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Why F9 Star Nathalie Emmanuel Is Now A Full Member Of The Team - Exclusive Interview

Nathalie Emmanuel entered the "Fast and Furious" universe in "Furious 7" (2015), which is ranked among the very best of the series, if not its finest hour. Emmanuel was introduced as Ramsey, a virtuoso computer hacker and inventor of the God's Eye global surveillance device. By the end of the film, having been rescued by Dom Toretto (Vin Diesel) and his team, Ramsey had begun assimilating into the team itself as its newest member.

She was fully involved with their adventures in "The Fate of the Furious," joining longtime member Tej Parker (Chris "Ludacris" Bridges) as one of the team's main technological wizards. But one thing Ramsey didn't do in either film was drive — which we now know she never learned to do. In the new "F9," however, she makes up for that in a big way, earning her stripes definitively as a full-fledged member of the "Fast" family.

"Obviously she's got to take part in the driving element," Emmanuel tells Looper in our exclusive interview. "These are movies about cars." The new film also marks Emmanuel's first time working with director Justin Lin, who directed four of the "Fast" films but skipped Emmanuel's first two, "Furious 7" and "Fate," before returning for "F9."

Beyond the "Fast" franchise, of course, many viewers know Emmanuel best as Missandei, the former slave who becomes part of the inner circle of Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke). Missandei's fate on the show, like so much of its final season, was a source of controversy, but Emmanuel says her participation in the series was an absolute game-changer personally and professionally. She speaks about that, "F9," and the differences between the two franchises in our chat.

Why some people don't think Ramsey has been part of the team until now

Ramsey is now a full-fledged member of the team, with three "Fast and Furious" movies to her name. What thoughts did you have before doing this about how you want to see your character evolve?

I'm always up for seeing new sides to my character. But I kind of objected to this idea that, because she hadn't driven before, she wasn't a full member of the team. She absolutely has and has had a very important role and a very valued skill set in this team.

But yes, obviously she's got to take part in the driving element. These are movies about cars. I guess she cemented her place in a way that she hadn't before, which I was really, really happy to see and it was just so fun to do. In terms of my input in that, I think I was hoping to see her do some more action and the writers and Justin were like, "Here you go."

In terms of doing the driving and the action in these films, how far are you able and willing to go with the stunts yourself before you're either told that you have to hand it off or you want to hand it off?

Well, in terms of the driving, we have the professional stunt performers that do that anyway just for safety. But in terms of other things, I am open to trying anything. If someone shows me and demonstrates and I can try out and feel it out, I'm kind of up for most things. But if I feel really unsafe or it's a particular kind of phobia or something, if I can't seem to overcome that, then I'm actually more than happy for the stunt team to do their thing.

That's why we have them and they make me look cooler and more able than I am anyway. So I'm more than happy for them to do that. I generally am keen to try and keen to have a go at anything as long as I feel prepared enough and supported enough, which I always do. There are always going to be things that are kind of outside of my abilities, which can't be helped.

Nathalie tries to understand all the stuff she's saying

When it comes to mastering all the tech jargon you have to say, do you use any special tricks to help with that? Has it gotten any easier? Do you and Ludacris discuss it?

We definitely have spoken about the length, like the mass amounts of texts that we have to remember and how tough that is. But what works for me is actually trying to understand some of what these technologies are and what she's actually talking about. We have great consultants that make sure all of this stuff checks out in theory, so it works for me to actually have an understanding of what it is I'm talking about because it helps me.

If I understand it, I think the delivery of those lines feels more real because I'm actually expounding on something that I have an idea of. And if it's too complicated, I kind of make up my own idea of what I'm explaining. There's an image in my head that I build, and then I can describe the thing but with the words on the page. That might not make any sense, but it works for me, so that's what I do. In terms of what Chris does, I'm not sure actually. We have never really spoken about it in that regard.

This is Nathalie's first Fast movie with Justin Lin directing

This is your first movie in the series with Justin Lin directing. Did you and he hit it off right away? What did the two of you discuss when you first met him?

We met a few weeks before we started shooting and he was just so cool and really open and wanted me to have ideas and thoughts about Ramsey and what we wanted to see from her. He was very, very open and we just talked about a lot of things. It was just so great to meet Justin and finally work with him because the two other movies that I've done have been with other directors, who were so brilliant as well, but Justin felt just so integral to the whole franchise because he'd shot so many of the films.

I felt like it was a rite of passage — almost like "Oh, finally I'm doing a 'Fast' movie with Justin," and it was just really lovely. One of the first decisions we actually made was about Ramsey's hair. I had been in New York and I'd had my hair braided. I actually just had come back to London and still had my braids, and he was like, "I actually really love this. We should use it for the movie." And I thought, "Okay, that's great." It was really fun because at the end of the movie, I kind of let my hair free once the mission is over.

How Justin made Nathalie feel important on set

Justin really wasn't involved in the creation of Ramsey, but he cared enough to have some ideas and to be prepared to talk with you about the character?

Yeah, absolutely. I mean, what's so interesting about Justin is that he has so much information in his head all the time and he's overseeing all these moving parts. But as an actor and as a director, that relationship is really important to him. He makes sure that at all times, even when we're all on set, when there's loads of things going on, he's checked in to where we're at and what our characters are doing and if we have any concerns.

There's always this kind of personal relationship, even though there's so much happening around us. He very much has a very nurturing energy on set and as a director. So that was really, really appreciated. Because these movies are huge. There's always so much going on, and the fact that he's still able to click into a kind of one-to-one space when all that is happening is really impressive, actually. I really valued that relationship on set in this movie.

Fast and Furious vs. Game of Thrones

You have been in two big franchises that give totally opposite viewpoints of what a family is. Do you find an interesting contrast to go from one definition of family in "Game of Thrones" to another in "F9"?

I mean, yeah, it is a huge contrast. But I have to say that my character in "Game of Thrones" kind of had a chosen family in the way that the characters in "Fast" do as well. I think there were very few families in "Game of Thrones" that were on the same side, but our little team, our small little team Targaryen, we were very with each other, for each other, and I think I was lucky enough to have that experience within the story like I do in "Fast." But like you said, the values around family are very, very different. The powers that be aren't able to break up this family, the "Fast" family. So that's what counts.

Two years later, have you processed that whole experience of being part of a cultural phenomenon like "Game of Thrones"?

I mean, I can't help but look back on it fondly. It was such a huge, important part of my life and it meant so much. It made me who I am. It gave me so much professionally and in friendships and experience. I just look back on it so fondly. I just feel so grateful to have had it. I mean, someone asked me earlier if I've rewatched any of the series and I'm like, it's been a couple of years. I needed a bit of space after it finished to just kind of move on in a way. So one day I'll watch it all again, because I am a huge "Game of Thrones" fan and I was before I was on the show. So I will watch it all in one go at some point, I think.

"F9" is out in theaters everywhere on June 25.