Jonathan Groff thought he peed himself while shooting a Matrix 4 scene as Smith
Jonathan Groff had been mentally preparing for his big moment in The Matrix Resurrections. The actor known for Frozen, Glee, and Broadway's Hamilton took over the role of Agent Smith, a character played in the original trilogy by Hugo Weaving. (There's a story reason for the re-cast.) He watched YouTube clips of Weaving's performance to get into the mindset, though he didn't want to do an impression, especially when he uttered for the first time Smith's familiar line: "Mr. Anderson!"
Groff ultimately decided not to rehearse it too much before the time came. He would go to set on the day and do the scene. And he did. In one of his first action sequences in the movie, as ceiling sprinklers shower the office setting, he reaches for his gun, points it at Keanu Reeves' Neo, screams the phrase, and then...
Groff turns to Reeves during an interview for EW's Around the Table series to see if he remembers. "When it was over, I was like, 'I think I wet my pants. I think I peed myself,'" he admits.
"You know when you pee yourself you feel that, like, hot urine? ... But then, it didn't go away," he continues as his castmates burst into laughs. Groff was determined to solve this mystery. "When you pee yourself, it's hot for a second and then it gets cold, and so [the sensation] sustained. Then I thought one of the shells from the gun had come down my shirt, which they warn you might happen. I was reaching down there looking for this shell but it wasn't down there. But for like 10 minutes, I had this heat emanating from my..."
Priyanka Chopra, sitting next to Groff during the conversation, clears her throat. "Groin," he finishes with a smile.
At the time, Reeves thought his colleague had opened his root chakra, but Groff was fascinated by Carrie-Anne Moss' explanation, which was a very Matrix-appropriate thought. "You were saying sometimes your body doesn't know it's not real," Groff recalls.
"When I shoot a gun, I can look really cool in a scene, but afterward it's like my body doesn't know it's not real, and it's really intense," Moss explains. "Unless you're really experienced [and] you've gone beyond that point. My body has a physical reaction to it."
"But you didn't pee your pants," she clarifies of Groff. "To be clear."
This joyous man doesn't sound like the kind of guy who could embody the likes of Smith, a dastardly sentient program in the virtual Matrix world designed to look like a Men in Black-type suit whose main goal is to neutralize those who realize what the Matrix really is. Groff surprised even himself.
It was more than just re-watching the original Matrix movies to get into character. "I wanted [The Matrix] to be in my brain in even subconscious ways," he says. "The minute I found out that I got this part, I wanted to just have a knowledge and an awareness of that world more than the fan that I was before, to really immerse myself in the world." He read Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, works by Philip K. Dick, Christopher Isherwood's The Berlin Stories (because part of the film was shot in the German city). "I was trying to osmosis the original stuff as much as I could," he says.
But where Groff felt the most connected to Smith was within the "certain punches and moves" of the fight sequences. Groff's nickname on set quickly became "The Savage," bestowed on him by a member of the stunt team because the actor "would just go so hard" in training.
"I couldn't do it halfway or else I would feel so self-conscious because it seemed so far outside of my skill set," Groff continues.
Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, who plays a different iteration of Morpheus, confirms Groff's approach to the action scenes was "all or nothing." Though, he confirms that behind the ferocity was still glimmers of Groff's infectious personality.
"There were sometimes where you would do it exactly right, and then you'd back up and kind of be a little bit giddy," Abdul-Mateen tells him. "Like, you'd drop the serious face just to show some excitement. Then you'd get back into the zone. I was like, 'God, the boy is working!'"
Check back later for the full episode of EW's Around the Table this Wednesday. The Matrix Resurrections opens in theaters and on HBO Max this Wednesday.