Giles Keyte/Universal Pictures
Devan Coggan
December 01, 2017 AT 02:38 PM EST

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Dwayne Johnson is a busy man. Not only is he gearing up to release his third movie of 2017 — Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle (out Dec. 20) — but his plate is packed with upcoming projects like the action-thriller Skyscraper, the arcade game monster movie Rampage, and Disney’s Jungle Cruise. But one of the most intriguing films on his slate is the recently announced Fast and Furious spin-off centering on his fan-favorite character Hobbs (Johnson) and Shaw (Jason Statham). Universal has already set a 2019 release date, and now, Johnson is sharing some new details about the project, teasing, “We’ve got a lot of surprises.”

EW recently sat down with Johnson for our current cover story on the star, where he opened up about what to expect from the Hobbs and Shaw spin-off.

“It’s been a challenging process because I feel like my intention from day one, when I first joined the cast, was to hopefully come in, have fun, and create a character that people will hopefully like and try to elevate the franchise,” Johnson says. “But in the process of elevating the franchise, I have always thought that in order for this to have real longevity and legs, we should spin out and create characters that can live on their own.”

Giles Keyte/Universal Pictures

Johnson joined the franchise with 2011’s Fast Five, and he says he and the studio first started weighing a potential spin-off around the release of Fast & Furious 6 in 2013. It wasn’t until the release of this year’s Fate of the Furious the production team decided to center it on Johnson and Statham, following their scene-stealing chemistry in the most recent film.

Last year, there were reports of on-set drama after Johnson publicly denounced some of his unnamed Fast 8 costars as “candy asses.” (It’s been widely speculated that Johnson was referring to original franchise star Vin Diesel.) Fellow Fast cast member Tyrese Gibson has also criticized Johnson on social media for pursuing the spin-off movie, calling Johnson a “clown” and accusing him of breaking up the film’s “family.”

But Johnson says he’s only focused on making a film fans will enjoy: Longtime Fast franchise veteran Chris Morgan is writing the script, and Johnson also teased that some “big stars” have been circling the spin-off.

“At the end of the day, the only thing I want to do is make a great movie for the fans,” he concluded. “I never ever get wrapped up in the sludge of the bulls— that can be connected at times to a franchise. So I never get dragged into it. I never respond to any of that.”

The Fast spin-off will hit theaters July 26, 2019, with Fast 9 scheduled for April 10, 2020.

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