'The Fast and the Furious': Michelle Rodriguez Fought for Big Changes to Letty's Character in the First Movie

'The Fast and the Furious': Michelle Rodriguez Fought for Big Changes to Letty's Character in the First Movie

05/03/2021

The Fast and Furious franchise has now been in our lives for 20 years, and regardless of whether or not you love or hate these movies, it has inarguably given us some incredible cinematic moments and unforgettable characters. But fans of the films may be surprised to learn that the capable Letty Ortiz was initially not written as the rough-and-tumble, ride-or-die figure that first appeared in 2001’s The Fast and the Furious.

In a new oral history, actress Michelle Rodriguez talks about how she convinced the studio to alter the character for the better, making Letty less of a trophy girlfriend stock type and more of an active participant in the action. 

Entertainment Weekly published an oral history of 2001’s The Fast and the Furious, and Jordana Brewster (who plays Mia Toretto in the franchise) explains what happened when Rodriguez saw an early version of the script: “When Michelle 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.”

Vin Diesel had qualms with the script as well, and he sat down with co-writer David Ayer and went through the script page by page to give notes and help flesh the characters out. But it sounds like Letty’s character needed a lot of work, and she laid out how things needed to be for Letty to feel more realistic. According to Rodriguez:

“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…I remember fighting to get a moment where Letty gets into a fight herself, because I felt like you don’t sit around and let your boys throw down without getting your hands dirty. If you don’t, then are you just there to model? That doesn’t work where I come from.”

Rodriguez has been fighting on Letty’s behalf since the very beginning of this franchise, and threatened to quit years later when she thought the female characters weren’t being written to her satisfaction. Those issues have since been resolved, and she’ll be back in action when F9 races into theaters on June 25, 2021.

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