The Evolution of Tej: How Did the ‘Fast and Furious’ Teammate Go From Hustler to Master Hacker?

Ludacris in 2 Fast 2 Furious
Ludacris in 2 Fast 2 Furious. (Photo: Universal/Everett Collection)

The Fast and Furious franchise has had one of the more intense evolutions of any action series. What began as a Point Break rip-off about street racing in Los Angeles eventually morphed into an international heist saga about an outlaw special ops team. No character symbolizes that transition better than Tej Parker, expertly portrayed by Chris “Ludacris” Bridges.

Ludacris himself remarked on the noticeable changes to his character in 2015. “I used to have a big-ass Afro, and I just used to be a little petty gambler,” said the rapper turned actor. “And now you see him being tech savvy and being kind of like extremely intelligent and the brains of the operation and a cohesive person for the team. So there continue to be skill sets that people are surprised about.”

As the Fast and Furious team’s resident Q, Tej obviously works extremely hard between films to add additional skills to his seemingly boundless repertoire. Below is our attempt to catalog his ever-evolving talents.

2 Fast 2 Furious
Skills: Auto-shop owner, street-race organizer, poker, driving, rapping

We first meet Tej in the second installment of the series, where he serves as a friend and Miami guide to transplant Brian O’Conner (Paul Walker). When Brian is introducing Tej to his old friend Roman (Tyrese Gibson), he says, “He’s the man to know in Miami. He’s got his finger in absolutely everything.”

What does “everything” involve exactly? He owns an auto shop called Tej’s, which serves as a hub for street races, Jet Ski contests, and the occasional poker game. When Roman asks Tej if he races, he replies, “I hit a wall doing about a buck 20 a couple years ago, ever since then I’ve just been organizing and collecting.”

Tej is critical to the film’s twist, in which cops pursuing Brian and Roman are thrown off by a giant scramble of sports cars flooding the Miami streets. Tej drives one of them — not technically street racing, but still fleeing police at a high rate of speed. It’s just the beginning, but we see early on that Tej is a master of logistics and a loyal friend. (Bonus skill: Ludacris raps over 2 Fast’s closing credits.)

Fast Five
Skills: Surveillance, advanced electronics, safecracking

Tej is absent for Tokyo Drift and Fast & Furious, but he returns with a vengeance when the team plans a major heist in Rio de Janeiro. Tej is described as “the best circuit man on the East Coast,” despite showing no interest in or special ability with circuits during 2 Fast 2 Furious. While he’s brought into the team to handle surveillance, he also proves to be a genius in the world of high-end industrial safes.

Brian is impressed by his friend’s knowledge, and when he asks how he knows so much, Tej replies with the Fast and Furious equivalent of “A wizard did it”: “I had a life before you knew me, O’Conner.” Those nine words provide all the cover we need for the rest of Tej’s journey.

A more curious turn comes, however, when the crew is sitting around discussing what they would do with the eight-figure haul they’d each earn if the heist is successful.

“I’ve been thinking about opening up a garage back home,” says Tej, “a place where people can bring their cars and not get completely ripped off.”

This is odd because — as we’ve clearly established — Tej already had a garage. Is Miami not home for Tej? Did he lose the garage? Is he suffering from amnesia? Tough to say, but by the end of the film, we do indeed see him in possession of a small shop.

Ludacris on the evolution of his character:

Fast & Furious 6
Skills: Intro computer hacking, British military trivia, weapon fabrication, combat driving, philanthropy

Our reintroduction to Tej at the beginning of 6 has him programming an automated teller machine to spray cash, our first real hint of the hacking skills that will be more prominently featured in Furious 7. Tej shows that he is extremely knowledgeable about the British military, understanding the history and reputation of the Mobility Unit formerly helmed by the film’s villain Owen Shaw, and he participates in a car chase pursuing the team. He is also quite generous, using some of his Five haul to buy a number of classic cars despite the fact he likely had the full resources of the United States government at his disposal, as represented by Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson). We also see more of his inventive side, as he enhances a harpoon gun that’s critical to the climax of the film.

Furious 7
Skills: World-class computer hacking, advanced military tactics, martial arts

Tej perfected his computer skills between 6 and 7, as he is able to match wits with Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel), who is considered one of the greatest hackers in the world. (Ramsey immediately identifies him as the “tech guy” of the group, because game recognizes game.) Despite the fact he’s among some of the best Special Forces minds in the world, it’s Tej who comes up with the “parachute cars onto an Azerbaijan highway” insertion plan. On top of all of that, he also takes out a tough-guy security guard in Dubai using hand-to-hand combat.

Ludacris in The Fate of the Furious
Ludacris in The Fate of the Furious. (Photo: Universal Studios/courtesy Everett Collection)

The Fate of the Furious
Skills: We’re not spoiling anything if we say that in the eighth movie, which opens on Friday, Tej has grown in his computer abilities and also shows an unparalleled knowledge of a wide range of military equipment. (We’re assuming you saw the Russian submarine in the trailer?)

…and beyond?

The Fast and Furious team is slowly but steadily running out of places on this planet to race their way through. Our humble suggestion would be to turn their attention to parallel dimensions, time travel, or — perhaps most appealing — the stars. Is Dom going to figure out how to go to space, a possibility not necessarily ruled out by screenwriter Chris Morgan? He is not, which means that task will likely fall to Tej. Who better to master quantum physics and aerospace engineering before the next movie?

Watch a quick refresher on where we last saw the Fast and Furious crew:

Read more from Yahoo Movies: