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Tej's Entire Fast & Furious Backstory Explained

The "Fast & Furious" franchise leaves no one behind. Tej Parker — portrayed by actor, rapper, and songwriter Chris "Ludacris" Bridges — debuted in 2003's "2 Fast 2 Furious" and has since become a mainstay of one of the most popular and profitable film franchises of all time. And while the ever-increasing scale and scope of the "Fast Saga" has forced each character in the ensemble to level up and meet new challenges, there's arguably no member of the "Furious" family for whom the climb from zero to hero has been steeper than Tej. 

From his humble beginnings as a garage owner and street race bookmaker, Tej Parker is now a hacker, a safecracker, a secret agent, a battle strategist, a martial artist, and a vehicular warrior who's driven a small tank into battle against a nuclear submarine. Join us as we retrace the journey that transformed a retired street racer into one of the smartest, coolest stunt-driving superheroes in the "Fast & Furious" universe.

Tej is the ringmaster of Miami street racing

When Tej Parker first appears in "2 Fast 2 Furious," he's the nerve center of the racing scene in Miami, Florida. A former street racer himself, Tej retired from competitive driving after surviving a high-speed collision, and now, he prefers to remain on the sidelines. This has only made him a more important figure in town. By night, Tej books the match-ups for quarter-mile drag racing contests on the Miami streets. By day, Tej hosts waterfront jetski races. 

In either case, Tej gets to collect his take from all the wagers being made, as well as earn some extra cash by betting on his favorites. Outside of his position of power in the world of illicit street racing, Tej also owns a legitimate business, Tej's Garage, where he holds court with mechanic Jimmy (MC Jin) and local artist/racer Suki (Devon Aoki).

During his reign over racing in Miami, Tej is a young and boisterous hustler whose main concern is making money, but he's also a leader with the respect of his peers on the scene. Other racers follow his rules without question, and when it's time to call in a favor, he has the entire community behind him.

Future films in the series will imply another life for Tej outside of this scene. Beyond the years of studying computer programming that becomes apparent later on, Tej also hints in "Fast Five" that he's had prior experience cracking sophisticated locks.

He helps Brian O'Conner get back on his feet

When cop turned fugitive Brian O'Conner (Paul Walker) arrives in Miami, he quickly becomes one of the stars of the racing circuit. Tej sets Brian up with a job at his garage, as well as a bunk aboard one of his nearby houseboats, where Tej can call on him to participate in street races on a moment's notice.

When Brian and his childhood friend Roman Pearce (Tyrese Gibson) get dragged into an undercover operation for U.S. Customs, they rely on Tej and his team at the garage to keep their government-issued Mitsubishi Evolutions in order ... and also to attempt to disable the GPS tracking devices that the feds are using to keep an eye on them. And when their mission goes sideways, Brian and Roman need to lose their government tails in order to defeat drug kingpin Carter Verone (Cole Hauser) and rescue his hostage, Agent Monica Fuentes (Eva Mendes). In a clever effort to aid their escape, Tej organizes dozens of street racers to participate in a "scramble," confusing police helicopters and allowing Brian and Roman to switch cars. Tej himself drives off in Brian's Evo, drawing the authorities' attention and helping Brian and Roman to make a clean getaway.

In the missing years between "2 Fast 2 Furious" and "Fast Five," Tej seems to mellow out and begins to wear his intellect on his sleeve. At some point, Tej's Garage closes down, and his connection to the Miami racing scene is never mentioned again.

Tej finds a friend and rival in Roman Pearce

Tej Parker is one of two characters introduced in "2 Fast 2 Furious" who become regulars in the franchise. The other is Roman Pearce, the fast-talking ex-con, performance driver, and best friend of Brian O'Conner. Tej and Roman don't interact much in their first appearance together, but by the time they both return in "Fast Five," they've developed a playful rivalry that evolves over the following films. 

Tej and Roman share a love of cars and a chosen family, but otherwise, they seem like total opposites. Roman thinks of himself as a charmer, a smooth operator with endless sex appeal, although he habitually makes a fool out of himself. Tej, on the other hand, has a quiet confidence backed up by a competence at nearly everything he attempts. Roman is stingy towards others while Tej is charitable, but they both enjoy treating themselves to the finer things, like when they each bought a rare Koenigsegg CCXR, collectively owning two of only four such cars on the planet.

