Ladies and ladies: if you aren't familiar, let me introduce you to a being named Yahya Abdul-Mateen II. He's an Emmy award-winning actor, 35, and towering at 6 feet 3 inches tall. His name, which roughly translates from Arabic and means "Graced by God," may be unfamiliar for Black men in Hollywood, but he's carving out his lane just the same.
The actor's first leading role is in the highly anticipated Candyman(in theaters August 27), as well as The Matrix 4, the newest installment in the Matrix franchise, and action flick, Ambulance, next year.
So needless to say, Yahya is booked, busy, and here to stay.
Yahya Abdul-Mateen II recently hooked up with ESSENCEfor their 'Summer Screen Kings' July/August 2021 dual cover issue (alongside Jazmine Sullivan), to discuss what really drew him to acting, his definition of sexy and whether a rom-com is next on his list of achievements (please, universe?!). Ultimately, we walked away with hella gems because as you all know, we love to get the male's perspective from time to time.
Our favorite highlights of the interview are below!
On how his curiosity drew him into acting:
According to Yahya, acting kind of...just...happened.
"I wasn't itching to be a star or anything like that. I wasn't thinking about movies or television. I just started following my curiosity…I got here by staying curious, by staying humble, and also knowing that there's so much more that I want to do...I think I've done a lot on other people's terms. I've been able to step into projects that were already written before my name was attached, and I'm so thankful that I was able to step in and support those projects. But now I'm at a place where I'm looking to come into rooms with my own ideas, and develop those ideas and tell my own stories. I think that's the next chapter..."
On what it means to be sexy:
It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see that Yahya is easy on the eyes. But the Watchmenactor says don't ask him about it, ask yourself what you see when you look at him.
"I don't think sexy tries. Ease is sexy. It's nice to have a little bit of mystery, and if I'm being perfectly honest, it's not for me to say whether I'm attractive or not. It's for me to have self-confidence. Confidence is sexy…"
A confident AND sexy man. Got it.
On whether a rom-com is in his future:
"We need more romance...We have adventure. We have action. We've got a lot of stories about trauma, because trauma is very present in our world right now. But we also need love. We need more straight-up, old-school romance. I don't mind putting my hand up and stepping into that place to say, 'I'll be your man, girl.' I don't mind that at all..."
Regina King on Yahya's dedication to the women in his life:
"That man talks about his sisters and his mother with so much love and so much appreciation...I think that was one of the reasons why we connected so well. It doesn't always work that way with actors, that you feel safe enough to be so forthcoming with your personal life, but we did that literally day one. His love for the women in his life, he leads with that…"
A cosign from Regina King, it gets no better than that.
ESSENCE's 'Summer Screen Kings' also features actors Don Cheadle (Space Jam: A New Legacy), Omar Sy (Lupin), Aaron Pierre (OLD) and Mekai Curtis (Raising Kanan). The issue hits newsstands on June 29th.
Are you a member of our insiders squad? Join us in the xoTribe Members Community today!
Featured image via Michael Kovac/Getty Images for AFI
Charmin Michelle is a southern native and creative spirit who works as a content marketer and events manager in Chicago. She enjoys traveling, #SummertimeChi, and the journey of mastering womanhood. Connect with her on Instagram @charminmichelle.
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'Queen Charlotte' Star Arsema Thomas Worked At The United Nations Before Landing Her Breakout Role
Actress Arsema Thomas (Arséma Adeoluwayemi Hamera) may be new to the acting scene, but the star's standout performance in Netflix's limited series Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story is already leaving a lasting impression among many.
Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story, a prequel to Bridgerton, follows the young queen's life as her marriage to King George of England sparks an epic love affair and a societal shift.
In the drama, Thomas portrays the role of a young Lady Agatha Danbury, a close friend and confidant of Queen Charlotte, and it also depicts Lady Danbury's journey.
The series showcases the struggles Lady Agatha Danbury experienced in her lifetime. The list includes being forced to partake in a loveless marriage to a former African king Herman Danbury, becoming a widow, and possibly losing her estate and title following her husband's death.
Since Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story debuted on Netflix earlier this month, it has dominated the streaming service's top ten charts and piqued fans' interest in the show's stars, including Thomas.
Although many may not know a lot about the Atlanta native, who goes by she/they pronouns, and how she became one of the breakout stars in Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story, still, with the recent promotional tour Thomas has been doing for the show, she has shared some shocking details about her life.
Thomas' revelations within the past several months include details about her educational pursuits, previous work experience, her African culture, the steps she took to prepare for her role as Lady Agatha Danbury, and many more.
Arsema On Her African Heritage
Thomas, who is Nigerian and Ethiopian, is the daughter of diplomats.
The 28-year-old's parents, consisting of an Ethiopian mother and a Nigerian father, worked in the government to improve Africa's economic development.
