Fast & Furious: Spy Racers showrunner Tim Hedrick talks working with Danny Trejo on Season 4, choosing Mexico as its primary setting and more.

BY SAM STONE

While Fast & Furious has always been a franchise about the importance and power of family, the fourth season of the Netflix original animated series Fast & Furious: Spy Racers has Tony Toretto and his crew betrayed and on the run. Framed for a crime they did not commit, the crew heads to Mexico where Tony’s friend Cisco Renaldo meets up with his Uncle Tuco. As the team searches for a way to clear their name while staying one step ahead of the law, the manhunt led by no-nonsense bounty hunter Palindrome inches closer to them.

Spy racers

In an exclusive interview with CBR, series showrunner and executive producer Tim Hedrick shared the inspirations behind Spy Racers Season 4, trying to meet the bar of action-packed quality set by the live-action films and getting to dial up the comedy and core themes as the crew finds themselves outgunned and running for their lives.

You guys are four seasons deep now. When you’re sitting down with the writers’ room, what did you want to bring to this season?

Tim Hedrick: Yeah, we always kind of start off wondering, even if it doesn’t drive the story too much, where would it be cool in the world to go. We try to think of places that we haven’t really explored that much in the films, and Mexico seemed like a natural [choice]. A couple of years ago, I visited Mexico City and loved it and was anxious to get a write-off for that trip. [Laughs] We got a chance to play in family connections because we hadn’t necessarily had a chance to explore the kids’ family so we got to get Uncle Tuco in there and see Cisco’s family, which seemed like a lot of fun.

The other thing that we wanted to do was find a way to put our team in a new situation that they hadn’t been in before. So to have everybody on the run with Ms. Nowhere and to have Ms. Nowhere stripped out of the Agency seemed like a really cool place to explore.

I was talking to Jorge Diaz about the show really honing its comedic sensibilities this season, and one of my favorite scenes involves a fight scene in an office set to classical music. How is it playing up those escapist and comedic elements while keeping an eye on the stakes?

Hedrick: I love having scenes like that because you’re right: There are huge stakes and every single season is basically about saving the world; these guys go out and do incredible stuff. But what I think is fun is seeing these kids — in that scene, it’s Gary and Julius who have really become favorite, comedic characters in the show — putting them in a weird situation and seeing them react and letting them be the weird characters that they are…when you’re dealing with Vin Diesel, who is always the alpha stud, there’s a certain way he attacks an action scene…but that’s not who our team is. [Laughs] Our team is a bunch of oddballs and they’re going to go about it in a completely different way. I think it’s fun to have the time, when we’re breaking out these seasons, to pick out little moments and let them go crazy.

We’ve certainly spent a lot of time with Tony, Frostee and Echo before. What made Cisco the right character to really give more prominence this season?

Hedrick: Cisco really kind of evolved into this character that’s really into conspiracy theories and always thinking the Illuminati is out there watching; if any of our characters was to join QAnon, I think Cisco would be lured into it. [Laughs] He just has a very unique, authentic voice that comes out in the acting, for sure. Anytime you’re dealing with growing a character over the course of a series, you can’t help but draw from the strength of your actors; Jorge really nailed that part of it. It’s really fun to bring in Danny Trejo as his uncle and see that he has these same weird beliefs and they trade that back and forth and you wonder what their family reunion would be like. That was really fun!

In addition to Danny Trejo, you’ve got Big Show as a Dog the Bounty Hunter analogue. How is it weaving new characters into the narrative and cast four seasons deep?

Hedrick: We knew that if Ms. Nowhere is going on the run that we needed to pull in a major force to come after her because we’ve seen her dismantle anything that gets in her way. We thought who would be that guy that Nowhere would be excited to go one-on-one with; not afraid to have a showdown with Palindrome but to be excited, like that’s exactly what she wanted. And then Big Show is such a freaking sweetheart, that guy is so wonderful to work with and, as advertised, really, really big. [Laughs] He was great and he works hard and I love him.

