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Why Cas From The Matrix: Reloaded Looks So Familiar

With the upcoming The Matrix 4 apparently set to "change the industry," there's no better time than now to look back at the franchise's roots and remember why it became such a beloved series. A huge part of it, of course, was the technical wizardry on display. Many of the special effects that moviegoers have gone on to consider commonplace blew people's minds when the first film released in 1999. (Bullet time, anyone?)

Of course, eye-popping special effects alone aren't enough to ensure a franchise's longevity: characters and story matter, too. Neo, a.k.a. the "One," is one of Keanu Reeves' most classic roles; Hugo Weaving is arguably best known for his portrayal of the sunglasses-wearing Agent Smith; and speaking of eyewear, it's a feat of incredible proportions that Laurence Fishburne was always able to balance the glasses he wore as Morpheus.

It's a stellar main cast, but the supporting characters definitely help flesh out the world, as well. Take Cas, for example, who appears in sequels The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions. The widow of former Nebuchadnezzar pilot Dozer (Anthony Ray Parker), she doesn't leave any Neo-sized ripples in her wake, per se, but that's exactly what's so important about her. Between the clones, shootouts, and kung fu all featured in The Matrix franchise, it can be easy to forget the human element grounding everything, and Cas and her children remind us of that. If Gina Torres, the actress who plays her, seems familiar, here's where you may have seen her before.

Torres played a loyal crew member on a canceled sci-fi classic Firefly

It's hard to talk about Firefly without bringing up the sore point of its premature cancelation, but the show's slew of positives outweigh that one giant negative. In the span of just a handful of episodes and a movie that did its best to wrap things up, the space Western garnered a most enviable cult following (with fingers collectively crossed that the Disney reboot rumors are true, caveats and all) colloquially known as the Browncoats. The show's black humor, consistent tone, and unforgettable cast of characters all make the short watch well worth it.

Torres plays one of said characters: Zoë Alleyne Washburne, who's just about the most kick*** woman in the 'Verse. It wasn't her first sci-fi role (that honor goes to her part as Dr. Amy Ellis in the TV film, M.A.N.T.I.S.) and it wouldn't be her last, but it's quite likely the one she's best known for. Serving as the first mate of the Firefly-class ship Serenity under her war comrade Captain Malcolm Reynolds (Nathan Fillion), Zoë's as loyal as loyal gets. Mess with any of the crew, and you mess with her. And you definitely don't want to mess with her.

In spite of her unbreakable exterior — or perhaps because of it — Zoë married (before the show even begins) her near-polar opposite: Hoban "Wash" Washburne (Alan Tudyk), pilot of the Serenity and professional goofball. Their relationship is one of the show's highlights, and a potent reminder that even in the darkest moments, you can't take the sky from them.

Torres managed a much more grounded crew on Suits

When you first learn that someone's a college dropout, it's hard not to wonder — or, if you're the bolder sort, hard not to ask — what they're going to do next, and whether they'll be alright. Yet some people manage just fine without a degree, and Mike Ross (Patrick J. Adams) of the legal drama Suits is no exception. In other ways, however, Mike is the exception: brilliant despite having been expelled from school, he initially makes a living off acing the LSAT for prospective law students. His considerable knowledge eventually lands him a spot at an enormous New York City law firm, under the tutelage of renowned closer Harvey Specter (Gabriel Macht).

It's the opportunity of a lifetime, but maintaining the secret that Mike's a degree-less fraud isn't easy; indeed, managing associate Jessica Pearson (Torres) finds out quickly enough. She's been in the business a long time, so she doesn't take the news well. However, given his dedication and undeniable skill, she comes to respect him less and less begrudgingly. Just the same, fans and critics alike came to respect her, praising both the character herself and Torres' powerful performance with a number of accolade nominations and wins over her seven-season run on the show.

The character proved so popular, in fact, that after leaving Suits, she got her own spinoff show: the aptly-named Pearson. Though it shifts from legal entanglements to political ones, Torres continued wowing audiences as the titular character. Alas, Pearson went the way of Firefly — canceled after only one season — but that had nothing to do with Torres' performance.

Torres suits up once again on 9-1-1: Lone Star

Following the success of their procedural drama 9-1-1, showrunners Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk, and Tim Minear developed spinoff series 9-1-1: Lone Star, shifting the story from Los Angeles, California to Austin, Texas. It still focuses on first responders seeking balance between their personal and professional lives, but the new location and cast of characters keeps things fresh.

Season two is currently releasing at the time this article was written, and it addresses the issue real-life first responders are still dealing with as of January 2021: the COVID-19 pandemic. It affects everyone, but no one more so than Torres' Captain Tommy Vega, who is forced to return as a paramedic and support her family after the virus puts a stopper on her husband's restaurant. She'd retired eight years before appearing on the show in order to raise twins, but left quite a legacy behind her. Now that she's back in the game, Vega must summon forth her old skills and stay strong for both her fellow paramedics and her family. A rough gig indeed.

Torres' post-9-1-1: Lone Star schedule is unclear thanks to COVID-19's undeniable impact on Hollywood's production agenda, but we're sure she'll tough it out just like Captain Vega does.