Last summer, we learned that WWE superstar-turned-actor John Cena would be joining the cast of the Fast and Furious franchise for the sequel Fast & Furious 9, due in theaters May 22nd. In a series that just keeps getting more and more delightfully over-the-top, Cena is a perfect addition—he looks well-suited to the task of dodging explosions behind the wheel of a sportscar while driving down the side of the Burj Khalifa. Collider’s Steve Weintraub got to talk with Cena about his role in this month’s Dolittle, starring Robert Downey Jr., and the topic of Fast & Furious inevitably came up. While the actor wasn’t able to reveal much, he did offer some exciting behind-the-scenes info for fans of the series.
“Dude, that one [Fast & Furious 9] was awesome in many respects because this is a franchise, like a legacy franchise. The cast in that movie has essentially been working together for 20 years. It is a family environment and it is one that the world views as their family as well. They’re into the storyline, they’re into the characters, and they’re into this 20-year, eight- installment narrative that, in a lot of cases, [is defining]. This is a lot of what you’re known for in entertainment and what people come to expect.”
He also talked about the mind-blowing scale of the action set pieces for which the series has become known, and its gradual transformation into a hybrid superhero/racing franchise. “On top of that, they’ve managed to build an almost superhero environment with real people,” he said. “The first movie was about street racing and then it’s evolved and been able to pivot into this crazy thing that is still so plugged in with car culture.” Cena also points out the massive global appeal of the series, saying, “…it always outdoes itself in the form of, like, ‘What are they going to do next?’ but at the same time remains grounded in the story of family. It’s incredible and it’s incredible how digestible it is throughout the globe too, how worldly the story and the saga’s become… it’s already a globally-appreciated franchise and I think Fast 9 will be a wonderful adrenaline shot for the franchise.”
Cena resisted every attempt to get him to divulge who exactly he’s playing in the movie, but he did reveal that he’s involved in at least one huge set piece. And while he admitted that the series’ trademark action spectacles are challenging to film, he stressed that the crew was completely professional and made sure that he was never in any actual danger. “On film, I will cheat death but it’s so safe,” he said. “I had no fear in any of the processes. When I saw small renderings of what it’s going to look like, I’m like, ‘What the fuck?’ It’s awesome and I think by making the actors feel that sense of like, ‘Hey man, we’ve set this up so you are going to be all right. Just go for it.’ You get the best performance from your actors rather than somebody going, ‘I don’t know about this.’… It was unbelievably safe but also unbelievably creative.”
The first trailer for Fast & Furious 9 is set to debut at the end of this month, so hopefully we won’t have to wait much longer to learn exactly what part Cena will play in the guaranteed blockbuster. (My money is on the villain. How cool would that be?) The movie hits theaters May 22nd.
Look for our full interview with Cena on Collider soon, and if you missed what he said about starring in James Gunn’s The Suicide Squad, click here.