By Derek Lawrence
June 11, 2021 at 06:00 AM EDT
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No one is more surprised that both Fast & Furious and Letty are still around than Michelle Rodriguez. First, it was the surprise longevity of the franchise, with the actress admitting that once about a time even she didn't think sequels were cool. Oh, and then there was that time when Letty died.

"I had no idea," Rodriguez tells EW's BINGE: The Fast Saga hosts Derek Lawrence and Chanelle Berlin Johnson of the Fast Five mid-credits reveal of Letty still being alive. "When I said yes to [2009's Fast & Furious], I said yes to it with the exception that they would test an alternative ending with me living. There was already low representation for women period, and to take away from them the one character that was really kickass, I didn't think that it's what people wanted. And I was right in the end, but it just took them a while to figure it out. And I didn't find out about it until I actually went to go see Fast Five and I saw the tag ending. Vin didn't even tell me. He was like, 'Don't worry about this, I got this,' and then I didn't hear from him for a year or something. He keeps his word, you've got to give him that."

Fighting for Letty was nothing new for Rodriguez. Since the very beginning, she hasn't held back when it comes to protecting all the female characters in Fast. "When Michelle read her role, she was like, 'No, I'm not playing that,'" costar Jordana Brewster recalled in EW's The Fast and the Furious oral history. "And then she changed it completely. It went from a trophy girlfriend to this really layered character."

F9, Fast 9
Michelle Rodriguez as Letty in 'F9.'
| Credit: Giles Keyte/Universal

"It was really, really tough, just going through that whole process," admits Rodriguez. "I think eventually it got to a point where we got some females onboard and it felt a lot easier to try to express dimension in the character. Because I think the one thing that most male writers got out of Letty was that she's no nonsense, and I guess that it stuck with them like concrete and all of a sudden there was nothing outside of that. And I'm like, 'Dude, what the hell? Does this bitch smile ever?' I think girls are different than boys, and for male writers, I think sometimes it's hard outside of sex or outside of boyfriend-girlfriend to really find her psychological meaning."

Rodriguez says "you can't blame anybody for that kind of stuff," and she's glad to stay out of the "nightmare" of talking through the franchise's romance, preferring to be allowed to be hands-on with using her hands. "If you can't really push the envelope on the female action, then you're not making action movies, because that's where it's at," declares the actress, who got her start in the boxing indie Girlfight. "I think most women are more concerned with how good they look than how badass they can really come across on the screen and what crazy or chaotic action they could pull off. And for me, that's more important than looking good. I could give two rats' asses what I look like. I want to kick some serious ass - or at least get my ass kicked really seriously!"

And she's done both, talking on BINGE about her unforgettable fights in Fast & Furious 6 and Furious 7 with former MMA stars Gina Carano and Ronda Rousey. It doesn't appear that she'll be taking on any professional fighters in F9, but she will be surrounded by an incredible female cast, which includes Brewster, Nathalie Emmanuel, Charlize Theron, and Helen Mirren. Rodriguez can't help but perk up when talking about how "happy" she is in the progress made.

"We've grown so much in the last 18 years, and it's all of us, we're in it together," she says. "It's cool that they were open enough to change and to evolve with the times... I really think that 9 is doing some justice for all the girls. I'm really proud of each and every woman in F9."

F9, Fast 9
Michelle Rodriguez and Jordana Brewster in 'F9.'
| Credit: Giles Keyte/Universal

That being said, when asked about who her dream Fast casting would be, she had in mind the same name that her costars Tyrese Gibson and Chris "Ludacris" Bridges picked on BINGE.

"I love me a Matt Damon," she said, intrigued by the idea of a crossover of Universal properties Fast and Jason Bourne. "Both me and Ty are like, 'Yo, Matt, what are you doing? What the f---, man, would you ever do one of these? Is it too crazy for you?' I don't know, because he's a serious actor. It would be sweet... We might as well start crossbreeding. Where do you go if you've done it all?"

For more Furious 7, head over to the other-half of BINGE's special two-part episode with Tyrese Gibson.

To listen, subscribe to EW's BINGE: The Fast Saga feed via Apple PodcastsSpotify, or wherever you get your podcasts. You can also subscribe to EW's YouTube page to catch all the video interviews, and stay tuned to EW.com for even more Fast coverage, including next week's episode with Nathalie Emmanuel talking The Fate of the Furious.

FULL EPISODE TRANSCRIPT

Michelle Rodriguez:

I remember that Ronda Rousey fight. I had two golf-ball size knots on my forehead.

Chanelle Berlin Johnson:

Oh, wow.

Derek Lawrence:

Oh, geez.

Michelle Rodriguez:

Because I forgot. I was like, "This is Ronda Rousey, dude." Because she hits hard, and she's going to really slam you against the wall. I'm supposed to lift my hand nonchalantly to cover the hit.

Chanelle Berlin Johnson:

Right?

Michelle Rodriguez:

Apparently, I got so involved as an actress in the moment that I just let my forehead whack the wall multiple times. I love it. That's where the juicy stuff is.

Dom:

Keep it under 9,000 RPMs. Kid's going to fly his pistons after the first 200.

Letty:

You know that's not my style. I got to ride or die, right?

Dom:

How about you just ride on this one?

