John Cena in F9

You can probably tell from his public persona that Vin Diesel is a spiritual, and emotional, guy. The actor may frequently play the heavy in fist-throwing action franchises like the Fast & Furious movies, or Bloodshot. But Diesel also brings a below-the-surface level of tenderness that allows him to sell the concept of “family” in a muscle-car saga, and he seems to be in tune with his spiritual side.

So when Vin Diesel was talking about a serious casting decision that the team was about to make on the new sequel F9, it wasn’t that surprising to hear Diesel admit that he felt the presence of his late co-star Paul Walker at a pivotal point in the process. Diesel was speaking during a press event that CinemaBlend attended for the new F9 trailer. And he was opening up about the casting of John Cena as Dominic Toretto’s younger brother, Jakob. As Diesel remembers it:

I remember once we started getting closer to production, Justin (Lin) and I would talk about how harrowing it would be to actually cast a new Toretto. The brother of Toretto. There’s so many different directions you could go. And I remember John Cena coming into this Dom Shrine that I had where I would kind of go to meditate and train and start getting into that Dom state of mind. And I remember John coming in and… call this crazy, but I remember feeling as though Pablo, Paul Walker, had sent him in. I remember talking to Justin that night and saying, ‘My gut and my heart feels like this was meant to be.’

Big-name faces have come and gone through the Fast & Furious franchise. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson brought a much-needed shot of adrenaline to the series, as did seasoned tough guy Jason Statham. Of course, they both took their roles to a new franchise, but the traditional Fast series also played host to Gal Gadot, Helen Mirren, Charlize Theron and Kurt Russell over the years.

Now John Cena, who has been part of the Transformers franchise and has a legacy shaped by the WWE, will see where and how he fits into the Fast & Furious franchise as it draws to a close.

It’s sweet to hear Vin Diesel tributing his beloved colleague Paul Walker on his gut move to hire John Cena as Jakob Toretto. Though the actor died before he was able to wrap filming on Furious 7, director James Wan figured a way around filming, and Walker’s legacy has remained part of the Fast moving forward. There’s even a tender reference to him IN this new trailer, as well as the return of Jordana Brewster as Mia Toretto Walker’s character’s wife (and Dom and Jakob’s sister).

We will have to see if John Cena was a good hire when F9 lands in theaters on June 25, from Universal Pictures.

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