Vin Diesel has credited the late Paul Walker for the decision to cast John Cena as Jakob Toretto, the long-lost brother of Vin Diesel's character Dom, in the upcoming sequel Fast & Furious 9. While this will be the ninth installment of the long-running Fast and Furious franchise, Cena's character has never appeared before now, and as such a major character, there was a lot of pressure on Diesel and the F9 team to ensure the right person was cast.

Speaking about putting John Cena in the role at a recent press conference, Diesel told the story of exactly how the WWE Superstar was cast. From his point of view, it all comes down to a certain feeling Diesel got when he saw Cena that made him feel like Walker "sent him in." As Diesel explains:

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"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.'"

Cena also says how he didn't "overlook the responsibility of the opportunity," and he knows just how important it is to become such a big part of the popular franchise this late in the game. The wrestler and actor also noted how he gets to "reap the rewards" of the Fast and Furious team who've already spent so many years doing the groundwork to make the series into the incredibly successful blockbuster franchise that it is today.

Following Walker's death in 2013, his character Brian O'Conner was written out of the movie series. In the movies, it is explained that Brian has chosen to retire in order to spend more time with his family. The late actor was digitally inserted into a scene with Vin Diesel in the closing moments of Furious 7 with the two characters bidding each other farewell. Brain still has a presence in the movie series, as Diesel's Dom Toretto named his son Brian in The Fate of the Furious as a way of paying tribute.

Directed by Justin Lin, F9 stars Vin Diesel, John Cena, Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson, Chris "Ludacris" Bridges, Jordana Brewster, Nathalie Emmanuel, Sung Kang, Helen Mirren, and Charlize Theron. Originally, the movie was supposed to be released in 2019, but shifting release dates and the pandemic of 2020 brought about multiple significant delays. At this point, the sequel is now scheduled to be released in the United States on June 25, 2021. A new trailer for the movie revealing more of Cena as Dom's brother Jakob has also been released.

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