I Am Paul Walker is the headliner and season ender for the Paramount Network’s I Am series. Walker is in good company, with the series exploring the memories of Martin Luther King Jr. and JFK Jr. and the more common company of Dale Earnhardt and Evel Knievel. Over the course of an hour, we get the perspective of the people closest to these larger-than-life icons.
Through a series of forthcoming interviews, we learn about the man inside the car. We may have known him as the poster boy of our favorite motorsport franchise (Fast & Furious for those who have been living under a rock for more than a decade) but there is unquestionably more to the man. This hour documentary reveals the guy who took a serious heart to giving back to his community and lived selflessly for the benefit of others.
What we learn about Walker is what we thought we already knew. That he was a born badass, as his brothers comment, in a legacy of badass men, stemming from his grandfathers—one a Pearl Harbor survivor who became a boxing champion, and the other a tank commander under General Patton in World War II. These are the powerful men his family modeled.
I Am Paul Walker charts his growth from Pleasantville heartthrob to being an eminent actor of his era in Running Scared. His is a juicy career full of notable performances. If you have bought into the mythos of his on-screen persona, this document suggests, you have bought into the real guy.
Original Fast & Furious director Rob Cohen talks about selling Walker on the part: “You’re a cop who goes undercover in the street racing world and instead of doing your job as a cop, you fall in love with the people. I get a gun, I get the girl, I get a fast car, I play an undercover cop, I get a big conflict, what else is there for an actor?”
When he shows up on the set of Fast & Furious, he wants to dissect the guts of all the top-of-the-line cars he’s provided. This is an actor deeply entrenched in the lifestyles his roles promote. When shooting would end, we find him out hunting great white sharks. He’s an action hero who continued the action beyond the screen. His brother Caleb admits Paul always said he just wanted to be a Park Ranger and live in the wilderness; that was his internal directive and what spurred his motivations off-screen.
We should note this documentary is informed by the perspective of Walker’s loved ones and close coworkers; it has that perspective. It doesn’t take into account any criticism of the man or dive into any media allegations against him, which seem to be just that: media-created allegations.
Friends and family reflect on the person he actually was then. We get background on his Haiti relief efforts, his great contributions to disaster relief and especially supporting communities that are giving back. When you think of Walker and Vin Diesel setting rescue crews up with helicopters and supplies, you find that fact does not carry very far from fiction at all. These are guys who deserve our utmost respect. When he created Reach Out Worldwide, he said, let’s not have any press, let’s do the most good because that is the good thing to do.
The Fast & Furious movies are important to me. They’re a big connection I have with my younger brother. Walker was the model of the big brother I always tried to be. The good, cool guy who knew his way around things and situations. Even in death, Walker’s shadow looms over us, a harrowing crash in a high end sports car where he was burnt alive. I can only offer this extended series of articles as my token of gratitude for an actor I’ve always admired, who improved my life through their influence.