Jonathan Groff Says Playing Agent Smith in ‘Matrix Resurrections’ ‘Unlocked Rage Inside Me’

With the 2024 Tony Awards a few weeks away and the record-breaking Broadway run of “Merrily We Roll Along” coming to a close in a little over a month, three-time Tony nominee Jonathan Groff is looking back on the roles that shaped this first stage in his career. In an interview in The New Yorker, Groff recalled the impact performing in the visually-stunning and narratively-meta film “The Matrix Resurrections” had on his psyche.

“Getting to play Agent Smith really unlocked rage inside of me that I didn’t know was there,” Groff said. “That’s helped me so much with ‘Merrily,’ particularly in the first act. Learning the kung fu was, like, months of fight training. They called me the Savage, because I was so into it. We were shooting a big fight sequence with Keanu, and, after the first few takes, I remember Lana [Wachowski] at the monitor, like, ‘Jonathan, come over here. Who is that?’ I was, like, ‘I don’t know.’ And she was, like, ‘And what is that?’ I said, ‘Gay rage?’”

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The release he had in exploring that rage caused a physical reaction he didn’t quite understand at first, but that co-star Keanu Reeves helped him make sense of.

“I’d never shot a gun before. I shot Keanu and thought I had peed my pants, because I had this hot feeling,” he said. “You know when you pee yourself and it’s warm? It lasted about ten minutes and then it went away. I sat next to Keanu and said, ‘Keanu, I just had extreme heat from my groin for, like, ten minutes.’ And he was, like, ‘You opened up your root chakra.’”

Playing Agent Smith turned out not to be the only time playing a part proved jarring for Groff. While shooting the sexually explicit HBO series “Looking,” he was also recording the children’s film “Frozen.”“It’s funny—I remember recording some of ‘Frozen’ in San Francisco,” Groff said. “I would be teaching Raúl [Castillo], like, how to lick my asshole while jerking me off—not teaching him, but sharing the ins and outs of gay intimacy — and then going into the recording studio on a Saturday and being Kristoff and Sven in a Disney movie.”

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