In an interview with GQ, actor Yahya Abdul-Manteen II discussed the training that he has undergone in order to play the supervillain Black Manta in the upcoming DC Extended Universe film Aquaman.
“It’s been about five days a week in the gym and doing fight training, too. I have a love-hate relationship with working out,” he said. “I do not enjoy the experience when I’m doing it, but I never regret it.”
He also commented that he was in “the best shape of my life” from it all, and said that he expects people to enjoy the film, which is directed by James Wan and stars Jason Momoa as Aquaman/Arthur Curry.
Abdul-Manteen is an up-and-coming star, who played Cadillac Caldwell in the Netflix Original Series The Get Down, Sgt. Garner Ellerbee in this year’s Baywatch film and trapeze artist WD Wheeler in The Greatest Showman. However, he had an unusual path to acting. He originally studied architecture and worked as a city planner, before a round of layoffs sent him to the Yale School of Drama to try acting instead. (Because you know, acting is usual a stable back-up career.)
In Aquaman, he will be playing Black Manta, one of the titular hero’s most iconic foes. Unlike most of the Atlantean’s villains, he is a normal human who uses his robotic armor and his wits. In the comics, he is perhaps most famous for killing Aquaman’s infant son, though why he hates Aquaman is up for debate and varies by adaptation. The most recent explanation (used in the New 52, which is what the DCEU has largely been based on) is that Aquaman killed Black Manta’s father, who, to be fair, killed Aquaman’s father first.
From official descriptions of the film, Black Manta is described as some kind of “treasure hunter and mercenary,” which provides many different ways that he and Aquaman could come into conflict. It is also possible that he will work with the movie’s other villain, Ocean Master, who is actually Aquaman’s half-brother Orm, vying with him for the throne of the undersea city of Atlantis.
Whatever happens in the film, fans of the franchise can only hope that Aquaman turns out well, now that Justice League has been a box office disappointment.