Derek Lawrence:

Ask any podcaster, any real podcaster. It doesn't matter if you record in person or over video chat, podcasting's podcasting. Welcome back to EW'S BINGE: The Fast Saga, full transcripts of which are available on ew.com. I'm Derek Lawrence, aka the guy who went as Dominic Toretto for two straight Halloweens. And as that icon once said, "The most important thing in life will always be the people in this Zoom, right here, right now."

And for me, that's the Dom to my Brian, the Letty to my Mia, the Roman to my Tej, the Gisele to my Han... Chanelle Berlin Johnson. Chanelle, are you ready to shed some tears as we talk about the miraculous, the emotional, the exceptional, Furious 7?

Chanelle Berlin Johnson:

Yes. Also, I want to say, we've a bunch of these episodes now, and actually, I love that intro every single time. So I hope everybody enjoys it as much as me. And also, absolutely, this movie is so emotional. It doesn't matter how much I see it, it still gets me. Sometimes I still cry like it's the first time. Yeah, yeah. Can't wait, but also prepare for tears.

Derek Lawrence:

Well, first off, thank you for appreciating the intro. And update, very important update, I recently saw Vin in person and he, we were safe don't worry... Masks were involved. But he saw me and the first thing he said is, "I thought you were going to show up in your Halloween costume." So he appreciates that. You appreciate the intro, hopefully others do. So, maybe I'll have to now go for a third Halloween as Dom.

Chanelle Berlin Johnson:

Yeah, please.

Derek Lawrence:

Bring it back. But yeah, specifically to Furious 7, this is a big one, obviously for a lot of reasons. But as a refresher first for any new listeners, in case you're just a big fan of the film work of both Iggy Azalea and Ronda Rousey... Ahead of F9's June 25th release, we're bingeing all of the Fast movies with the family themselves. So we've already chatted about the first six installments. So you can go back and check out our interviews with Vin Diesel, Ludacris, Lucas Black, Justin Lin, Jordana Brewster, and Sung Kang. But today, we've got a movie so big, so important, that we have two huge guests. That's right, on this special two parter, we're talking with Tyrese Gibson and Michelle Rodriguez.

Chanelle Berlin Johnson:

Yes!

Derek Lawrence:

Chanelle, before we get into part one with Michelle... And that just rhymed right there. That's just meant to be. Chanelle and Michelle finally united. What do people need to remember about Furious 7? Like I alluded to earlier, this one is much more than just about the plot.

Derek Lawrence:

Considering, Paul Walker, someone who's come up a lot in this show, a beloved member of the Fast family, died during a break from filming. And as we discuss with both Michelle and Tyrese, it wasn't guaranteed that they'd finished this movie, as their priorities were rightfully more about grieving their close friend. But against all odds, they did. And surely did him proud with the powerful goodbye to him and his character, Brian, in the closing moments of Furious 7. But other than that, what should people know going in about Furious 7?

Chanelle Berlin Johnson:

Yeah, this is where the long road ends for Brian O'Connor. Obviously the character gets to live on, but they have to figure out how to say goodbye to him in a way that makes sense because they lose Paul tragically. So what happens in the movie, is Kurt. Russell's Mr. Nobody recruits Dom and the team to help save Ramsey, this programming, super-genius, who's created God's Eye. Which is, honestly, a terrifying surveillance program, and I hope nothing like it actually exists. It's wanted by a bunch of criminals and Ramsey's been kidnapped.

They're also being hunted by Deckard Shaw, who is of course played by Jason Statham, who wants revenge for the team putting his brother Owen in the hospital in Fast & Furious 6. Things come to a head after a lot of adventure in Los Angeles, which ties everything back to the roots of the franchise. Even though it's not a direct corollary to anything that happens in the first movie.

And Dom comes close to death, in a way that I don't think we've really seen before at all in these movies. It's pretty harrowing. For a movie that actually teases death a lot in the film, and I think ratchets up accidentally what's going to happen with Paul and the Brian character. But then we get the switcheroo, and it's Dom who comes close to the brink after some crazy stunts. And Letty is on the ground with him, and tells him not to because... Surprise! After 6, and now most of 7, she reveals that she has all of her memories back. Including that she and Dom secretly got married.

So, after everything goes well, succeeds, everyone lives on. The team convenes on the beach, and we get that super-touching goodbye where everybody's looking at Brian and Mia. And then there is the drive at the very end. And it all ends with See You Again, which is now an iconic song. And that's what we got for Furious 7.

Derek Lawrence:

Yeah. We'll be talking a lot through this episode, and the Tyrese episode, about that final scene. Literally, I saw the Furious 7 three times in the theater, and the third time, just so I could watch that final scene. I was the only person in that theater. The movie had been out a couple months. And obviously, I was loving everything that was happening. But I was sitting there, "All right. Let's get to the end. That's what I'm here for." And I still sometimes just pull it up to watch randomly, just because it's so good. So we'll talk a lot about that, like I said, in the interviews and in our usual awards segment.

But now, Chanelle and I are going to hop into our interview with Michelle. Again, we have a second part to this episode with Tyrese, aka Roman Pearce. So you also go, subscribe to the BINGE: Fast Saga feed to check that out. And on the Tyrese episode, we'll do our usual award segments. But now, let's ride into our conversation with Michelle.

Ramsey:

So if this car goes down, he's coming to save us?

Letty:

Save us, honey? We're it.

Derek Lawrence:

She's got to ride or die, that's her style. But Michelle Rodriguez is temporarily parking to talk Furious 7. Michelle, welcome to our binge of Fast & Furious.

