Acting's In Aaliyah's Blood With 'Matrix' Sequels, 'Damned'

After her star-making turn in "Romeo Must Die," Aaliyah's burgeoning film career continues to gather momentum. The singer/actress has just signed on to appear in a pair of sequels to the 1999 box office smash "The Matrix," the first of which is scheduled to start filming in Australia in March.

Aaliyah has been cast as a character named Zee in the upcoming "Matrix" films, according to her acting reps at Creative Artists Agency. She joins a cast that includes Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne and Carrie-Anne Moss — all of whom will reprise their roles from the first film.

Actress Jada Pinkett, who's married to rapper/actor Will Smith, also will appear in "The Matrix 2," which is being written and directed by the same creative team who masterminded the original film, brothers Larry and Andy Wachowski.

"The Matrix 2" and "The Matrix 3" are tentatively due in the summer of 2002 and the summer of 2003, respectively, although "The Matrix 2" may be pushed back until Christmas, according to a publicist for Warner Bros. Films, which is distributing the sequels.

For the "Matrix" movies, Aaliyah will return to the land down under for her second film project in the past year, as "The Queen of the Damned" — in which the singer stars as a 6,000-year-old vampire named Akasha — was also shot in Australia, from October through mid-December.

The singer wrapped her part in "The Queen of the Damned," which also stars Stuart Townsend as the vampire Lestat, shortly before Christmas and has since returned to work on her long-awaited third album, the follow-up to 1996's One in a Million.

The as-yet-untitled Aaliyah record, which features a guest spot from DMX and production work from Timbaland, is now due April 24. Among the new tracks expected to appear on the record are "Loose Rap," which will be the first radio single, and "Steady Ground," a song that Aaliyah's reps at Blackground Entertainment said features a "heavy" string arrangement.

The singer and Timba collaborated on her "Try Again" single, featured on the soundtrack to her cinematic debut, "Romeo Must Die." The song has been nominated for a Best Female R&B Vocal Performance Grammy, competing against Erykah Badu ("Bag Lady"), Toni Braxton ("He Wasn't Man Enough"), Kelly Price ("As We Lay") and Jill Scott ("Gettin' in the Way").

Aaliyah is scheduled to report to the set of "The Matrix 2" in March, but she's not expected to start filming her scenes until mid-April. The Wachowski brothers still plan to shoot both "The Matrix 2" and "The Matrix 3" back-to-back, so the singer will likely be working in Australia on the projects through the late spring or early summer.

"The Queen of the Damned," based upon the third book in author Anne Rice's "Vampire Chronicles," is due on screens October 5.

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