When it comes to macho male characters, you can’t get much more macho than the main cast of the Fast & Furious saga. But the series has also introduced a number of strong female characters. That was not the case from the start. In an oral history of the franchise for EW, Jordana Brewster, who plays the role of Mia Toretto, revealed that Michelle Rodriguez almost passed on the role of Letty Ortiz, girlfriend-turned-wife of Dominic Toretto, the main character of the series played by Vin Diesel.
“When Michelle [Rodriguez] read her role, she was like, ‘No, I’m not playing that.’ And then she changed it completely. It went from a trophy girlfriend to this really layered character.”
The original movie that started everything, The Fast and the Furious, was a very grounded and gritty affair, exploring the underground drag racing scene in Los Angeles. According to Rodriguez, the role of Letty was at first quite one-dimensional, who only existed in the script to serve as eye candy next to Dom and his crew. Fortunately, the writers listened to Rodriguez’s input regarding the character.
“It was a reality check for them to realize that the streets don’t work like that. You don’t just get with a guy because he’s hot. There’s a hierarchy there. Can that hot guy get beat up by who you’re dating? If he can, then you don’t date him, because why would you want to lose the hierarchy? In order to keep it real, I had to school them: ‘I know you guys like Hollywood and all that, but if you want it to be realistic, this is how it really works, and I’m not going to be a slut in front of millions of people, so you’re going to lose me if you don’t change this.’ And they figured it out.”
With each new movie in the franchise, Letty has gone from strength to strength. An all-female Fast & Furious movie is currently in the works in which Rodriguez’s character will take the lead. In a previous interview, Michelle Rodriguez had confirmed that the upcoming Fast & Furious 9 also features a strong showing by the female characters.
“My heart warmed when I saw that there was actually not one single bit of resistance against the idea of bringing the females of the franchise into the forefront. [Director] Justin [Lin] was super on board with it. Vin was super on board with it. He’s always been supportive of strong women. And the studio hired an amazing writer to come on board and touch up all of the female characters. When I actually watched the movie, I was like, “Yeah, okay, drop mic. I can chill now.” I felt like all of the females in the franchise got equal amounts of love, and that, to me, warmed my heart. If they win, I win.”
Directed by Justin Lin, Fast & Furious 9 stars Vin Diesel, John Cena, Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson, Chris “Ludacris” Bridges, Jordana Brewster, Nathalie Emmanuel, and Sung Kang, with Helen Mirren, Charlize Theron, and Cardi B. The film arrives in theaters on May 28. This news first appeared in Entertainment Weekly.