Yahya Abdul-Mateen II on playing Bobby Seale in ‘The Trial of the Chicago 7’

Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, the 'Watchmen' star, plays the co-founder of the Black Panther Party in the flick that hits Netflix on October 16.

Loading the player...

Netflix has a hit on their hands with The Trial of the Chicago 7.

Written and directed by Aaron Sorkin, the film follows the real-life trial that gripped the nation in 1968 after demonstrations at the Democratic National Convention erupted into a violent clash with police and the National Guard. As a result, Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin, Tom Hayden, and Bobby Seale were among those charged with conspiracy to incite a riot and the resulting trial couldn’t be crazier. 

Read More: Netflix drops first teaser of ‘The Trial of the Chicago 7’ starring Yahya Abdul-Mateen II

The film boasts an all-star cast, including Kelvin Harrison Jr., Sacha Baron Cohen, Joseph Gordon-Levitt as well as recent Emmy-winner Yahya Abdul-Mateen II as the real-life co-founder of The Black Panther Party, Bobby Seale. 

TAG Heuer Celebrates The Launch Of The New Connected Watch
NEW YORK, NEW YORK – MARCH 12: Yahya Abdul-Mateen II attends The Launch of The New Connected Watch by TAG Heuer at The Caldwell Factory on March 12, 2020 in New York City. (Photo by Brian Ach/Getty Images for TAG Heuer )

theGrio caught up with Yahya Abdul-Mateen II to find out how he feels about portraying a living legend and how he uses his art as activism.  

“I think one of the great things about about the film is that in a lot of ways, the film mirrors what we’re seeing today in terms of young people being engaged and being enthusiastic…The idea that we’re not going to not fight back and just sit down and bow down to our oppressors’ demands. We have young people of all ages and races in the country, even older people who are standing up and joining together and coming together in protest and educated protest to stand up and fight for a cause. So hopefully the movie is an inspiration,” he says.

When it comes to using art as activism, the Emmy-winning actor says he’s still figuring that out. 

“I don’t think that it has been a conscious activism. I’ve been really, really blessed to find good roles that speak both to my appetite as an actor while also being important pieces of art that can contribute to critical conversation,” he explains. “The responses that I’ve gotten from ‘Watchmen’ in particular, the conversations that I’ve had have moved me and have really caused me to begin to look at it that way.”

“Now, I’ve been wrestling with what it means to be both activist and and artist or to have my art be an act of revolution or an act of change. How can I create art that leads to the betterment of our people?”

31st Annual Producers Guild Awards - Inside
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – JANUARY 18: Yahya Abdul-Mateen II speaks onstage during the 31st Annual Producers Guild Awards at Hollywood Palladium on January 18, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)

Read More: Yahya Abdul-Mateen II dedicates Emmy win to ‘all the Black women in my life’

While his revolutionary roles are certainly important, Abdul-Mateen is also adamant that the Black community must continue to allow itself to experience joy, no matter the circumstances. 

“We need that, too. And I say that to say that I want to hold on to that as I continue to work, that I want to do work that makes people laugh and smile and question their own morals and integrity or restlessness or complacency. I think that there’s room for for all of that, for for my activism to be all encompassing.”

Check out the full interview above. 

The Trial of the Chicago 7 hits Netflix on October 16. 

Have you subscribed to theGrio’s podcast “Dear Culture”? Download our newest episodes now!

TheGrio is now on Apple TV, Amazon Fire, and Roku. Download theGrio today!

Loading the player...