‘Fast and the Furious’ for Dummies: Everything Newcomers Need to Know Before Seeing ‘Furious 7’

Get to know characters played by Paul Walker, Vin Diesel and Michelle Rodriguez before the latest installment of street racing franchise

Last Updated: April 2, 2015 @ 11:12 AM

Even if you’ve never seen a “Fast and the Furious” movie, it’s hard to escape the permeating hype surrounding the latest installment, “Furious 7.”

The basic details are easily accessible. At the core of the “Fast and the Furious” franchise is Dominic Toretto, as played by Vin Diesel, and the badass gang of drivers who orbit him. The merry gang of criminals traipse from one adventure to another and travel to various exotic locales, evading death in increasingly more expensive fast cars.

Paul Walker‘s character went from undercover FBI to Dom’s brother and most trusted ally, Michelle Rodriguez‘s Letty died, then came back to life, then got amnesia — and that’s just the start of the crazy things that have happened to lead us to “Furious 7.”

Needless to say, after six movies, the mythology has gotten complicated, timelines have criss-crossed and characters have been through a lot.

For those being dragged to see the latest installment of the franchise who doesn’t have time to sift through 12 hours of backstory by marathoning all six movies that have been released thus far, here’s a handy guide to all the characters you need to know before seeing “Furious 7.”

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Character: Dominic Toretto
Actor: Vin Diesel
First appearance: “The Fast and the Furious” (2001)

A tough as nails ex-con, Dom is the leader of the family of criminals who have a penchant for illegal street racing. He takes an immediate liking to Brian O’Conner, not realizing he’s an undercover FBI agent, bringing him into his close-knit family and letting him in on the secret that they don’t just race cars, they also pull off risky highway robberies. The two part ways after Brian reveals his true identity but buys Dom some time to evade capture. However, family is family, and the two eventually reunite, going on to more heists and adventures which blur the lines of justice.

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Character: Brian O’Conner
Actor: Paul Walker
First appearance: “The Fast and the Furious” (2001)

The audience’s point of entry to the world of street racing and the Torretto gang, Walker’s O’Conner starts out as an undercover FBI agent out to take down the enterprise, but soon falls in love with Mia, Dominic’s sister, which leads to having second thoughts about his original objective of putting the whole lot of them behind bars. Eventually, his feelings for his new family win out, and he lets them get away, eventually returning to join the gang on various heists, most recently teaming up in London to take down arms dealer Owen Shaw, earning amnesty for their past crimes in return.

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Character: Letty Ortiz
Actor: Michelle Rodriguez
First appearance: “The Fast and the Furious” (2001)

Letty has been with Dominic since she was a teenager, but things took very dramatic turns after Brian O’Conner entered their lives. In “Fast & Furious” (the third sequel which reunited the original crew), in order to clear Dom’s name, she’s put undercover with a dangerous drug lord, who leaves her for dead after a car crash. Brian and Dom and the gang believe the same, but instead she’s still alive and stricken with amnesia. Not remembering her past life, she’s conscripted by Owen Shaw to partake in his operations — before joining back up with Dom, despite still not remembering their past together.

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Character: Tej Parker
Actor: Chris ‘Ludacris’ Bridges
First appearance: “2 Fast 2 Furious” (2003)

Another old friend of Brian’s, Tej Parker is a tech genius who had given up on the street racing team by the time he meets up with his old buddy in “2 Fast 2 Furious,” but the lure of the close-knit Toretto gang also proves too tempting. By “Fast Five,” Brian talks him into joining the crew, giving them a nice edge when it comes to hacking and technological strategies.

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Character: Mia Toretto
Actor: Jordana Brewster
First appearance: “The Fast and the Furious” (2001)

Brian’s childhood friend, he joined the former FBI agent on a stand-alone adventure for his first appearance in the franchise, but by the time “Fast Five” rolled around, Roman was a bona fide member of Dom’s crew, brought in by Brian. Roman gets the gang out of sticky situations by lying his way through them, and offers the films a needed dose of comedy.

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Character: Mia Toretto
Actor: Jordana Brewster
First appearance: “The Fast and the Furious” (2001)

A waitress when we first meet her, Mia is befriended by Brian as a way for him to get closer to her brother in order to investigate his illegal activities. But the two inevitably fall in love, eventually getting married and having a child, Jack, together. Because of Dom’s protective nature and later her responsibility to care for Jack, Mia is left mostly out of the gang’s heists.

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Character: Luke Hobbs
Actor: Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson
First appearance: “Fast Five” (2011)

A DDS government agent and a bad ass to rival Dominic Toretto himself, Hobbs is the group’s tenuous connection to working on the side of the good guys. Like Brian, he’s first introduced to the group when he attempts to capture them in “Fast Five,” but ultimately sides with them after Dom saves his life. He goes one step further in “Fast & Furious 6” when he becomes a full blown ally of the group and offers them pardons for all their past crimes in exchange for helping bring down Owen Shaw.

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Character: Owen Shaw
Actor: Luke Evans
First Appearance: “Fast Five” (2011)

He’s out of commission by the time we pick things up with the Toretto gang in “Furious 7,” but the group’s attack on Owen in “Fast & Furious 6” directly leads them into the events of the new film, which sees Owen’s even more dangerous older brother Deckard is out for revenge.

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Character: Deckard Shaw
Actor: Jason Statham
First Appearance: “Fast & Furious 6” (2013)

Appearing in a post-credits scene in the latest film, Deckard Shaw is revealed to have been the person who murdered Han Seoul-Oh (Sung Kang) in “The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift,” which was later revealed to have taken place after the events of the next three sequels. Shaw killed Han, a close friend of Dominic’s, as an act of revenge for Dom’s crew taking down his brother Owen in London. The last scene perfectly sets up Deckard’s ascension to the gang’s newest foe in “Furious 7.

“Furious 7” opens Friday, April 3.

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