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Gabrielle Union Details Her ‘Matrix’ Audition and Why It Backfired Because of Janet Jackson

Union decided to channel Janet Jackson for her audition. Then the real Janet Jackson showed up.

THE MATRIX, Joe Pantoliano, Laurence Fishburne, Keanu Reeves, Carrie-Anne Moss, 1999. ©Warner Bros./Courtesy Everett Collection (image upgradedto 17.6 x 12 in)

“The Matrix”

©Warner Bros/courtesy Everett Collection / Everett Collection

“Everybody and their mother” was auditioning for “The Matrix” at the end of the 1990s, Gabrielle Union told James Corden during an interview on “The Late Late Show” this week. But not everybody has a “Matrix” audition story as memorable as Union’s. The actress detailed her one-of-a-kind “Matrix” journey to Corden and her fellow “Late Late Show” guest Taraji P. Henson.

“I went to audition. To me, I needed to feel like the most powerful, beautiful, and amazing woman in the world, so of course, I wanted to channel Janet Jackson,” Union said. “I [went] to Extensions Plus…the Mecca of weaves. I wanted to get the good hair, the Janet hair, from the weave emporium. I literally [found] the exact outfit from her album cover. I [drew] in the damn mole. I [was] fully committed.”

Cut to the day of the audition: “I am in the audition and I [played] Janet the whole time, waiting for the audition, in there early. No one’s going to stop me…[then] in walks Janet Jackson. The same audition and I’m cosplaying as Janet, with a weird drawn-on mole.”

Never did Union expect to see the real Janet Jackson in the audition room for “The Matrix.” Neither actress landed the movie, with Union joking, “We canceled each other out.” Union was mostly known for television roles at the time, as her first film roles in “10 Things I Hate About You” and “She’s All That” arrived the same year “The Matrix” opened. It was “Bring It On” the following year (2000) that catapulted Union into even greater fame.

“The Matrix” is coming back in a big way later this year with the release of “The Matrix Resurrections.” Franchise stars Keanu Reeves and Carrie-Ann Moss are returning to their roles of Neo and Trinity, respectively, while original co-writer and co-director Lana Wachowski is behind the camera. Also reprising her role from the original trilogy is Jada Pinkett Smith, but she has yet to be revealed in first look photos and the movie’s first official trailer. Warner Bros. is releasing “The Matrix Resurrections” in theaters and HBO Max on December 22.

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