For the last 20 years, audiences have followed Dom’s story, with his sister Mia (Jordana Brewster), wife Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) and now his son Brian, who is named for his brother-in-law — and sometimes outlaw — Brian O’Connor (the late Paul Walker).
Over time, the “Fast” family has extended beyond the bonds of blood — as each member of the Toretto-led crew (and even some former foes) has become a part of that family and been invited to sit down around the table to share a few Coronas.
But in “F9,” the saga takes a turn with the introduction of Jakob, the long-lost Toretto brother, played by John Cena.
“As Dom enters into the realm of fatherhood, like we do in real life, we reflect on our own parents, and our own father, in hopes to be the best father that we can be,” Diesel tells Variety, explaining why the franchise went this direction. “I think the ‘Fast and Furious’ has done well to challenge its own concept of family. So what people might not realize is the whole Jacob character was in service of Dom reflecting on his own imperfect father.”
It’ll be news to many that Dom’s dad is “imperfect,” given that the character absolutely idolizes him, which is natural, since Dom was so young when he died in a fiery car accident at the race track. But fans will quickly learn, Diesel teases, that Jakob and Dom’s broken brotherhood is directly linked to that loss of their dad.
Director Justin Lin explains that going back to the origins of this family’s mythology was particularly enticing for him as a storyteller.
“I have two brothers and also being an immigrant kid growing up, the sense of family of through shared experience is something that is very personal to me,” Lin says. So I thought it was great from three all the way to six, to be able to see our ‘Fast’ family grow globally. But then being away, I realized we’ve never explored family through blood.”
After decades of building that family bond, Brewster also relished the chance to dig into the history of the Torettos.
“I think family dynamics are so interesting as they play out,” she says. “Because, whatever happens, you cannot escape your family. They’re with you for life, so I think that’s what makes for such interesting drama.”
From Cena’s perspective, bringing Jakob into the fold “makes for a lot of creative storyline questions.”
“Dom’s expression of family is open, in that you don’t have to have the last name to be accepted, loved and trusted,” Cena explains, saying that Jakob’s reappearance creates a brand-new challenge for Dom. “This is the first instance where you look at your bloodline in an uncomfortable manner, like the genuine definition of family and see how dysfunctional and tense and uncomfortable it is.”
Speaking of storyline questions, over the course of eight movies, audiences have met extended Toretto family members like Dom’s cousin Fernando in “The Fate of the Furious.” But there are other branches of the family tree with blank spots — namely the position reserved for Mrs. Toretto, whose identity hasn’t really come up … yet.
With a planned 10th and 11th film in the works, Lin says he and Diesel have been plotting future storylines for years, but admits that “We’ve been talking a lot about Mrs. Toretto, from the very beginning of [me] coming back for ‘F9’. So, I feel like there’s gonna be a time and place to be able to reveal that.”
Diesel confirmed the storyline discussion, saying that the plot point has “come up in so many story meetings for ‘Fast 10.'”
But — after a long hesitation and a little bit of laughter — Diesel says “before we get to Mother Toretto, we will get to Abuela. And the person that I’m so excited to talk about that role is Rita Moreno.”
Variety reached out to Moreno for comment on the casting suggestion. In response to Diesel’s interest, the EGOT-winner said, “I’m waiting for his call. I think it’s a fabulous idea. I hope he puts me in black leather…”
Keep your fingers crossed “Fast” fans.
“F9: The Fast Saga” hits theaters on June 25.