he was inspired to get into acting following the death of his father.

"I didn't want to have any regrets," said the New Orleans native. "I didn't want to tell anyone, but I started taking acting class at American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco on Wednesday nights. I knew it was rebellious to pursue acting, but I also knew I had to try, that life is short."