Jordana Brewster has been with the Fast and Furious franchise since the very beginning, when she first played Mia Toretto — sister of Vin Diesel’s Dom Toretto and love interest of Paul Walker’s Brian O’Conner, in 2001’s The Fast and the Furious. Since then, the Brazilian-American beauty has appeared in four more of the films, returning in 2009’s Fast and Furious — in which director Justin Lin began reinventing the series — and even getting heavily into the action in 2011’s Fast Five, while Mia’s relationship with Brian deepened and eventually yielded a child named Jack.
Brewster largely sits out the action in Furious 7, but she does share what turned out to be her final scenes with her friend and co-star Walker, whose shocking death in late 2013 nearly brought this speed-driven series to an abrupt halt. The movie was eventually completed after a break, becoming not only the biggest production of them all but also a poignant tribute to the actor who was such a core component of the Fast and Furious family. Screen Rant sat down with Jordana for an exclusive interview in which she disclosed her thoughts on the series and its history, the future of her character and the loss of Walker.
Did you ever imagine that you’d be here 15 years later talking about this franchise and what it’s become?
Never. No. I remember the first one just felt like –- the first one felt very small. I think our budget was like, I don’t know, maybe 10 million, somewhere around there. It felt very gritty because we were solely in Los Angeles. Most of the stunts had no CG, I don’t think. And it felt like a movie that would stand alone. I think it was after Justin brought us all back for the fourth one that I thought, “Huh, maybe we’ll keep coming back for this.” And then Justin found a way of sort of reinvent it and it became a little more like, I’d say, a Bond movie where the villains became a little larger than life and the stunts became larger than life. We started traveling around the world and I think it sort of completely shifted. But never from the beginning did I think it would turn out to be this way.
Were you surprised by that shift? Did it make sense to you to take it that way?
I mean I was surprised but I also liked it, because I felt like the key elements that worked in the very beginning were still there. The sense of family and this band of misfits and criminals who still have so much heart and put each other first. I feel like that element was still in the films despite the fact that they keep getting bigger and bigger. So I feel like that’s why they still work.
What is it like to have James Wan come on as director after having Justin Lin at the helm for so many films?
I mean of course I miss Justin. I was nervous about him not being at the helm because he was such a wonderful — he was the one, as far as I’m concerned, that reinvigorated the franchise. He took it to such a different place for ‘Tokyo Drift’ and then brought us all back. So we kind of owe everything to him. But James luckily, thank God, had a similar quality to Justin. I mean selfishly, as far as an actor’s concerned, what I need in a director is someone who’s supremely confident and seems like he has his s*** together at all times, which James did. Because there’s so much pressure on these films. There’s so much money at stake. The stunts are huge. This one had an added element because we all had to come back together and finish the film. And James just was such a great leader.
Mia seems to have evolved almost the furthest away. She’s kind of out of the action because she’s got a very different set of responsibilities now.
Yeah, I miss the action. Part of the reason for that was that I was also shooting ‘Dallas’ so I wasn’t available. They were shooting at the same time and contractually I was obligated to be on the ‘Dallas’ set so I missed out. But Mia’s also a mom, which limits her a little bit too — I mean how much can you do? If you’ve got the kids there you can’t put them in imminent danger. So I do miss that because I had the most fun on ‘Fast Five’ when I got to take part in all that crazy stuff, because that’s what the franchise is about after all.
So in a different world, you would have wanted to leave Jack with the babysitter…
Well, maybe have Jack along with me. Maybe not take part in the huge, huge action pieces but still be with the gang in Atlanta. What’s fun about making these movies too is that you get to hang out with your friends and it’s fun to do that. So I hope next time around I get to go on the road with the gang.
Was it in some ways easier to relate to her being a mom yourself?
It is, very much. In ‘Fast and Furious 6′, there was this whole piece where I’m with the baby and I hand the baby off to Elsa Pataky’s character and the baby’s in danger and I didn’t really — I mean I tried to empathize with what Mia was going through, but until you’re a mom you don’t really get it. And now in the sequence where Jack was in danger, it’s completely different now. It’s much more visceral.
You worked with Paul Walker on this franchise since the very beginning. Can you talk a little about the man you knew and what he meant to you and this series?
You know, he was so rare because I think in this business it’s so, you know, you often see people and they’re one way behind the scenes and then they’re another way in front of the camera and there’s such a disparity there. But with Paul there really wasn’t. Paul was so genuine and authentic and real and I felt so comfortable around him and just loved our relationship because it was just so easy and I think that translated on screen. To not have that anymore is such a huge thing. And I think there was such a huge outpouring when he passed because I feel like so many people got the kind of guy he was, even if they had never met him.
Do you think the way the production handled the circumstances was appropriate, from the break in filming to the tribute at the end of the film?
Yeah. There’s no way in hell we could have shot right after it. There’s no way. I’m really glad that everyone took that break and I feel like it was necessary because I don’t think anyone knew how we were going to move forward, whether they were going to shut the production down or continue. And then ultimately with the very ending, as far as the tribute goes, I think we got that like truly during the very last week of shooting. That’s when we knew what the ending was going to be. And I didn’t know really until I saw the movie, and then I was really, really relieved by how it turned out. I think it’s a fitting tribute and I think his fans are going to be happy and I’m really glad that people get to see the last thing he did because he’s really good in it.
These movies are known to be really loud, over the top, with huge action, but yet there are these little subtle grace notes and the tribute is especially done well in that regard. Do you think that aspect of the series has gotten overlooked?
I do. But maybe it’s so graceful that the audience gets to take it for granted because it’s good. Like the attention paid to character — like Vin is one of the producers and Vin will not shoot a scene until it’s right. So there was one day we were at the Toretto house and the dialogue wasn’t working and we worked on it for hours before we shot anything. A lot of people, I think, would take that for granted and be like, “You know what? These movies make so much money, let’s just shoot whatever and people will go.” That’s not true and none of us think that’s true. So maybe they don’t realize it while they’re watching it, but there’s such attention paid to every single detail in the film and to the integrity of the characters and their relationships. I think that’s one of the reasons it works.
Do you think Mia’s story ends with this film too?
I don’t know. In some ways I hope not because I love being a part of this family and I’m still Dom’s sister. But I don’t know. I really don’t know.
What else is next for you? What’s coming up?
There’s something I can’t talk about yet because they have to announce it and they will in the next two or three weeks I think. But something cool.
So many actors are doing superhero movies now, but this is sort of your superhero franchise.
Yeah it is. I see it that way. I mean, it’s so rare that a franchise lasts this long and that our audience is such diehard fans. So I do see it that way, yeah.
Furious 7 will be in theaters April 3, 2015.