Michelle Rodriguez:

What's going on, man? How are you?

Derek Lawrence:

We're doing great. Anytime we can talk Fast & Furious, we're doing great. So we really are excited to chat with you about Furious 7. An incredible movie, for so many reasons that we'll get into. But I guess we'll start off as we do with every episode... The famous words of Dominic Toretto, where he lives his life a quarter mile at a time. Nothing else matters for those 10 seconds, he's free. So how would you summarize this film, Furious 7, in 10 seconds?

Michelle Rodriguez:

Oh, wow. That's tough. 7 is special because we were saying goodbye to somebody we love, who was there from the jump. And if anybody can express the enthusiasm of what Fast & Furious means to the world, it was Paul. And so, it was his homage. And I think that it was just a really, really beautiful film.

For me, it's special and it hits home just because of that. And for me, it supersedes anything about the movie itself, the action, or the plot, or any of that. None of that really matters. It's a goodbye to Paul.

Derek Lawrence:

Absolutely. Before diving into Furious 7, we watch Fast 4... We're like, "Oh..." Letty died, and barring an evil twin situation, we're not going to see Michelle in these movies anymore. Did you think the same, or did you know it was always the plan to bring you back?

Michelle Rodriguez:

No, totally! I had no idea. Originally when I said yes to it, I said yes to it with the exception that they would test an alternative ending with me living because I knew that the audience didn't want that. There was very, already low, representation for women, period. And there's a lot of women who love racing cars all around the world. And to take that away from them with the one character that was really kick ass, I didn't think that it's what people wanted. And I was right in the end, but it just took them a while to figure it out.

And I didn't find out about it until I actually went to go see Fast 5, and I saw the tag ending. I was in Paris. Vin didn't even tell me. He was like, "Don't worry about this. I got this." And then I didn't hear from him for a year or something.

Chanelle Berlin Johnson:

Oh, wow.

Michelle Rodriguez:

He keeps his word, that one. You got to give him that.

Chanelle Berlin Johnson:

Yeah. So after you come out of the theater, that's your first call. Like, "What's happening here?"

Michelle Rodriguez:

What the hell, dude? Like, "How come you didn't tell me?" He's like, "I did tell you." I'm like, "You're so enigmatic. Stop it."

Derek Lawrence:

He's like, "You told Eva Mendes before me? What the heck is going on?"

Chanelle Berlin Johnson:

Yeah, right.

Michelle Rodriguez:

Yeah. What's going on, man? What's up with that? So funny.

Chanelle Berlin Johnson:

So then, what was it like when you realize they want to bring Letty back? You start having those conversations about in what way? At what point for you, did it come up with the whole amnesia thing and all of that?

Michelle Rodriguez:

Yeah, that was a wild conversation. Because at first, it was getting over the fact that she could be alive. For a lot of people, especially after the year 2000, that whole idea of doing movies like they did in the '90s was out the window. And it was this, we have to try to be as real as possible, after the year 2000. It was like all of a sudden, I don't know who put the bar there, but those Lethal Weapon movies where you're flying in a house, having a fight... Or a car goes through a building and lands in a... Wait, we did that, didn't we?

But those ideas were out the window. And I think Fast & Furious slowly brought that vibe back and got away with it. And we were looking around, waiting for some flack, and I guess the hoorahs were in the ticket sales. And so all the flack was from the critics, and we didn't really care about that because we care about was people watching the movie and really loving it, enjoying the whole thing. So. it was a blast. It's been pretty wild.

Derek Lawrence:

What was it in Fast 6 and Furious 7, you're playing a Letty who was battling so many things, like amnesia, people trying to tell her who she is, which I imagine is very frustrating for someone. So what's it like playing all that? And going on this journey with this character, who at this point, you the actress know more about the character than they know about themselves.

Letty:

Do you know how hard it is for me when you look at me and you see me through 15 years of memories? Every beautiful moment we've ever had, I see it in your eyes. I can't give that to you. I got nothing.

Dom:

You got me.

Letty:

And you've got only a piece of me. I have to find myself, for me.

Michelle Rodriguez:

It was really, really tough, just going through that whole process. I think eventually it got to a point where we got some females on board, and it felt a lot easier to try to really express dimension in the character. Because I think that for the most part, the one thing that most male writers got out of Letty, was that she's no nonsense. And I guess that that stuck with them like concrete, and all of a sudden there was nothing outside of that. So it's always this... Whenever you look at Letty. And I'm like, "Dude, what the hell? Does this bitch smile ever?"

Chanelle Berlin Johnson:

Right. Does she have fun?

Michelle Rodriguez:

What the hell? I don't know what happened. But it was really, really interesting, just trying to find dimension through the years. Because I think girls are different then boys. And for male writers, I think sometimes it's hard, outside of sex, or outside of boyfriend/girlfriend, to really find her psychological meaning. And eventually, we got to a place where I think we find a little bit of dimension, so I'm super happy. Super stoked.

Chanelle Berlin Johnson:

And I feel like Furious 7 ties directly into that because it's the continuation of where Letty is emotionally and what she's thinking about herself. And so she says, right at the beginning of the movie, I got to find myself. Was that the most exciting part of the Furious 7 script? Or what was the most exciting thing for you when you see it? And you're like, "All right. This is what we're shooting. This is the next step for the character."

