By Stephen M. Silverman
Updated April 11, 2002 11:00 AM

“Ali” starlet Nona Gaye, 27, daughter of Motown legend Marvin Gaye, will step into the role originally slated for late singer-actress Aaliyah in the sequels to the sci-fi thriller “The Matrix,” set to begin shooting in Sydney, Australia, next week, reports Variety. Gaye, a Los Angeles native who had her own R&B hit in 1992 with “I’m Overjoyed,” will portray Zee, a role that is introduced in the second film, “The Matrix Reloaded,” and which gets significantly expanded in the third film, “The Matrix Revolutions.” At the time of her fatal plane crash Aug. 25, Aaliyah had wrapped up the initial shooting for “Reloaded” in L.A. Aaliyah was scheduled to complete principal photography on both films early this year. As for the release schedule of the “Matrix” movies (both from Warner Bros., which, like PEOPLE, is part of AOL Time Warner), “Reloaded” is due on May 23, 2003, with “Revolutions” to follow in November. The three stars of the original — Keanu Reeves, Carrie-Anne Moss and Laurence Fishburne — are also due back. Gaye most recently appeared opposite Will Smith in “Ali,” playing Belinda, one of the boxing champ’s wives. The movie adaptation of the Anne Rice vampire novel “Queen of the Damned,” released recently, featured Aaliyah, who was 22 when she was killed. Her sound-alike brother, Rashad Haughton, dubbed part of her voice track.