Though The Fate of the Furious marks the first full film in the Fast and Furious series without Paul Walker, who died in 2013, Tyrese Gibson says that the late actor’s legacy lives on in the new movie.
“Fans will see that we, as clever as we could, have the presence of Paul and make mention of our brother,” Gibson, 38, tells PEOPLE Now of the film. “I think that at the end of the day, we’re just trying to do what we got to do to make [Paul], the family and all of the friends proud because the fans grew up with this man.”
Walker died in a car crash while taking a break from filming Furious 7.
Gibson first entered the franchise as Walker’s co-lead Roman Pearce in 2 Fast 2 Furious in 2003, and reprises his role in this eighth installment alongside one of the series’ newest stars, Scott Eastwood — who was a long timefriend of Walker’s.
“A lot of people don’t know this, but Scott had been knowing Paul longer than most of us,” he says. “Him and Paul were friends for over 20 years. So it was a very natural thing when the word got out that Scott was going to be joining us.”
He adds: “We’re all about family and keeping it in the family — and it was a no brainer.”
In many ways, Eastwood fills the void created by Walker’s absence in the new film, but Gibson wants to make it clear that he was not brought on to the movie to be a replacement.
“We told Scott that the worst thing he could do is try and be funny because we don’t want anyone to think or believe Scott came to replace Paul — far from it,” he says. “We said play it straight, be serious, be intense, be the stickler cop-secret-service-type of agent, whatever your role is, that is irritated and annoyed by the fact that he even has to work with us to go on this mission. So he did a great job.”
The Fate of the Furious is in theaters now.