Derek Lawrence
April 07, 2017 AT 09:00 AM EDT

This is FATE week on EW.com. Every day, we’ll be debuting a new behind-the-scenes look at The Fate of the Furious, the latest film in the ongoing saga of Dominic Toretto’s globetrotting family of car-action superstars.

In what started as an underground Los Angeles racing film, the Fast & Furious franchise has turned into a globe-trotting adventure, making stops in Miami, Tokyo, Rio de Janeiro, London, and Abu Dhabi. For the upcoming eighth installment, the action continues to shift to new locations, taking the team to Berlin, Iceland, and New York, or as director F. Gary Gray calls it, “the vehicular forbidden city.” While challenges are nothing new to the Fast crew — cars fell from the sky and jumped building-to-building in Furious Seven — shooting in the Big Apple was unlike anything they had done before. Check out the exclusive behind-the-scenes video above to see a preview of the epic chase they dreamed up.

EW talked with Gray, making his Fast debut, about why he wanted to tackle New York and his approach to topping the wild moments from the previous films.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: The franchise has made so many stops along the way, whether it was Miami, Tokyo, Abu Dhabi, so it’s almost shocking that the team hadn’t yet gone to New York City. Why now?
F. GARY GRAY: The films have gone all around the world, but the truth is, the article that this franchise was spawned from was about the car scene in New York. So what’s the ultimate taboo? Racing cars in the streets of New York — it’s almost impossible given the traffic, laws, rules. The Fast family has always been about breaking the rules, and I talked to Vin [Diesel] and my writer Chris Morgan about the natural evolution of the franchise and New York kept coming up. We had a great conversation about it and thought what we were dreaming up was impossible, so let’s do it. We thought the audience would really appreciate it if we could put the team and the family in the vehicular forbidden city and have a chase. It’s one of my favorite sequences in the whole franchise.

What excited you most about the opportunity for this epic scene?
The fact that you know that it’s really, really hard to get around. [Laughs]. I love challenges. You say Cuba, I say, “I’m in.” You say Russia and Iceland, I say, “I’m in.” New York City, “Of course, I’m in.” I don’t think anyone would be disappointed in that sequence. It’s original, current, timely, innovative, and I’m really proud of it. If you think about this franchise, it’s really about team and family behind the wheel, and then all of a sudden, you have a sequence where there’s no one behind the wheel. These cars are being controlled remotely from a billion dollar plane in the sky by Charlize Theron — that’s crazy. And that’s why you go to the movies. The one thing that was at the top of my list is, how can I satisfy the fans and give them something different? You’ve watched seven movies up to this point and you’ve seen every inch of coverage, almost every idea surrounding how you can shoot a car chase or race, and this was the next level.

I imagine shutting down Times Square, especially for a high-speed chase, is nearly impossible. How hard was it to pull this off?
It’s a massive undertaking. You have post-9/11 New York; it’s very hard to get permits and lock things down because of safety and in some ways, exposure. Then, when you get the permits, you have to lock down these city blocks and make sure that no one walks in the middle of the street while these cars are going 100 mph. You have to make it safe for everyone, not just the cast and the crew, but for the pedestrians and onlookers. So you may look at a shot and say, “Oh, that’s pretty simple,” but it’s not. To get a helicopter above the skyscrapers given the security consciousness law enforcement, which they should be, it’s very hard to negotiate those things.

This had to have set the record for most cars in a Fast & Furious scene and maybe any movie scene for that matter. What was it like having so many vehicles involved in an already challenging shoot?
It was expensive. [Laughs] We destroyed hundreds of cars, brand new cars. It was very hard and expensive, but again, when you think about the fans, you say, “How do you make this entertaining?” And the mantra is, “Do it real.” There’s some movie magic here and there, obviously for safety reasons, but almost everything we do is real. So the car carnage is at a level I’d say is really hard to match; I can’t think of a movie that’s gone this far with the level of cars that we destroyed. We’re talking about Bentleys, Lamborghinis, vintage Corvettes, and being a car guy, it hurts your heart to see some of this stuff go, but at the same time, it’s such a spectacle. Certain movies, you can grab a laptop or iPad and have some fun… this is a movie you have to see in the theater. You’re like, “Okay, these guys pulled out the big guns, I have to see this on the big screen.”

It seems like the motto with each of these films is to top the previous one. With this scene in particular, did you view it as your chance to leave your mark on the series?
I respect Justin Lin and James Wan, so I’d imagine they had to look at the previous films and say, “How can we satisfy the audience on a whole another level?” I had to take the same approach, which is, these movies and the action scenes have been great up to this point — what can I do to satisfy the fan base and the audience on a whole another level? So yes, you think about those things and you take them to Cuba, you dream up zombie car sequences in New York, and you break out the Lamborghinis and submarines and have some fun like a big kid, but with real-life scale toys — and that’s what we did.

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The Fate of the Furious hits theaters April 14. Come back to EW.com every day this week for a closer look at the film’s wild filming, including interviews with cast and crew.

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