Creating the Family of Fast and Furious Spy Racers

Family is the most important part of the Fast & Furious franchise. Spy Racers executive producer Tim Hedrick takes us under the hood on how he developed a whole new family for the animated spin-off.

The Family of Fast & Furious Spy Racers
Photo: DreamWorks Animation

Fast & Furious Spy Racers, like the entire Fast & Furious franchise, is all about family. Not a traditional type of family but one of different people not always connected by blood who come together for the greater good. It’s the main appeal of the Fast & Furious franchise to many of its fans and one that was slowly built over time in the films.

But with Spy Racers a whole new family had to be created from the jump and the team behind it didn’t have the luxury of several movies to slowly (and somewhat accidentally) create one. They had to come up with not only a family that could stand alongside the ones from the massively successful films but also appeal to the show’s younger demographic. 

It wasn’t an easy task but it’s one we became interested in after we spoke with Spy Racers executive producer Tim Hedrick in October. In that interview Hedrick mentioned that Layla Gray, a reformed racer with a dark past, was originally created for a different project which he then inserted into this show. In the lead-up to season three, we sat down with Hedrick once again to get his insight into creating the rest of the Spy Racers family.

DEN OF GEEK: In our last interview you talked a little bit about the origin of Layla’s character, but I’d love to know where the ideas for the other characters came from, like Tony, Echo, Cisco, Frostee, all the main characters.

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TIM HEDRICK: Okay. Well, let’s see. Tony was, when we, when we started coming up with the show, we knew Fast and Furious is all about family, right? Well, you have to have a Toretto in there. Who would be the ideal kind of Toretto to see in the show?

We wanted the characters to be young, we wanted them to be able to drive. So that kind of narrowed down your scope. We wanted them to be about 17 years old. So a 17-year-old Toretto from the streets of LA. I really wanted Tony to carry this burden of being a Toretto. Like he knows who Dom is. He knows that Dom is like this superhero character. He’s not just like his favorite uncle from around the block. He’s also this guy who’s traveled the world, who disappears mysteriously for years and then icomes back. There’s a whole aura about that that he has to live up to.

That was the core of what Tony is in the show, it’s just constantly trying to find himself. In season three Tony’s main storyline, is “Who am I? I’m a Toretto, but what does that mean? What does that mean for me as an individual versus trying to live up to the family name?” So this is actually the season where we kind of really hit that on the nose.

Echo was an interesting one who kind of evolved as we were developing the show because I thought when we’re talking about LA street culture, what would be cool things to see in the neighborhood? We got really into graffiti art and started talking to artists and wanted to see what would that be in the team because that’s something that we hadn’t really seen in the film franchise. Echo kind of evolved out of that. Initially she was a little bit more of a kind of hippie character with the electric car and the artist and it was coming off as a little too, I don’t know, soft I guess. It just didn’t feel like this is someone who actually would hang out with these people and drive around real fast and race cars.

So when we got Charlet (Chung, Echo’s voice actress), she came in with the voice that really nailed it for me. I was like, “Oh yeah, she’s kind of tough. She’s this like strong, silent type who enjoys the arts, enjoys the risk, likes hanging out with these guys and is finding herself.” That’s an interesting place to be for a character. I don’t really know who I am and I want to find myself. And so as we evolved writing the show bringing her to the four as maybe she’s the one who actually is the best spy.

Maybe she’s the one who really should be leading the crew and how do she and Tony kind of navigate that as these two friends where Tony is the name who has always been the leader? How does Echo step into that? That’s another aspect that in season three really comes to the fore. She actually becomes a leader of the crew and she has to lead the team and make the tough decisions. And she’s a better leader because she’s smarter and she can digest the information and evaluate the risk and decide whether or not we should be here in the first place and maybe it’s time to cut and run versus just doing this stupid thing and going forward all the time. She’s becomes = the brain but that comes with a lot of responsibility that she’s not used to. 

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Frostee, I think actually came from an idea that Vin had that he wanted to have a character who was younger, who couldn’t drive, and who looked up to these people. This was in super early discussions. He wanted someone who kind of like, these were the heroes on the block that he would hang out with and look up to these guys. And then we thought, well, we don’t want him to just be standing there saying, “Gee, these guys are cool.” What can Frostee bring to the table? And so he became the tech guy, which makes complete sense because the older I get the less able I am to operate any technical devices. So we figured a 15 year old would be the guy who knows how to do everything the best.

Then we also wanted him to be riding with someone. And we thought that, that could be this kind of like a Mutt and Jeff (a long running comic strip) relationship with this big, strong character who became Cisco. In the beginning he’s the guy who is like combing through the junkyard trying to build up their cars. He’s fixing Tony’s old engine with bubble gum. He’s the guy who’s just a really down and dirty gear head. We had a lot more of that in early versions of the show, where there would be a lot more just working on cars and we kind of got away from that. There just wasn’t time to hang out in a garage and work on cars when you’ve got to go out on spy missions. That’s also something that comes out with Cisco in season three when he’s digging around trying to help the team building these cool gliders.

And then Layla, the outlaw who in this season we, again, see her meet the people that she’s seen in the past. When we first see her in season one Frostee knows who she is, we know that she’s this kind of outlaw who is hanging out with Shashi, but now we get to see, oh, here’s some stuff that she did before that’s going to kind of get the crew into trouble and also maybe help them a little bit. So she kind of brings the chaotic, wild card edge there.

I found her arc this season very interesting. A lot of the references to her trying to move on from her past and not really being able to because she has deep ties to this bad part of the world.

I think it’s interesting that she’s kind of the one that has relationships all over the world and the rest of these guys have never left LA before. She has been in trouble with all kinds of criminal crews. So you never know who’s going to pop up that’s like, “Layla Gray.” She’s kind of like the Han Solo of our team where there’s always some bad news coming with (her.)

I love that Frostee has two moms. Can you talk about adding them into the show?

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You know for a show that talks about family all the time, we really only have one family on the show and that’s Frostee and his two moms and his little sister. It just seemed like a natural place to have that family dynamic and it was cool. They’re a female owned business in Los Angeles with two moms. It came pretty naturally. They were really fun to cast and they’re great. They come in with really fun comedy and it’s just a fun dynamic.

You mention there’s only one family but the Fast & Furious films, and by extension this show, has a much broader definition of family. It’s not always by blood, it’s by the people that you not only work with but have a connection with.

Exactly. It’s about choosing your own family and who you let in and who you exclude.

Fast & Furious Spy Racers: Sahara is now available on Netflix.