The huge box-office returns for Black Panther — still the highest-grossing movie of 2018 domestically— and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, which just scored the biggest opening weekend for a December animated movie, prove that moviegoers are hungry for superheroes who reflect the changing face of 21st century America.
Now you can add Aquaman to that ever-growing list. The James Wan-directed blockbuster, which stars Jason Momoa as DC Comics’ aquatic crusader, is the first live-action studio superhero movie to feature a biracial leading man in the title role. (For the record, Halle Berry has the distinction of being the first biracial star of a solo comic-book movie, suiting up as Catwoman for that misbegotten 2004 film.)
And the former Game of Thrones star — whose father is Hawaiian, and his Julia Roberts-loving mother is Caucasian — couldn’t be more surprised, or honored, to be making cinematic history. “It’s an honor to be a brown-skinned superhero for sure,” Momoa tells Yahoo Entertainment. “There’s a lot of Polynesian kids who are going to be very stoked to have someone to look up to like that.” (Watch our video interview above.)
Credit Wan — as well as Zack Snyder, who handpicked Momoa to play the DC Extended Universe version of Aquaman in Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice and Justice League — with seeing the thematic potential of a biracial actor playing a hero who hails from two very different worlds. Although Aquaman is a giant-size superhero spectacle, packed to the gills with splash-panel ready action and adventure, it’s also the story of a man eager to define his own identity rather than continue to be defined by others. The offspring of a humble lighthouse keeper and the Queen of Atlantis, Arthur Curry spends the movie trying on different guises — including human and Atlantean, as well as royalty and civilian — until he literally finds the look that fits him best.
“It’s a very appropriate role for Jason,” Wan agrees. “He brings a lot of his personality and his own upbringing into this role. The story and theme of the film [is] about a guy who feels like he doesn’t fit in to the two different worlds he’s from, but then he goes on this hero’s journey to discover that he’s actually the best of both worlds. I think that’s a really good message to be sending to kids out there.”
It’s a message that Momoa plans to share with his own children who, like him, have parents from two different cultures. Momoa is married to former Cosby Show star Lisa Bonet, and they have two kids, Lola and Nakoa-Wolf. In fact, Momoa has been holding off on watching Aquaman until he can see it with them. “I’m going to watch it with my babies, and I think it’s gonna be one of the coolest things that ever happened in my life,” he says, obviously moved at the thought. “To hold my children’s hands and watch that movie.”
Aquaman opens in theaters on Dec. 21
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