September 13, 2016 06:40 PM

Losing the heart and soul of the Fast and Furious franchise in Paul Walker was a devastating blow, but his former cast members have found a new cause to unite them since his death.

“We got to keep it street for the world – it’s a global affair now,” franchise veteran Michelle Rodriguez said at the PEOPLE / EW / InStyle studio at the Toronto International Film Festival, where she was in town to promote her new film, (Re)Assignment.

“Paul’s the heart of it, he’s the guy who really loved the genre, he loved that lifestyle,” she continued. “And not having that love affair with cars and that lifestyle, it removed a certain aspect of the soul of the franchise and it hurts all of us and we all know it.”

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But Rodriguez argued that the films have taken on a significance that is bigger than any one cast member. “We’re living in a realm where there aren’t any franchises outside of hero movies and sci-fi that actually address the lack of multiculturalism,” she said. “At that scale you don’t see a $150 million budgeted film with a Latin person, a black person, an Asian person.”

Rodriguez added that “if we’re not willing to do it for ourselves, and we’re not just willing to do it for the money, then we need another reason – and that’s our reason … we’re filling a gap in the market that nobody else is filling.”

Representing for cultures that don’t always relate to blockbuster heroes, Rodriguez said, “Keeps us going and keeps the whole franchise alive.”

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