Michelle Rodriguez:

I think with Fast 7, it was the beauty of we did it. We got through the threshold. We proved that people want what we got to offer. And we proved that people prefer to have Letty back. And so now, it was really just about establishing the fun again and getting back into the whole idea of why we do this. What is so exciting about Fast & Furious?

And it's the fact that you have people who come from the other side of the tracks, and they're doing extraordinary things with cars. Like flying [inaudible 00:14:15] plane, and landing, then a parachute. Come on, guys. You don't see that every day. And so it's cool to be able to play with that. And we were in that mode of, finally, we're through the threshold of proving ourselves. And now we get to actually get to the core of what we love about the franchise, which is the action and the fun process of it. Just got hardly interrupted by life.

Derek Lawrence:

There's so many amazing scenes, like you even just referenced a bunch of the action ones. But do you have a personal from Furious 7? A personal favorite? Your fight with Ronda Rousey, obviously-

Michelle Rodriguez:

I love that!

Derek Lawrence:

Some more more emotional ones too. You have the great fight in 6... And then they keep just throwing more MMA fighters at you.

Michelle Rodriguez:

Well, it was about upping the ante on the female empowerment stuff. And so, if the choreographer throws me a 5, I'm going to go for a 10. And so, where there was originally bunch of fighting stuff, I want rigs for people to fly. And I want some danger involved. So people are going to go down the stairs in 6, and in 7, we're going to have a balls out fight. I remember that Ronda Rousey fight. I had two golf-ball size knots on my forehead.

Chanelle Berlin Johnson:

Oh, wow.

Derek Lawrence:

Oh, geez.

Michelle Rodriguez:

Because I forgot. I was like, "This is Ronda Rousey, dude." Because she hits hard, and she's going to really slam you against the wall. Had I been a stunt double, I would have remembered. When I went flying towards the wall, I'm supposed to lift my hand nonchalantly to cover the hit.

Chanelle Berlin Johnson:

Right?

Michelle Rodriguez:

Apparently I got so involved as an actress in the moment that I just let my forehead whack the wall multiple times. And yeah, but I love it. That's where the juicy stuff is. And if you can't really push the envelope on the female stuff, on the female action, then you're not making action movies. Because that's where it's at. We don't get a lot of that in general. And I think most women are more concerned with how good they look, then how bad they can really come across on the screen, and what chaotic action they could pull off.

And for me, that's more important than looking good. I could give two rats asses what I look like. I want to kick some serious ass, or at least get my kicked really good. I think that that's fun. So yeah, I think that fight really, really hit it home for me.

Chanelle Berlin Johnson:

Jordana said something similar, where she was constantly trying to prove to Justin that, "I can do some stunts. I've been training... Let me do more stuff."

Michelle Rodriguez:

You got to just wait till you see her in Fast 9. Ah, it's going to be good. I really think that 9 is doing some justice for all the girls.

Chanelle Berlin Johnson:

Oh, great.

Michelle Rodriguez:

I'm really proud of each and every woman in Fast 9. And I'm like, "Yes!" Finally, after what was it? It only took 18 years. I'm like, "Yeah! You finally caught up. This is what I'm talking about." Now you realize it's cool.

Derek Lawrence:

Just in the trailer, there's so many things that I was super excited about. But just seeing glimpses of you and Jordana kicking ass together was one of the things I was really the most pumped about. Because I remember you pointed this out in an interview you did a couple years ago... One of my former colleagues did this big feature on all the bad-ass women that have been in Fast, which is crazy if you look down the list.

And you pointed out that you or Jordana hadn't even really shared that many scenes. You'd worked for 15 years together, and you hadn't even-

Michelle Rodriguez:

Yeah.

Derek Lawrence:

Yeah, so you guys have made so much progress it sounds like in this ninth one. So what's it been like for you, over these last 20 years, working on the behalf of Letty? And continue to fight for her and the other female characters. Because I know after 8, you were like, "Hey, we need to get this figured out or I might have to walk away."

Michelle Rodriguez:

Yeah. No, you know what? You can't really blame anybody for that stuff. We're all figuring it out as we go along. We're all discovering in it. And we never thought, period, that Fast & Furious would go beyond a second movie, a second sequels. Nobody had even thought that sequels were a good thing.

Chanelle Berlin Johnson:

Right?

Michelle Rodriguez:

We thought sequels were taboo. That's established in the '90s, that you don't do sequels. Unless you're Lethal Weapon or Die Hard, you just cannot pull it off. So it was a surprise to us, all of us, that it even had longevity. Then it's another surprise that female empowerment movement would take women so far, as to say, "Hey, I can do what you can do." And it's cool because we actually are interested in these fields, and it exists. One of the best drifters in the world is a female. The biggest surf wave was surfed by a woman last year.

So, there are things that happened, times change, and eventually the franchise gets to move with that. And so, it's been a really great process... I was always ahead of that curve, just because I was a tomboy by chance. And just because I really, really enjoy action. And so I will not like to stand on the sidelines. If I'm in a scene and there's a fight, I like to keep it real. And what would you do in real life? Yeah, I'd be in that fight, buddy. I'm not going to be sitting around screaming, "Help me!"

So that process has been interesting, and it's a learning curve. Both with being a female, with stunt doubles, stunt coordinators, with writers, with producers... And just all around, just having to express myself. For 18 years, always having to say, "No, that doesn't work because..." And then eventually, hoping that the reasoning behind it will resonate, and eventually changes will be made. And all of a sudden now you're having action sequences that are more suitable to what reality would be if you were really in that situation. And so it just makes me happy. We've grown so much in the last 18 years, and it's all of us. We're in it together. And so, it's cool that they were open enough to change, and to evolve, with the times.

