Back in 2017, Michelle Rodriguez threatened to quit the Fast and/or Furious series until they finally hired a female writer. Turns out she’s always kept the franchise in check. A new oral history of the films with Entertainment Weekly contains lots of nuggets, including Vin Diesel saying Dominic’s relationship with Rodriguez’s Letty is “potentially the biggest love story” in cinema history. But there’s also the actress saying that she almost never took the role in the first place until the writers made it less sexist.
Originally Letty wasn’t the badass that makes her and Dominic one of the screen’s great power couples. Costar Jordana Brewster said that when Michelle read the screenplay for the 2001 original, “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.”
For Rodriguez, the script just wasn’t realistic. (Mind you, the franchise didn’t get truly ridiculous until Fast Five.) So she pushed for rewrites.
“It was a reality check for them to realize that the streets don’t work like that,” Rodriguez said. She elaborated:
“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.”
Producer Neal H. Moritz claims they were happy for the advice. “It was nice to have that female perspective and really try and dive deep,” he said. “We wanted everybody to be empowered, whether you were white, Black, Hispanic, male, female, didn’t matter to us.”
Rodriguez even had to hustle to get some action. “I remember fighting to get a moment where Letty gets into a fight herself,” she said, “because I felt like you don’t sit around and let your boys throw down without getting your hands dirty.”
And that’s why Letty is Letty.