Watchmen Star Yahya Abdul-Mateen II Addresses Series Impact in the Wake of Black Lives Matter Movement

When it was released in late 2019, HBO's Watchmen took a unique approach to its adaptation of the iconic comic book series of the same name. The series set its story 30 years after the events of the comics, but also used the past -- specifically the Tulsa Race Massacre -- to center its themes of police brutality, racism, and systemic oppression. The series is one that prompted quite a bit of discussion at the time, but it's also one that's become even more relevant amidst the current Black Lives Matter movement. For Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, who played Doctor Manhattan in the series, the show has helped open the door for what he called more "sophisticated conversations" about history and race.

"To watch people watch Watchmen and then have new, more sophisticated conversations about the importance of telling the history of the Tulsa massacre -- calling it a massacre not a race riot -- fills me with pride," Abdul-Mateen II told GQ Middle East. "And with what's happened to George Floyd, there's a domino effect: now, we don't have the excuse to ignore that part of history or say we weren't educated."

Abdul-Mateen II also went on to explain that Watchmen, and indeed entertainment on a larger scale, offers an opportunity to expand the conversation to wider audiences, something he's glad to be part of.

"Some people turn the channel saying they're not watching our f---ing show," he said. "I may not have access to the demographic who choose to see something like our version of Watchmen and unfollow me on Instagram because they don't share my beliefs. They'll see the message from me, they'll see my work, and they'll actively reject it as leftist propaganda. This is America, so they have zero reason to listen to me. But I can talk to my white friends and wider audiences who are enlightened and inspired to then go have uncomfortable conversations with relatives and co-workers. So, I'm fortunate to be a part of that progress."

And that progress is something that is playing out in a visible way as protests for racial justice continue nationwide.


"I've never seen anything like that. 90 percent of the crowd was white," he said of demonstrations in Los Angeles. "I was shocked to see a predominantly white crowd out there saying 'Black Lives Matter.' It made me realize that white people see there's something about the conditions Black people like me live under that are inherently wrong. The protesters had a plan, they had a cause, and they were making people uncomfortable like it's important to do."

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