Due to her parents' professions, the actress moved around a lot and lived in various countries like Kenya, Benin, Comoros, Uganda, and India, which exposed her to social issues. In an interview with Teen Vogue, Thomas opened up about having conversations about politics and government at a young age.
"Dinner table conversations were about politics, about African governance. I realized that in a lot of the countries I lived in, the effects of colonialism and imperialism were so blatantly obvious. That became the driving force for what I thought I should be doing as an adult," she said.
Later Thomas would ultimately reveal that her parents' work had inspired her to become a "doctor or something" because she wanted to make them proud.
Arsema Attended Carnegie Mellon University and Yale University
Prior to pursuing acting, Thomas revealed to Shondaland that she was a college graduate.
In 2016, she received her bachelor's degree in biophysics from Carnegie Mellon University. Following her graduation, Thomas interned at a mobile health clinic and a refugee camp in Kenya for over a year.
Around the same time, the star would continue her education by getting her master's in epidemiology and health policy at Yale University. Thomas disclosed that despite the educational success that she has achieved, acting became her main priority when she realized that this is something she could envision herself doing "100 percent of the time." This decision led Thomas to relocate to Paris, South Africa, and then to London to study drama.
"I packed up everything and moved to Paris because I wanted to do acting 100 percent of the time," she stated. "It was always something I had wanted to do, [but] I didn't think I would be able to. I thought it was going to be a hobby or a thing that I'd have to suppress in myself for the rest of my life."
Thomas would land her first role in 2021 as a guest star on the television series One Touch. Shortly after, she would participate in the 2022 film Redeeming Love as the character Rebecca. The rest would be history because, around that time, Thomas would receive the life-changing role of Lady Agatha Danbury in Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story.
Arsema On How She Prepared for Her Role In Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story
When the opportunity for Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story came along, Thomas took various steps to transform into Lady Agatha Danbury.
The actress, who has admitted to never seeing Bridgerton in the past, told Cosmopolitan UK's Up Close series that because she wasn't familiar with the fictionalized character, she decided to find things that she thought Lady Agatha Danbury would resonate with.
It includes reading books about women by well-known female authors who have made history in their own right, creating a Spotify playlist with music that Lady Agatha Danbury could listen to, and having waist beads made for her character.
"There was a lot of stuff I needed to get into this role because the character is fictional. So I read a ton of books about women or by women, that I thought that Agatha Danbury would resonate. So I read 'Ain't I A Woman' by Bell Hooks. I read Angela Davis' autobiography. I read Assata Shakur's autobiography, 'Tar Baby' by Toni Morrison, 'Eyes Are Watching God,' and 'Vaga Bonds' by Eloghosha Osunde. I made an extensive Spotify playlist, and I got waist beads made for Agatha," she explained.
Further in the interview, Thomas mentioned that she had waist beads made for Lady Danbury and wore them throughout the filming process because it helped ground her as she portrayed the character whom she described as entirely different from who she is as a person.
"It was a Nigerian woman threading these beads, and I asked her to thread beads specifically for this character, and I wore it throughout the entirety of filming," she said. "Because it was just kind of was a physical grounding point to this woman that is really, really actually far from who I am as an individual."
Thomas shared that talking to her grandmother, who had a similar background to Lady Danbury, such as having an arranged marriage at a young age, also helped her prepped for the role.
"I also talked to my grandmother a lot. I didn't realize how similar she was to this character. Because she was also married off when she was quite young," she revealed. "It was really interesting to kind of talk to someone in my life who I've known, who’s gone through something that is essentially the stripping away of their freedom, and someone who doesn't have any resentment or harbored anger towards the situation."
Arsema Worked At The United Nations
Thomas' work experience is an interesting one. Despite interning at three different health organizations, she previously worked at United Nations Population Fund, according to her Linkedin profile.
United Nations Population Fund's site states that the organization is part of the United Nation's "sexual and reproductive health agency." The gathered information on Thomas' profile says that she was an associate for the company from 2017 to 2018.
Some of Thomas' responsibilities included conducting "policy analyses" for United Nations Population Fund's sustainability and "supporting the regional desk specialist" in the program's division.
Arsema Speaks Five Languages
On top of Thomas' overwhelmingly impressive resume, the actress also speaks five languages.
According to the African publication Bella Naija, Thomas speaks English, Amharic, Yoruba, French, and Spanish. Although Thomas hasn't publicly talked about what inspired her to become multilingual, many can assume it is because of the various locations she has lived in throughout her life and her interest in learning.
Thomas may be a rising star now, but with the facts provided above, the actress has displayed through her work ethic and drive that she can soon become a household name.
Thomas' latest work Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story, is now streaming on Netflix.
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Feature image by Dominik Bindl/Getty Images