Chanelle Berlin Johnson:

But you did an interview last fall where you mentioned a female writer coming in on 9.

Michelle Rodriguez:

Yeah! SLP!

Chanelle Berlin Johnson:

Yeah. Is Suzan-Lori Parks? You referred to her as SLP.

Michelle Rodriguez:

Yeah!

Chanelle Berlin Johnson:

Okay, great.

Michelle Rodriguez:

Get it, get it, get it! That one's all Samantha. Samantha, Vin's sister, she's amazing producer on Fast.

Chanelle Berlin Johnson:

Oh, amazing. Yeah.

Michelle Rodriguez:

And she's just fantastic, man. She's just gangster when it comes to finding really great women to come on board.

Chanelle Berlin Johnson:

That's awesome.

Michelle Rodriguez:

Yeah, I was super stoked. I really love her. She's got good vibes, that one.

Chanelle Berlin Johnson:

Yeah, and we've been excited because she's done all this stuff recently with United States vs. Billie Holiday, and now Genius Aretha. So I'm excited to see the Fast universe partially in her hands too. That's awesome.

Michelle Rodriguez:

No, no, it's in demand. A voice like that, that's strong, that understands depth and dimension, is definitely welcome. She's definitely overqualified in whatever job she picks.

Derek Lawrence:

There's obviously been so many great action and fight sequences in Fast. But in Furious 7 here, you get to do a lot of powerful and emotional stuff. Whether it's the scene at the grave early on, or at the end when love brings Dom back to life, seemingly. So what was it like getting to maybe tap into some new things for these heavier moments? In at least Furious 7.

Michelle Rodriguez:

It's tough, because I'm like, "Do I have to be the heart for all of us? Can somebody else cry a little bit?" Because this is like, dude... I want to kick some ass too. No, it's been interesting. Because I think that carrying the weight of 18 years together, it's a beautiful thing. We've literally, around the world... I can go to a place like Mongolia where they're having an eagle hunting festival, and I'm taking a selfie with a [Kazakh 00:23:13] who hangs out in the fields with his eagles. And it's because of Fast & Furious.

Or I'll be in Gabon in Africa, and all of a sudden I'm taking pictures with a Bushman. And it's because he's totally down with the Fast & Furious franchise. And I'm like, "Dude, this is global." And I grew up with people. I grew up with people. So literally, from the year 2000, cut to now... People have had children. And those little kids who used to go with their dad, now that dad is a grandpa. And it's just quite awesome, to just have that knowledge that that's what it represents.

So whenever we do have those moments, which are super emotional in the franchise film, it's also me being super emotional with family. These are people that I grew up with, and they were part of this new life that I started, coming from Jersey City... And so it's very easy for me to go there. It's not hard at all to pull heartstrings on a Fast & Furious film because all the characters, they really carry that gravitas of love, of comradery, of being through the thick of it with each other. We carry that. And so it's just very easy, I think to suffer because you've got that love and bond with each other. So it's not hard. It's like a soap opera, I guess. At this point, geez. We lasted long enough. Days of Our Lives is what we're running up against now.

Derek Lawrence:

I was going to say, enough people have come back from the dead I think now, to officially be a soap opera.

Michelle Rodriguez:

That's hilarious.

Chanelle Berlin Johnson:

Well, in that same sort of vein, with the people that come in and out, depending on what's happening with the plot... Coming out of 6, you lose, we think, the Han character. And then of course Gisele.

Michelle Rodriguez:

Surprise!

Chanelle Berlin Johnson:

Right, yeah. But then also in 7, you welcome Ramsey. So what's it like for you guys who've all been there. When someone new comes in, are there things that you love to do to welcome them? Or how does that happen? To make sure everybody feels like, "All right. Now you're part of the crew."

Michelle Rodriguez:

I think that Vin does a really, really good job of commandeering that whole situation, of welcoming new characters in, and making sure that they understand that we're all in it together. We'll have dinners usually. Events where we all get to hang out with each other, and really feel each other's energy out. That's really where it all starts.

And then from there, the working days come easy. From there, you understand that we're all in this together. And we all just want to make really great products, and make sure that people out there are entertained. And so I think that Vin does a really, really, really good job of making that shine through.

Derek Lawrence:

This feels like such a big film for the Letty and Dom relationship. Finally, she's back in the fold after being gone, and then all that happened in 6. What are the conversations like that you and Vin have? Talking through this relationship that you've now been portraying for 20 years and the evolution of that.

Michelle Rodriguez:

It's a lot. It's a lot, it's a lot. Those conversations have evolved throughout the years. At first, the conversations were more about, don't you want an equal at your side? And then after that has been established, the conversations are more about family. Whether or not to expand it, what that looks like. What the future looks like, for the franchise and for the characters in it. And it's crazy because nobody ever thought we'd be at a 9. What the heck? Not even Harry Potter for Christ's sake. What the hell?

So, it's definitely been a trip. But with me and Vin, it's just so easy. Because we understand each other, and we work really, really well together, creatively. We can knock things out. I think it's because we have our feet in that urban world, and also on the ground, with the love of family, and the understanding of what tribe means.

