Joining one of the most famous film franchises of all time is a daunting endeavor, even if you’re already very famous in your own right. Just ask John Cena, who made his debut as Jakob Toretto in F9 back in June. Though he’s proven he can hold his own both in the WWE ring and on film, he admits that he had to work against a unique challenge: Vin Diesel and other cast members were "apprehensive" about joining the Fast and the Furious series.
With nine films in the can so far, the Fast and Furious series has played host to hundreds of actors. Some have played a bigger role in the franchise’s legacy than others, and it’s no secret that some are pretty protective of what they’ve built. John Cena experienced that protectiveness first-hand when he was cast in F9. He told People that when he was first coming on board, he wasn’t exactly welcomed with open arms:
They were kind of apprehensive to me being there, just like we are in WWE like, 'Who is the new kid?' But then when the new kid does something good or like when you have good open conversations, it's like, 'Yeah, you're alright.'
It seems like John Cena took being the new kid on the Fast and Furious block in stride, though. He approached his new role as Dominic and Mia’s brother with a healthy perspective because he understood why the cast feels the way they do about the series:
… Or as Vin calls it, 'the family.' That's super rare in film. Because usually you do the project, you move on. It's like a wonderful summer camp. You make great friends and some you stay in touch with them, and some you don't, but you do the thing and then you move on. This family gets together like every two years to do Fast [films]. They're celebrating its 20th anniversary. This is a global franchise that has entertained fans for two decades. I've been at WWE performer for, next year will be my 20th anniversary. So to see Vin and Jordana [Brewster], Michelle [Rodriguez] and the crew, Tyrese [Gibson], and Luda [Ludacris], they've been in these characters for 20 years. It felt as homey as a WWE locker room. I've never felt that anywhere.
In the meantime, you can see how John Cena fits into the Fast and Furious legacy with F9, which is playing in theaters and on-demand. And you can see him continue to solidify his own film legacy even more with an appearance in another high-profile property: The Suicide Squad, which opens in theaters and streams on HBO Max on August 6th.