Yahya Abdul-Mateen II didn’t always have his eyes set on being an actor. Long before he was starring in movies about circus oddities and underwater superheroes, he was utilizing his architecture degree from UC Berkeley and working as a city planner in San Francisco. He left the city planning life behind and attended the Yale School of Drama and went on to appear in Baz Luhrmann’s The Get Down. He has since landed some sweet roles that are prepping him to be the leading man he is meant to be.

In the second episode of New Hollywood Podcast’s Aquaman series, we talked to Abdul-Mateen about his journey from city planner in San Francisco to an actor in Hollywood. Even before the James Wan-directed Aquaman, he starred in several A-list features including Baywatch with Dwayne Johnson and Zac Efron as well as The Greatest Showman with Hugh Jackman. He was generally a co-star doing his thing, but now he is making his way to the main spotlight in strong ensemble pieces from high-profile directors — not only with Aquaman but with HBO’s forthcoming adaptation of Watchmen from Damon Lindelof as well as Jordan Peele’s thriller Us, which he stars with fellow Yale School of Drama alums Lupita Nyong’o and friend of the podcast Winston Duke. To even further stretch his range, he will star opposite Dakota Fanning in the Zeresenay Berhane Mehar drama Sweetness in the Belly based on the bestselling novel by Camilla Gibb.

Abdul-Mateen sat down with us to talk about his start in Hollywood, his influences, and how he was the Aquaman cast member who spent the most time drenched in water. We also tried our hardest to get him to tell us anything about Watchmen and Us. Listen to the episode below to see what he revealed about these projects cloaked in secrecy.