Despite getting on each other's nerves, Tej and Roman can be found hanging out nearly any time the Toretto crew has some downtime, whether it be at their base of operations before a mission, at a family cookout, or on a beach in Abu Dhabi. Even Tej and Roman's mutual interest in dating Ramsey feels like it has less to do with her and more to do with their never-ending contest over who's cooler.

He joins the Toretto crew in Rio

In "Fast Five," years after their Miami adventure, Brian O'Conner calls on Tej Parker for help once again. Brian and fellow precision driver/action hero Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) are on the lam in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where they've made an enemy of local crime lord Hernan Reyes (Joaquim de Almeida). Hoping both to get even with Reyes and to buy themselves a clean slate, Brian, Dom, and Mia Toretto (Jordana Brewster) plan to steal Reyes' $100 million fortune in a complex and daring heist, and they'll need a crack team of all their most reliable allies to pull it off.

Brian brings Tej on board as their "circuit man," an expert in electronics, software, and surveillance. Using a customized remote-control car with a digital camera mount, Tej is able to get a look the high-end vault in the Rio police station where Reyes has consolidated his cash, and he can recall the detailed specifications of the vault from memory. However, Tej has enough safecracking experience to know that this one is basically unbreakable, and friends Brian and Roman are shocked by his level of expertise in this area. "I had a life before you knew me," he tells them. "Let's just leave it at that."

But with help from the rest of the gang, Tej acquires the biometrics he needs to fool the safe's palm scanner, and he takes home roughly $11 million from the heist. Not too shabby.

Tej spreads the wealth

The Rio heist makes Tej a multi-millionaire, but he still enjoys working for a living. Tej uses the windfall to open a new garage, Tej's Auto Service, in the hopes of creating a place where ordinary folks can get a fair price on repairs. In "Fast & Furious 6," we also learn that Tej has developed a reputation as a modern-day Robin Hood, one that precedes him across the globe. When an acquaintance on the street notes Tej's ostentatious Ferrari FXX and challenges his bona fides as a man of the people, Tej reveals that he's rigged an ATM to rain cash on some nearby pedestrians.

Tej also has no patience for the stuffy, racist posturing of high society, and he's more than willing to leverage his wealth to stick it to them. In "Fast & Furious 6," Tej and U.S. Diplomatic Security Service Agent Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) attend a classic car auction for high rollers, and they're rudely brushed off by a snooty English salesman (Jason Thorpe). Tej takes this opportunity to give the salesman a dressing down, literally. First, Tej asserts dominance by buying the entire lot. Then, he exploits the salesman's sudden polite subservience to demand that he give his shirt, pants, and jacket to Hobbs — who the suit couldn't possibly fit. Tej teaches the salesman a valuable lesson in humility, turning the tables on someone who assumed he could treat a stranger like trash because of a perceived advantage in privilege.

Tej's technical skills are key to defeating Owen Shaw

Tej sits out most of the vehicular action in "2 Fast 2 Furious" and "Fast Five," but beginning with "Fast & Furious 6," Tej plays a more hands-on role in the Toretto crew's high-octane adventures. For example, in "Fast & Furious 6," Tej participates in the failed attempt to chase down the mercenary Owen Shaw's (Luke Evans) indestructible flip car in London. He's also the first member of the squad to be defeated when his BMW is remotely hacked and disabled, leading to a gnarly looking crash. From this point on, Tej tends to favor heavier vehicles in combat situations.

Tej also continues to use his mechanical genius to support the crew, such as when he reverse-engineers a harpoon gun used by Shaw's team to give it increased speed and range. This weapon becomes key to stopping Shaw in the film's climactic runway chase, in which the Toretto crew attempts to stop Shaw and his team from escaping Spain in a massive Antonov cargo jet. As the jet approaches takeoff speed, Gisele Yashar (Gal Gadot) and Roman Pearce use Tej's NOS-powered harpoon guns to attach their cars (driven by Sung Kang's Han Seoul-Oh and Tej, respectively) to the wings of the plane. This added weight prevents Shaw from lifting off long enough for Brian O'Conner to fire a third harpoon through one of the jet's control flaps, allowing driver Mia Toretto to pull the plane down and crash it on the runway.

He becomes the brains of the entire operation

Over time, Tej also grows into the team's chief strategist. In "Fast & Furious 6," he coordinates the group's efforts to stop Owen Shaw from stealing the final component of the dangerous Nightshade device from a tank at a Spanish military base. In "Furious 7," when the hacker Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel) is captured by the terrorist Mose Jakande (Djimon Hounsou), it's Tej's idea to airdrop the team in parachute-equipped cars and ambush her kidnappers on an otherwise impassible road. Later, Tej devises the plan for stealing the God's Eye global surveillance program from the penthouse of Etihad Towers in Abu Dhabi, coordinating the team's movements while he hacks the building's security systems.

