I'm not super accustomed to thinking of the Fast and Furious franchise as especially important. However, reading the touching tribute that Vin Diesel wrote for Paul Walker in honor of The Fate of the Furious' impending release is making me reconsider. Now that Walker is no longer with us, it's becoming more clear that continuing the series has been not only beneficial but crucial in helping his former costars to cope with his loss. Although Walker's tragic death occurred in November 2013, before Furious 7's April 2015 premiere date, he had already been present on set, shot much of his footage, and appears as a fully fleshed-out character in the seventh film. In contrast, this eighth film will be the first in the series to be completed without any involvement from Walker whatsoever, and it's clearly weighing on the minds of the rest of his cast mates.
Diesel posted a photo to Instagram of the two friends and co-stars together, adding a caption that made it clear Walker has never been far from his mind, and that, in fact, his memory is what has given Diesel the ability to keep moving forward:
In the past, I'd been struck by how difficult I imagined it would be to keep filming a franchise after the loss of one of its main actors. But now I'm realizing that, on set, surrounded by other people who knew Walker, is probably the place it's most healing for his friends to be. For the rest of the world, three years is a long time, and, while obviously fans still remember Walker, his loss isn't as fresh in the minds of those of us who didn't know him personally and only saw his movies.
So for someone like Diesel to be in a community where everywhere he looks, there's someone who remembers his friend and is ready to share an anecdote becomes all the more important. After eight movies, the Fast and Furious cast and crew is more like a family than anything else. Since the tragedy of Walker's loss isn't going away, it's heartwarming to see all the people who loved him most taking comfort from carrying on his memory.