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Here's Why Emmy Award–Winner Yahya Abdul-Mateen II Looks So Familiar

Yahya is taking over Hollywood one performance at a time.

Yahya Abdul-Mateen II is ready to become a household name.

David Livingston / Getty Images

The 34-year-old actor won his first Emmy — Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Limited Series — last night for his work in Watchmen, and he earned high praise for his acceptance speech.

Matt Winkelmeyer / Getty Images

It was beautiful. Watch it in full here.

This fall, you can find the New Orleans native and Yale graduate starring in Netflix's The Trial of the Chicago 7, playing the Black Panther Party cofounder Bobby Seale. He's also set to star in Candyman, a sequel to the 1992 horror classic, in 2021.

Netflix, Universal/Courtesy Everett Collection

For those of you who may recognize the face but not yet the name, I'm here to help. Ahead are the most notable TV shows and movies Yahya's appeared in since 2016, which will remind you why he's already one to watch.

⚠️ Warning: Spoilers ahead. ⚠️

1. Yahya as Clarence "Cadillac" Caldwell in The Get Down


Many of us were first introduced to Yahya through Netflix's short-lived series The Get Down. Although he played the antagonist, it was easy for the charming actor to steal hearts as the disco dancing kingpin named Cadillac.

2. Yahya as Karl in the "Striking Vipers" episode of Black Mirror


Karl in "Striking Vipers" is possibly my favorite role Yahya has played. Srsly, the man has the range, y'all. The Black Mirror episode continues to stir up important conversations because it tackled themes including fidelity, family dynamics, homoerotic companionship, and virtual reality.

3. Yahya as Darrel in First Match

Yahya sits across from an actor who plays his daughter in "First Match"
Netflix / Everett Collection

Fans of Netflix's First Match have a love/hate relationship with Yahya's portrayal of Darrel. On the one hand, we appreciate his stellar performance because it was so. damn. good. On the other hand, we just wanna know why Darrel had to be such a hardass toward his daughter. (Still, we forgive you!)

4. Yahya as W. D. Wheeler in The Greatest Showman

20th Century Fox

Yahya played Zendaya's older brother and hand-to-hand acrobat W. D. Wheeler in the 2017 musical drama. And if you thought acting was his only talent, you thought wrong. His singing and dance moves were perfect for this part, and I now need him on Broadway ASAP.

5. Yahya as David Kane/Black Manta in Aquaman

Warner Bros. Pictures

I know I was supposed to be rooting for Jason Momoa in Aquaman, but I'd be lying if I said I wasn't #TeamBlackManta. From the moment he appears on the screen, there's something about Yahya as David Kane/Black Manta that just draws you in and makes you root for him to avenge his father's death. Side note: I'll be expecting his return in the sequel!

6. Yahya as Sgt. Garner Ellerbee in Baywatch

Yahya smiles as Sgt. Garner Ellerbee in "Baywatch"
Paramount Pictures / Via

Remember when I mentioned Yahya having the range earlier? Yup, it was on full display in his role as Sgt. Garner Ellerbee. His comedic chops and witty banter with Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson were some of the best parts about the Baywatch movie.

7. Yahya as Omar in The Handmaid's Tale

Yahya looks across the room as Omar in "The Handmaids Tale"

Although his role on the show was minor, Yahya definitely made a lasting impression with his appearance as Omar on The Handmaid's Tale. Fans will forever remember him for his "brave or stupid" decision to help June (Elisabeth Moss), which ultimately cost his life.

8. Yahya as Cal Abar/Jon Osterman/Doctor Manhattan in Watchmen


If you watched the Emmy Award–winning series Watchmen, you'll recognize Yahya as the guy who played Angela's (Regina King) husband, Cal Abar. It was later revealed that Cal was actually Doctor Manhattan, a powerful, blue-skinned God living on Earth. Between the now-iconic surprise twist — and those nude scenes — I'd say Yahya worked hard for his Emmy.

Have you seen any of the movies and TV shows Yahya's starred in? Tell us in the comments below!

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