And I think that when you're very tribal like that naturally, and you're very off the beaten track, rebellious just by nature, it's easier for you to imagine these Fast stories, where they're going. And easy for you to see what works and what doesn't because it's intuitive. We have that street smart that we can bring to the table, which is something that I don't think a lot of executives carry. Or writers that grew up in Beverly Hills, or whatever.

Those kinds of things, we have those lines. And so if you cross those lines with us, we know that you're endangering the integrity of something that's really important. And that's something that I think you need. If you don't have that line, then you're going to get those movies that don't work that are about cars. Because that line, that integrity line, is what I think keeps everybody coming back for more.

Derek Lawrence:

We've got to take a quick detour, but we'll be right back.

Derek Lawrence:

Now that we're gassed up, let's drive back into the interview.

Chanelle Berlin Johnson:

Were there specific things about the relationship that you wanted? That either came to pass, or... Getting to to 8 and realizing like, "Oh, they can talk about kids," or something like that. Were those things that you had hoped for? Or did they evolve as you were doing the movies?

Michelle Rodriguez:

For me, personally, that's a nightmare. That whole male, female, heterosexual, whatever. When it comes to movies and action, I'm so asexual, it's not even funny. I'm just like, "No, don't talk about relationships and love. Who gives a shit? Let's just throw some action in there and make it better." I have an adverse reaction to all that romance stuff, but I know we need it. Because the world is about love, that kind of romantic love, and they really eat that stuff up.

Letty:

If you die, I die. And I'm not ready to leave this place yet. This moment is still ours. I remember everything... I remember it all.

Dom:

It's about time.

Michelle Rodriguez:

So I go with the flow. I let him take the lead on that. But for me, the only time I smile or get giddy is when you're talking about explosions, and people flying through the air, and tumbling over the ground on fire.

Derek Lawrence:

Nice. That's still why I say, I think the most romantic thing I've ever seen in a movie is in Fast 6, when you're flying off the tank, and he jumps in the air-

Michelle Rodriguez:

Yeah!

Derek Lawrence:

And catches you. Because that's action, right?

Michelle Rodriguez:

That? I'm down with that. We can do that all day. I'm all about it.

Derek Lawrence:

You mentioned obviously at the top, as great as everything is in this movie, really what matters is you guys paying homage and saying goodbye to Paul and to the Brian character. Obviously, that was someone you worked with for 15 years plus, and we know how much he meant to, not only the movies, but to all of you guys. So just talk to us about Paul and your relationship with him. It seems like anybody we talked to, you don't even have to ask about Paul... They'll just bring him up and talk about what a great person he was.

Michelle Rodriguez:

He's an earth creature like me. You give me a freaking tree, and some dirt, some animal life... And I can be there forever in happiness. Paul, you can give him the sea and a board, and he could be there in happiness. And that's how me and him bonded, is because we were just so attracted to nature, and so in love with nature. That that's how I and him saw eye-to-eye.

And for us too the excitement being in the franchise... Was the more live action and analog action you could get, the better. And so through the years, me and him shared that attraction and that adverseness to anything CGI. If you say CGI to me, I'm like, "No, let's just stunt double. Let's double this sucker. Let's see how many cars we can destroy," which is not that great for the environment, but...

At the same time, it is what the heart of action movie making is about. And I think me and him shared that together. It was just this love for how real we could get in the process of making something that is art. Making action movies... It's not just that. The more realistic you can be, the more in jeopardy your life is, the better the ride. And so, I think that me and him shared that. Also the love of guns. I really adore weapons. And I like shooting weapons, and I like racing cars on the track. And so we shared actually enjoying these activities in general. So we'd always talk about that stuff together. And I just loved him a lot. He was just a fucking great guy.

Derek Lawrence:

I know. I think there is a little CGI involved, and there's a little moment that I love in Furious 7. When he's running to get off the truck that's falling off the cliff. And he jumps off, and he gets onto your car right at the edge. And he's just laying there, and then you just get out, and you're like, "You good?"

It's just a small, little moment between the characters, but just rewatching it every time... It works so well. Obviously then, he passes during filming. Obviously, we know that was such a hard time for all of you, and there was so much grieving to be done before even thinking about something so trivial as a movie. But once those conversations started, was there ever a part of you that didn't think you guys would actually finish the movie? Like it just didn't make sense, or you just didn't feel like that was what you wanted to do?

Michelle Rodriguez:

Yeah, there was no consciousness after that. You lose him, and we didn't think about a movie after that. A year passed, and then it's like, "Oh, okay. Wait..." They were actually cutting something together that whole time? It's a haze. You wake up out of it, and you're like, "Wait, we're still doing this?" It was a shock, that we would even keep going. For both me and Vin, especially, it was just like, "Really? You can see beyond this?" Just looking at each other and being like, "Really, you can see beyond this?"

Derek Lawrence:

Yeah. Obviously, we talked about that final scene at the beach, which is just so emotional. I get emotional just watching it every time, so I can't imagine filming that. And then even you seeing it for the first time in its final form. But it really is perfect, and the task of pulling that off is incredible that it was done so beautifully. So what was it like even just filming that? And then for you, seeing it in its final form, and knowing what it took to get there?

Michelle Rodriguez:

I was really proud of the studio. Because life in this business can get so corporate, and people can forget the humanity of things. You forget there's humans behind brands, and humans behind faces, and you forget the life behind that sometimes in this business side of things. And I just really, I think the studio really showed up. And they said, "You know what? We give a shit. We care. And we really loved Paul, and we're going to prove that. And we're going to really, really make sure that this is done right." And I praise them for that. Because I couldn't have imagined a better goodbye.

