October 2003
The Matrix Revolution : An Interview with Nona Gaye

Interviewed by Alberlynne "Abby" Harris

An Interview with Nona Gaye

She may be Marvin’s daughter, but Nona Gaye is developing a name for herself as a competent dramatic actress in this business. After a small appearance in "Ali", in which she appeared as one of Ali’s wives, Nona was cast in the sequel that the world was waiting for in "The Matrix Reloaded". She plays the role of Zee, the sister of the two brothers from "The Matrix" and the lover of Linc, played by Harold Perrineau Jr. With a role like this, Nona has a chance to get more work if the right people come see how good she is. Well, if "Reloaded" wasn’t enough, then the follow-up to it, should convince many to give her a shot at anything. Back again for the finale in "The Matrix Revolutions", Nona spoke to blackfilm.com about the opportunity to be in this film and replacing Aaliyah.

AH: In this film the women are very powerful. NG: I’m glad that the brothers (Wachowski) acknowledged that women do have the strength and the knowledge to carry out the same missions as a man would in the same
situations. I thank them for their openness. They have a vision and they are not afraid.

What do you think about women going to war and taking up arms so to speak?

NG: I think that it’s a woman’s choice and I think that women are perfectly
able and capable following orders from their superiors and carrying out tactical maneuvers. They can do their jobs just as well as men do. I know there are many decorated female soldiers who are generals, lieutenants, corporals. I think they’ve definitely shown that they are able to perform in the service.

What did you think of ‘The Matrix’?

NG: I’ve seen it seven times. The first time I saw it I walked in late and I was completely lost. Then I had to go back and see it a second time ‘cause I was so intrigued by the special effects and I wanted to understand it. It just moved me from the top of my head to the bottom of my feet. Then I went back to catch things that I thought I had missed because I did become a bit obsessed with it. Nothing had hit me that hard since ‘Star Wars.’ I was like a freak actually. My boyfriend at the time was like you’re starting to lose it a little bit. I’m like, ‘no you’re in The Matrix and you just need to get it together. You need to wake up and get plugged!’ I was just into it.

Were you ever hesitant about taking the role because you were replacing

NG: I was not totally relaxed and it was a bittersweet undertaking at first. It wasn’t that I got the role and I jumped for joy. It was definitely a feeling of melancholy and feeling ad because I lost two friends with Aaliyah in that plane crash. It was very personal to me. They went through the whole process of casting all over again. Before I got the role and after the brothers offered it to me, before I decided to say ‘yes’ I called her brother Rashad and I asked them, ‘are they comfortable with me playing the role’ and did they think Aaliyah would want me to do it and if she didn’t I won’t, I’ll step back. I lost my father when I was nine years old and I know that if someone were doing a film about his life I would want the same respect. I felt that they deserved that. Rashad came back and said Aaliyah would want it finished so then it made it a little more comfortable and more acceptable.

How did you relate to your character?

NG: She’s a survivor. She lost two brothers and I lost my father so I kind of personalized while I was doing the role and thought about what does it feel like to grow up without my father my whole life. What does it feel like to know that he died a violent death and
everybody in the world pretty much knows how he died. That it wasn’t as simple; it was involved and it was by another family member. Everyone in the world knows my life and my trauma. Sometimes it makes it very difficult to grieve because you can’t grieve alone. The world is grieving with you. I feel that Zee had that same kind of stress because she was just left and I felt that way when I was a little girl so that’s what I tried to pull for Zee.

What opportunities has being Marvin Gaye’s daughter afforded you?

NG: It was definitely a blessing and a curse. I take the position that I have definitely had doors opened because of my father. There’s no denying it. People have said, ‘she’s Marvin Gaye’s daughter so let’s let her in the room.’ The thing about that is you can open
the door for me but I’ve got to walk through it and if I don’t have the goods once I walk in they can turn me away as easily as they would someone else. So I kind of leave it there.

What about people who are only interested in you because of your last name?

NG: I’ve dealt with it. I’ve had people come up to me and want me to sign my name, ‘Marvin Gaye’s daughter.’ (Laughs). It’s not unbelievable and you think that you would be offended, but I was more hurt because of a feeling of identity loss. I can understand someone wanting to ask me for my autograph and have it signed that way for the longing of my father and missing what he gave to people and what his music did to people and for people and the movement that he caused when he opened his mouth to sing.

What’s happening with your singing career?

NG: I have an album coming out in February. There’s no way I could give up singing; it’s in my blood and in my heart and my soul. People ask me all the time which one I
would give up and I can’t choose. Singing is more difficult because of that shadow; because of what’s over my head and have expectations of me there. Acting is a bit more freeing because it’s just me and there’s nothing to compare me to.

What has been one of the best things that fame has allowed you?

Why would you choose to follow a career which is so much associated with your Dad?
NG: That’s all I know. I know how to sing, how to act and how to cook and mother. But to make money and to bring in the check and to also feed my soul and my mind and my heart. This is all I know how to do. This is the only thing that makes me feel that way and with the good comes the bad; with the pleasurable comes the painful and the things that are uncomfortable. It’s just what you have to deal with. There’s going to be ups and downs in whatever business you choose. Mine of course is a bit more personal but I think you have to have a hard shell if you’re going to be in this business anyway. If you’re a softie stay out of the entertainment business!

You don’t have any scenes with Keanu, but did you socialize with him?

NG: He’s a very kind and intelligent person. I remember when I first got to Australia I didn’t have anything to do for a month and a half and everyone else was working. I just sat in my hotel room alone and going crazy and Keanu asked me what I wanted to do because he saw I was bored. I said I’ve always wanted to learn how to speak French or finish learning how to speak French. He said, ‘oh that’s nice.’ Then his assistant called back and said, ‘we’ve set up six weeks at Berlitz for French lessons.’ That’s how kind he is. I’ve heard he’s done similar things for other people like buying lovely bottles of wine for the crew and the cast. He’s a very generous person.

What are the meanings of your tattoos?

NG: This is a Polynesian fish hook that stands for good luck and protection that Polynesian warriors had to wear when they went to battle. This one on my arm is a design
that I thought was beautiful. This one is a Mayan tattoo that was adorned by Mayan soldiers; they’re two lizards and lizards in the Mayan religion are supposed to be very lucky and very powerful. They wore that on their shields; they had that chiseled on their shields. I saw a picture of it in a magazine and it was striking and powerful to me that I asked the tattooist if he could draw it and put it on my arm. I know maybe at heart I am a warrior because all of my tattoos are warrior tattoos!