This season really mixes it up visually with the action set pieces; there’s a lot more neon and fire and subterranean sequences. With a franchise known for its high-octane set pieces like Fast & Furious, how is it adding your own creative voice to that legacy?

Hedrick: It’s tough to match up what’s happened in that franchise already. [Laughs] It’s really big and to find something that you think would be an interesting place to explore that, for whatever reason, that they haven’t gotten to yet. Sometimes they’ll put out the trailer for the next movie and you go “Gah!” But to do something subterranean and fiery, under the Earth action, I love that. Mexico is a gigantic country with all sorts of terrain to explore, so it’s just like looking at Google Earth to decide what would be cool, getting out your Hot Wheels and doing some action blocking. [Laughs]

You’ve got these Tron-esque soldiers this time around, with cloaking, and, with guys like Danny Trejo and Big Show, a bigger variety of fighting styles in addition to the car set pieces.

Hedrick: Yeah, the Tron look was really fun. The Fast & Furious franchise has evolved so much over time from just being gritty street-racing to just insanity, like when they’re dragging that vault through the streets of Rio and all that great stuff. And when they got to Hobbs & Shaw and brought in the super-soldiers, I felt like “Okay, we’re going in that direction? Now we can get a little more in sci-fi!” Those suits, that just seemed like a plausible move from a military-grade exosuits — the cloaking is an extra element, of course — but that was fun.

I really like that we jump up this season in that way; when you’re doing car chases all the time, you do kind of paint yourself in a corner and are forced to explore different elements to go to and that was a fun one. And it makes for a really cool visual when they have that battle in the mansion and then Palindrome comes busting in and he just throws everything on its head. It was good to bring in some new blood, it was a little more chaotic this season because there’s different elements battling for the soul of the team and I thought that was really fun.

The Fast & Furious franchise has always been about family. How is it challenging that theme directly, especially for Cisco?

Hedrick: That’s the fun, starting off with the mystery of why are we on the run, who framed us and how are we going to set things straight? And having the main suspect be Uncle Tuco, that really opened a lot of…when you see Tony talking about it, he really doesn’t want to point fingers and say “Family betrayed us” which would absolutely be an anathema to everything he’s ever believed in. Whereas Nowhere is immediately like “He did it, let’s go get him!” and Layla believes it all the way; Cisco is caught in the middle of all this. And their family unit is strong but, when you’re on the run and everyone’s gunning for you, you feel the walls closing in and we see our team have that conflict.

The other cool thing we did, along the lines of family this season, was Gary and Julius get this new mentor in Palindrome. These are two guys who have just been abused by Ms. Nowhere this whole time and, all of a sudden, they’ve got this life coach telling they’re good and strong enough. To see them really blossom is really funny.

One of things I love about this franchise is that the family grows. Any chance Palindrome and Tuco could crop up in the future?

Hedrick: Anything’s possible, absolutely. They’re great characters and I’d love to bring them back. And working with them both is awesome; Danny Trejo, it’s a treat whenever that guy comes in.

Four seasons into Spy Racers, what keeps you coming back for more and where would you like to take it next?

Hedrick: There’s still a lot of the world left to explore so we’re not running out of the globe yet. I just really like this team, they’re really fun to work with. When you’re doing a show this long, the crew, the cast, you become like a family. It really is kind of like going to camp together, it’s fun and you don’t want it to end. Even just that camaraderie making the show is really special and these characters I’ve just come to really love them; they’re like my kids growing up in front of my eyes so I’m just excited to see what they do next!

Executive produced by Vin Diesel, Neal H. Moritz, Chris Morgan, Tim Hedrick and Bret Haaland, Fast & Furious: Spy Racers stars Tyler Posey, Camille Ramsey, Luke Youngblood, Charlet Chung and Jorge Diaz. All three seasons are available to stream now on Netflix. Season 4 premieres on April 16.