Derek Lawrence:

Yeah, absolutely.

Chanelle Berlin Johnson:

Yeah, agree.

Derek Lawrence:

There's no easy transition, but to wrap up our conversation on Furious 7, we always end one of these with what we call the Final Lap. A little bit more off the wall questions about the movie and the franchise. So, first one, say we're adding someone into Furious 7. They're not replacing anybody, but we're taking maybe another actor from the Fast universe that's not in the movie, or just another actor maybe you've always wanted to see in a Fast movie. Who would we add into the mix here for Furious 7?

Michelle Rodriguez:

Oh my God. In Furious 7?

Derek Lawrence:

Yeah, or just any Fast film. We'll take any answer.

Michelle Rodriguez:

Wow, oh my God. I love me a Matt Damon.

Derek Lawrence:

Who said that? Was that Tyrese? I think that was-

Chanelle Berlin Johnson:

I think so, yeah.

Michelle Rodriguez:

I think me and Ty both. Me and Ty are like, "Yo, Matt. What are you doing? Would you ever do one of these? Or is it too crazy for you to do one of these?" Because he's a serious actor, right?

Chanelle Berlin Johnson:

Right. But he likes some fun, yeah.

Derek Lawrence:

He did four Bourne movies. He's got the action in his blood-

Michelle Rodriguez:

I know!

Derek Lawrence:

Right there. That would be awesome.

Michelle Rodriguez:

It would be sweet. I'd love that.

Derek Lawrence:

Just have him play Jason Bourne in the movies.

Chanelle Berlin Johnson:

Right.

Michelle Rodriguez:

You know something? Just to be fair, to be fair... Part of the universe of Universal... So the one thing about branding is that you can never cross studios. The role, or whatever. But honestly, if you can mix Transformers with the Fast & Furious... Where else are we going to go?

Chanelle Berlin Johnson:

Right? Yeah.

Michelle Rodriguez:

You might as well start crossbreeding what you got. I don't know. What do you think about Back to the Future?

Chanelle Berlin Johnson:

That's something I would love to see. Anyway, we got to time travel, guys.

Michelle Rodriguez:

Yeah! That would be sweet!

Derek Lawrence:

Everyone's talking about space, and we're over here jumping ahead of that. No, forget space. We're going to the future.

Michelle Rodriguez:

No, to be fair, there's nowhere else to go but to merge. Corporations do it when they get too big, and eventually these franchises, they're going to get... So where do you go, if you've done it all? So at some point you're going to have to merge, and I like the idea of Bourne and Fast. I hope they don't think it dilutes Bourne in any way because they're so serious and we joke around a little bit.

Chanelle Berlin Johnson:

Right?

Michelle Rodriguez:

I don't know. I think it's a good idea to start thinking about co-branding stuff within a studio. I think it'd be sweet.

Derek Lawrence:

And we won't even take a commission after the idea coming from here.

Michelle Rodriguez:

I know, right? I just want to see it. I genuinely just want to see this kind of stuff. I'd love to see, what else would you merge?

Derek Lawrence:

Oh, man.

Michelle Rodriguez:

Like Disney? Oh, what about Star Wars and Marvel? What?

Derek Lawrence:

They're close. They're close. They're getting there.

Michelle Rodriguez:

Dude, what the hell, man? That would be insane!

Derek Lawrence:

I've been saying Mission: Impossible with Fast. Because I feel like Tom Cruise has already been trying to go to space, and they're always talking about Fast going to space.

Michelle Rodriguez:

Is Mission: Impossible Universal?

Derek Lawrence:

No, no. See, I'm trying-

Michelle Rodriguez:

Yeah, you can't crossbreed them.

Derek Lawrence:

Too many contracts.

Michelle Rodriguez:

Naughty, naughty, naughty.

Derek Lawrence:

Too many contracts. Too many contracts.

Michelle Rodriguez:

Yeah, that's what it is. The lawyers go crazy. Those guys are the new warriors, like, "Aah!"

Derek Lawrence:

So couple years ago, I ranked... Because I asked the question, who was the fastest and furiousist, I think I even made that word up, in Fast & Furious? Now I need to get your reaction. Everyone I've given their ranking too has been like, "Hey, see F9, and I'm going to rise." But I put Letty at number two, on the fastest and furiousist rankings.

Michelle Rodriguez:

What does that mean? Does that mean that I drive cars fast?

Derek Lawrence:

Yeah. So it was a system of, I gave you four out of five Coronas on Fast. [crosstalk 00:41:10] And four out of five Coronas on furious. So it was only Dom, was just ahead of you. I think he had four and a half Coronas or something.

Michelle Rodriguez:

Oh, that's great. I love that.

Derek Lawrence:

Does that feel right?

Michelle Rodriguez:

Yeah, I think that's about right.

Derek Lawrence:

I think that's respectable. Okay.

Michelle Rodriguez:

I definitely am more furious than I am fast. I'm a big military advocate, and so for me, guns and stuff like that, I can get pretty raw when it comes to battle. But I'm not that great behind the wheel in real life. I can hit it in the track, and I know all the rules. How to make straight lines out of curves and stuff. But I'm just better when it comes to planning battle, or attacks, and things like this. That physical stuff and gun stuff is more fun for me.

