The actor Yahya Abdul-Mateen II weighs in on reimagining Doctor Manhattan as a black man, and how his character is pushing the story forward.
This story contains spoilers through Episode 8 of HBO’s Watchmen.
Watchmen, the graphic novel, includes a statement from Doctor Manhattan’s biographer clarifying a quote he once gave a reporter. “I never said ‘The Superman exists and he’s American,’” the writer complained. “What I said was ‘God exists and he’s American.’”
Watchmen, the HBO adaptation from the writer Damon Lindelof, takes that statement a step further: God exists, and he’s not only American, folks; he’s black.
As revealed in Episode 7 and explored further in last night’s flashback-driven installment, Cal Abar (played by Yahya Abdul-Mateen II), the mild-mannered stay-at-home dad and husband of the masked detective Angela Abar (played by Regina King), is actually Jon Osterman (a German-born Jewish man) a.k.a. Doctor Manhattan. Cal, along with Angela, deliberately blocked his memory of being the product of a physics experiment gone wrong so that they could be together. It’s a monumental twist in the world of Watchmen, and one that even Abdul-Mateen himself couldn’t wrap his head around when Lindelof told him about it after they finished shooting the pilot. “I don’t know what I did on the outside, but on the inside, I was going crazy,” Abdul-Mateen recalled to me over the phone last week. “I couldn’t believe it.”