Yahya Abdul-Mateen II is ready to blow your mind

WIRED: What is your earliest memory of the original? Matrix?

Yahya Abdul-Mateen II: I was maybe 14 years old. I remember trying to lean back, trying to do this move where I dodge bullets – trying to grow a hundred arms and move so fast and so slow that I turned into several people.

Time for bullets. Easily one of the coolest moments in the movie.

For me, it was about what might be possible in my own imagination, the different ways that I could now go out and fight, the different superpowers that I could imagine having.

Neo could only do this because he was in a virtual world, of course, an “interactive neural simulation”, as Morpheus puts it. Does reality never seem unreal to you?

[Laughs.] Yes my boy. We just came out of a fucking pandemic. One of the things that makes reality a little weird, like there’s a change in the universe, is the change.

What is an example?

One is the way we relate to technology, the way we communicate with others, the feeling that we can be in multiple places at once. It opened up that other conversation that people have about what’s real and what’s not, what is needed to experience reality. The more we have these conversations, the more sensitive we become to the possibility that it could all be a dream or that it could all be a simulation or alternate reality.

Do you think it’s possible to make sense of things, to live a meaningful life, if the world doesn’t seem so real?

Absoutely. It is not only possible but important to find meaning in everything. You know, it often takes something, a dream world or some other kind of experience, to propel you into your own “real world” in quotes. As long as the mind and heart are open, then you will find meaning in the world that your mind allows you to be in.

Looks like you have some complicated views on technology.

I am a hypocrite. I love when it helps me, and I hate when it doesn’t help me. Social media is an ultimate reality in itself. It is a real universe. People spend as much time there – it’s funny, I say ‘over there’, because that makes it a real place – as they do in the real world.

Is it healthy?

We must respect this reality. You don’t want to be left behind, but you also don’t want to be so consumed by this other world, by the world of tech, that you become stagnant in it. A lot of things still matter in this world: touch and relationships, real conversation and discomfort. Technology is designed for convenience. It’s designed to make things easier, to make life a little more comfortable. But we need discomfort. We need discomfort to grow taller.

In some ways, that’s the message of the original Matrix trilogy. The Wachowskis have shown us a largely non-white world of people who, though oppressed, are fighting for a better future. People who don’t want to be defined by how the status quo defines them. What is your interpretation of the future they were trying to imagine?

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