Vanessa Kirby Joins Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham in ‘Hobbs and Shaw’

‘The Crown’ actress is the latest addition to the Shaw family in the ‘Fast and Furious’ spinoff.

With each Fast and Furious movie, it seems more and more that joining the Shaw family is an excuse for British actors to ham it up. Luke Evans chewed up the scenery in Fast & Furious 6. Then Jason Statham stole the show in every one of his Furious 7 scenes. And who could forget Helen Mirren’s truly bizarre cockney accent in The Fate of the Furious?

Now Variety reports that BAFTA Award winner Vanessa Kirby is the latest addition to the family tree. The Crown actress will star alongside Statham and Dwayne Johnson in the David Leitch-directed spinoff Hobbs and Shaw. Kirby will play the sister of Deckard Shaw (Statham) and, of course, she’s an MI-5 agent. Which does raise the question of what kind of household Mirren ran that produced two supervillains and a secret agent?

The MI-5 detail is an intriguing one, though. Despite being welcomed by the family at the end of The Fate of the Furious, it’s hard to imagine Deckard is on particularly good terms with the British intelligence agency. Especially when #JusticeForHan is yet to be served. Her position at MI-5 would surely put her in direct opposition with Deckard for at least a part of the movie.

Another reason to be excited about this news is that the series is in need of more proactive female characters. Despite being perhaps the most diverse mainstream action franchise, Fast and Furious‘ treatment of its female characters is… mixed. To the point where Michelle Rodriguez spoke out about the issue last year. In an Instagram post, she wrote:

“‘F8’ is out digitally today, I hope they decide to show some love to the women of the franchise on the next one. Or I just might have to say goodbye to a loved franchise. It’s been a good ride and I’m grateful for the opportunity, the fans, and studio have provided over the years… One Love.”

It’s not difficult to see why she was frustrated. While Letty may be a legitimate badass, Rodriguez’s female co-stars have had considerably less to do in recent movies.

Jordana Brewster was written out after Paul Walker’s death, but Mia’s roles in Fast & Furious 6 and Furious 7 were already uninspired. The fact that the character was pushed to the sidelines, existing only to express concern over the phone, was disappointing, to say the least. Elsewhere there’s Gal Gadot’s Gisele, an enjoyable presence who was unceremoniously killed off in part 6. And Nathalie Emmanuel’s Ramsey is a character who spends 90% of her screentime getting hit on.

The casting of Furiosa herself, Charlize Theron, as The Fate of the Furious‘ villain seemed like a step in the right direction. Which was why it was so frustrating to see Theron spend most of the movie looking at a screen. It’s baffling to imagine anyone watching Fury Road and feeling compelled to cast Theron as a generic hacker. And it didn’t help either that she had a much stronger role in Atomic Blonde (which was directed by Hobbs and Shaw helmer David Leitch) just months later.

In addition to all that, you also have the obligatory sequences featuring close-ups of women’s bodies. These leering scenes always feel like an uncomfortable holdover from the early days of the franchise. One that likely won’t go anywhere until a woman directs one of these, but that’s a whole other discussion. Whether or not Rodriguez does decide to walk remains to be seen, but here’s hoping that Kirby’s character goes some way to convince her to stay.

What is reassuring is that all signs point to Kirby as being a much more involved character in Hobbs and Shaw. Her being a secret agent means they surely can’t make her sit out the action. And if her stellar work on The Crown wasn’t enough for you, Kirby also has a role in the much-anticipated Mission: Impossible – Fallout. Little is known about her character, named White Widow, but brief shots from the trailers and various promo photos place her in an intriguing role in the movie. And with a name like White Widow, how can she not be ready to kick some serious ass? All of which should have audiences clamoring to see her do the same here.

Whatever the first Fast and Furious spinoff has in store for us (I’m personally hoping for a full-blown Shaw family gathering), we’re hoping Kirby is all over it. And if she can have as much fun in her role as Mirren did last year, the Shaw tradition will be upheld.

Hayden Cornmell: @@HaydenCornmell Sometimes knows what he's talking about.