Tej's brain is working overtime throughout "Furious 7," but during the Ethihad Tower heist, Tej also gets a moment to show off some of his other muscles. When the building's alarms are triggered, he and Ramsey are discovered in one of the tower's maintenance rooms by a security guard. To everyone's surprise, Tej handily defeats the guard with a flurry of well-placed punches and elbow strikes before the baddie can alert anyone else to their presence. In other words, this dude is equal parts brain and brawn.

During the final confrontation with Mose Jakande in Los Angeles, Tej directs traffic from the back of Roman's Chevrolet Caprice while the team keeps Ramsey alive long enough to steal the God's Eye program back from Jakande. This is the last of the crew's major operations in which Tej takes a backseat to anyone.

Tej gets a tank

In "The Fate of the Furious," Tej continues to play a more active role in the Toretto crew's missions. First, he rides out with the rest of the team when they're assigned to collect an EMP device from a base in Berlin. To cover their escape, Tej rigs a giant wrecking ball to swing through their pursuers — a smashing plan that leads to a spectacular pile-up. Later, after Dom goes rogue and runs off with the EMP, Tej drives one of the six cars sent after him, though Dom is able to outsmart and outdrive his entire team.

Dom turns out to be working for the cyberterrorist Cipher (Charlize Theron), who has circumvented Ramsey's God's Eye program and made Dom seemingly impossible to find. However, Tej and Ramsey are able to outthink Cipher and track him down, only to discover that Dom is already inside their base. But why has their leader gone to the dark side? Well, Cipher has taken Dom's newborn son hostage, forcing him to run smash-and-grab missions for her in exchange for the child's life. For his supposedly final task, Cipher sends Dom to Vladovin, Russia, in order to hijack a nuclear submarine.

The Toretto crew — minus Toretto himself, of course — are dispatched to stop Dom, and Tej plays a key role in averting a nuclear catastrophe, as he walks Roman and the agent known as Little Nobody (Scott Eastwood) through the process of disarming the sub. Finally, Tej rides into battle against a confused Russian regiment in a Ripsaw tank, rescuing a drowning Roman along the way.

The man is a romantic when it comes to machines

In "2 Fast 2 Furious," Tej has a flirtatious relationship with Suki, a racer and artist who competes on his circuit and hangs out around his garage. After a race, Tej invites Suki back to the garage so he can "work on her front end," but beginning in "Fast Five," Tej is more likely to talk about a machine like it's a woman than vice versa. (We don't recommend doing either.) When trying to explain the difficulty of breaking into Hernan Reyes' safe to Brian and Roman, Tej describes the effort as if it's sexual foreplay. In "Fast & Furious 6," Tej talks about the commitment between a man and his customized car with a passion that Luke Hobbs compares to marriage. Tej doesn't disagree, but he adds, "With cars, when you trade up, they don't take half your s**t."

Tej seems to change his tune in "Furious 7" when he meets Ramsey, the hacker behind the God's Eye surveillance program. Tej is immediately infatuated with her, but so is Roman, and the two begin to compete for her attention and affection. At the end of "The Fate of the Furious," Tej and Roman ask Ramsey to reveal which of them she'd rather be with. Ramsey admits that they're both attractive, but she stumps them when she asks if either knows her last name, revealing just how little Tej or Roman has actually bothered to get to know her.

Tej and Roman are headed to outer space

By the time "F9" rolls around, Tej Parker already has one of the most stacked resumés of any cinematic hero. But believe it or not, he's about to add one more title to his list of accomplishments — astronaut! Trailers for the ninth chapter of the "Fast Saga" have revealed that Tej Parker and Roman Pearce will be taking a trip into low orbit in a rocked-propelled Pontiac Fiero. The exact circumstances are yet to be revealed, but it looks like Tej and Roman will have the stars of "Tokyo Drift" — Sean Boswell (Lucas Black), Twinkie (Shad "Bow Wow" Moss), and Earl (Jason Tobin) to thank for their unlikely ascent into the stratosphere.

With two more films to go in the series after "F9," it's hard to imagine what further heights still await Tej Parker, whose adventures have taken him across five continents and, soon, into outer space. But we can't wait to see where he goes next.