Derek Lawrence:

Glad that ranking holds up. Everyone else was debating their spot. So I appreciate you... I got one right.

Michelle Rodriguez:

Yeah, man. That's sweet.

Chanelle Berlin Johnson:

So we talked about superheroes and stuff. And to me, I think to Derek too, Fast 5 comes out in 2011... And we've thought of, basically, the Fast universe and all the main characters as superheroes since then. Because they're just bigger, and larger, and had the huge team ups. But if you could compare Letty to any superhero, who would you choose? Is there one close enough?

Derek Lawrence:

I don't even know why, but I thought Thor. I don't know. Maybe you're just... Seem that strong.

Michelle Rodriguez:

Because I'm standing on the hood of the car. It's a superhero moment. It's like that whole thing. That's so funny. Gosh, if I could compare Letty to any super hero... I don't think they exist, man. To be quite honest. The only superhero I've ever really truly adored, ever, is Catwoman.

Chanelle Berlin Johnson:

Oh, that's a great one.

Michelle Rodriguez:

And I think everybody else sucks. And I'm sorry, but it's just me. It's just me. To find a realistic... Because that's what it is. Action movies are realistic. And so, you can't have these super, super-duper powers. Like, "Oh, dude. Nobody can defeat you. What does it even matter?" You need to have a vulnerability.

Michelle Rodriguez:

And being human is the best. So I like the Black Widow. She's cool, but Catwoman's my favorite. I just always really liked her. She's bad ass, she's edgy, and I like people with dimension. I like people who are not always predictable.

Chanelle Berlin Johnson:

I think that's perfect.

Michelle Rodriguez:

You don't necessarily know what she's going to do next, and I think that was quite cool.

Chanelle Berlin Johnson:

Yeah. And the same kind of person who always does only what she wants. Like, "I'm not doing anything for anybody else."

Michelle Rodriguez:

Yeah, I like the loner. Maybe that's what it is. Everybody's on this goody two-shoes kick, and I'm just like, "Nah... Boring. Wa, wa, wa..."

Derek Lawrence:

Wrapping up, you've given us a little bit of hints of some awesome stuff to expect with Fast 9. But what would be your tease? We've all been waiting... That first trailer blew us all away. It's been over a year now, we've been waiting. So what would be your tease of Fast 9 as we start to get closer? Finally.

Michelle Rodriguez:

Jesus. Oh god, it's so nice to like, you know.

Derek Lawrence:

Oh my god.

Michelle Rodriguez:

Han. I think that'll be great. It's just so awesome. I think he's so good. And I'm just super stoked. When it comes to Han, that blew me away. Because, dude, there was no more dead than that.

Derek Lawrence:

And we saw it four times and all the movies.

Michelle Rodriguez:

Yeah! And it's like, "Whoa... How do you even fake that?" But then, when you get that trump card and you find out how it happened. And then you're like, "Oh... So anything's possible in the movie..." I love it! It's going to be great. It's going to be great. The reveal is going to be great. It'll be awesome I think.

Derek Lawrence:

I can't wait. I kept thinking, "Oh, how are they going to do it?" I don't even care. They did it. I'm glad..

Michelle Rodriguez:

I think Justin's the perfect-

Derek Lawrence:

Oh, yeah.

Michelle Rodriguez:

Guy to bring Han back because he has the biggest bond with him. They did Tokyo Drift together, and that bond... When you have a director who really, really loves you... And who you have a bond with, it's the perfect vehicle to do something as complicated as bringing you back to life in a franchise. He's in the best hands he could possibly be in. And I think that he'll do nothing but justice for Han, literally. No pun intended.

Derek Lawrence:

You can't end better than that. Well, Michelle, thank you so much for joining us and talking Furious 7, and becoming a part of the BINGE family. We appreciate it.

Michelle Rodriguez:

Cheers.

Dom:

This time, it ain't just about being fast.

Derek Lawrence:

All right. Well, that's all the time we have on this episode. But lucky enough for you, there's two episodes today, as we mentioned earlier. So now that you've finished listening to that great conversation with Michelle, go listen to another great conversation... But this one with Tyrese Gibson, also about Furious 7 and the evolution of Roman Pearce.

Derek Lawrence:

So thanks again to both Michelle and Tyrese for joining us. And like Brian O'Connor, we hope we earned your respect and that you keep listening to EW's BINGE: The Fast Saga. When next week, we're joined by Ramsey herself, Nathalie Emmanuel, to talk the fate of the furious. We're getting very close to the end of the road for BINGE. And F9's fast approaching, pun fully intended. So come back next week to hear Nathalie, and we're going to drive you all the way up until the F9 release on June 25th. In the meantime, please subscribe and listen to along every week wherever you get your podcasts. Rate us, tell us what you think, share it with your friends and family.

Chanelle Berlin Johnson:

You can find us on twitter @derekjlawrence, or me, @chanelberlin.

Derek Lawrence:

Also, head to ew.com for complete coverage of the Fast saga and full episode transcripts.

Chanelle Berlin Johnson:

This episode was hosted and produced by Derek Lawrence and Chanel Berlin Johnson. Produced, edited, and mixed by Samee Junio, and executive produced by Carly Usdin and Shana Naomi Krochmal.

Derek Lawrence:

Thanks for listening. And until next time, salud, mi podcast familia.

Related content:

Furious 7

type
  • Movie
genre
mpaa
  • PG-13
runtime
  • 129 minutes
director
  • James Wan

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