Family members of late Fast & Furious star Paul Walker gave their blessing for the franchise to continue without Walker and his character, former FBI agent Brian O'Conner, following Walker's death at the age of 40 in a 2013 car accident, according to Walker's four-time Fast co-star Tyrese Gibson. Gibson, who plays Brian's childhood friend Roman Pearce in the blockbuster franchise racing back into theaters with next spring's Fast & Furious 9, says the ongoing Fast Saga steered by star and producer Vin Diesel is "for Paul," who died before completing work on the James Wan-directed Furious 7.
"People will say Paul is not in it so why are you guys continuing? That's exactly why we're continuing cause we made the shift in my mind saying we have to do this for Paul," Gibson told Maxim. "But the biggest decision came from us talking to Paul's family and them giving us their blessing. The last movie that Paul did was 7, and then to see Paul's father, mother and brothers at the premiere of [The Fate of the Furious], it just sends the message that they're fully supporting us every step of the way."
Walker's brothers, Cody and Caleb Walker, were called on to help complete the late actor's appearance in Furious 7. The film ended with a tribute to Walker retiring his character, who starred in 2001's The Fast and the Furious and sequels 2 Fast 2 Furious, Fast & Furious, Fast Five and Fast & Furious 6.
Diesel, who plays Brian's brother-in-law Dominic Toretto, earlier revealed Walker inspired franchise newcomer John Cena's casting in F9, where Cena plays Dom and sister Mia's (Jordana Brewster) estranged brother Jakob.
"[Cena] came to meet me at my gym right before we were shipping out to make the movie, and I put a post on Instagram that said, 'Thank you Pablo,'" Diesel told ET Online. "Because I felt like someone had brought me the right person to play Jakob."
The actor-producer previously published an Instagram video dedicated to Walker, where Diesel — who named his daughter Pauline after his late friend and co-star — said he's "always thinking Fast and thinking about the responsibility of making something iconic and deserving of your loyalty."
"I know this sounds crazy but every blue moon, I feel like Pablo up there sends me someone. Another soldier for the fight for truth," Diesel said in the video. "And today, someone came by the Toretto gym that speaks to what Pablo would have brought me. All love always."
Fast & Furious 9 was scheduled to release May 22, 2020, before Universal Pictures delayed the film one year amid the coronavirus crisis. F9 will now open April 2, 2021.