03/24/2015 06:31 EDT | Updated 03/24/2015 06:59 EDT

Groot Helped Vin Diesel Recover After Paul Walker Died


Vin Diesel was in a difficult place after his friend and "Fast and the Furious" costar Paul Walker died.

But when "Guardians of the Galaxy" director James Gunn approached him with the possibility of voicing the role of a talking tree, he found something that helped him mourn.

Diesel told Variety that playing Groot in the hit film helped him recover following Walker's death.

"That was healing for me," he told the trade magazine. "To play a character that could reincarnate, rejuvenate and represent life as trees do."

In "Guardians of the Galaxy," Groot was a tree-like character who was a key figure in helping a group of superheroes recover an Infinity Gem from the evil villain Ronan the Accuser.

It was Diesel's first film role after the car accident that claimed his "Furious" costar's life in 2013.

He said in a Facebook Q and A session from last year that doing the film was therapeutic, "especially as Groot."

"There was an innocence about the character that was just refreshing — and it may have been more challenging under other circumstances, but at that time, it was very therapeutic," Diesel wrote.

And he didn't just speak Groot's voice once. He said in the same Q and A session that he could have recorded it "a thousand" times.

But Diesel enjoyed it, because he and Gunn "wanted each 'I am Groot' to mean something different."

"It reminded me, as an actor, how much we can do with so little — and if we're passionate about it, good things can come from it."

Diesel has found at least one way to keep Walker close to him: he named his recently-born daughter Pauline.

"He was in the room," he told the "Today" show Monday. "There's no other person that I was thinking about as I was cutting this umbilical cord. I just ... knew he was there ... It felt like, you know, a way to keep his memory a part of my family and a part of my world."

Diesel and Walker will appear on screen together for the last time when "Furious 7" hits theatres on April 3.

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