John Cena is a lot of things. He’s a wrestler, an actor, and a disappearing act all at once, but the 44-year-old is finally ready to be seen, as the villainous Toretto sibling in the latest instalment of the Fast and the Furious franchise.
The wrestler-turned-actor is not the first heavyweight champ to turn his charm on Hollywood but after 14 years since he transitioned to acting, with The Marine in 2006, Cena, who has starred in Bumblebee, Daddy’s Home and Playing With Fire, is ready to stop playing the good guy.
And in case anyone misunderstands, it was never his intention to play the hero all this while.
“It seemed like no one would give me a chance, but I don’t blame them. You can’t really choose opportunity, opportunity finds you and you just got to be ready for it,” notes the actor speaking to Geek Culture in a video interview about his role as Jakob Toretto in Fast and Furious 9.
Like his WWE buddies Dave Bautista, and Dwayne Johnson, Cena admits that the career switch has been hard and that opportunities were scarce despite his household name, so when he got the role of Jakob, the latest villain in the Fast franchise, he felt like it was his chance to prove his abilities.
“Alot of the opportunities I’ve been given are to be a good guy and then the Fast franchise was brave enough to take a chance on me as a bad guy,” said Cena.
“All of the public is like ‘Well you can’t be a bad guy’, until they see the movie. And a lot of people thought ‘You’re just a WWE superstar and you can’t do it’, and then you finally get the chance to be the bad guy. So I’m making the impossible possible! I got to be a bad guy!”
Cena didn’t need any convincing to say yes to the role, as he has been a fan of the movies and cars too. In fact, the actor was more than excited to embark on the journey alongside co-star Vin Diesel. However, playing Dominic Toretto’s brother across Diesel wasn’t easy, and Cena had to learn to adapt as quickly as he could.
“The most difficult and dangerous [challenge] is the brother versus brother confrontations between Jakob and Dom. We knew we had to bring that action to another level because Fast is known for its action and especially known for Dom Toretto’s face-off with insurmountable odds but this had to be of a different nature. This had to be a fight between brothers, action between brothers and a face off between equal opponents,” shared Cena.
“It was merely surreal to find out that I would be a Toretto and Dom’s brother. This being my first movie (in the franchise) and many folks have dedicated 20 years of their lives to the legacy of this too. My philosophy was just to be a sponge, keep your mouth shut, your ears open and listen to the people that have crafted this story over the past 20 years and that really served me great.”
And with over 20 years of franchise history, Cena is aware that he isn’t the only wrestler on the team. Fellow WWE superstar Dwayne Johnson joined the franchise in Fast 5 and has appeared in a number of sequels after that, including finding additional success within the series in the Hobbs and Shaw spin-off.
Whilst Johnson isn’t set to appear in Fast 9, Cena is keeping his fingers crossed at the possibility of meeting with his WWE colleague again on the big screen for the first time.
When asked what he’d think Jakob would say to Hobbs, Cena gave out a laugh and responded, “The low hanging fruit answer to that is, ‘You can’t see me’.”, referencing his wrestling persona’s ability to remain invisible.
“The real answer is I don’t know if that’ll happen and that’s that’s very much up to the Fast audience to decide. As the Fast saga grows and evolves, I’m excited for a possible moment like that but there’s no guarantee. I hope it happens and if the audiences around the world hope the same thing, who knows.”
Although Cena is unsure whether or not he has a confirmed spot in the next sequel before the franchise hits the end of the road, he’s content with his performance and will wholeheartedly continue to be part of the franchise so long as the fans want it.
“I’d like to think I’m the best villain to match up, but it’s not up to me to decide,” smiled Cena.
“I think Jakob is deserving of being in the Fast franchise because of the excellent perspective we’ve seen in Dom Toretto [in response to Jakob’s existence]. Throughout the 20 year history, besides his sister, his chosen family are people that he loves and people that are close to him but don’t necessarily share a bloodline. He now looks at things with a perspective as a father, and also as a brother – a blood brother – and I think that’s a very interesting and curious one that keeps the movie moving.”
Speaking of moving, Cena is used to moving from one project to the next. In fact, 2021 is set to be a busy year for Cena, as he is also appearing in James Gunn’s The Suicide Squad later this year. Cena is also taking the opportunity to learn as much as he can and hopes that his experience at Fast will open more doors for him and that he’d be offered to play more diverse roles in the future.
“I’ve invested and put my heart and soul into [Jakob] and I really hope the world enjoys it,” said Cena. “I love the fact that I get to create for a living and call it work, and there’s not one day that goes by, it’s never lost on me. I’m very grateful for that.”
“As far as the future goes, I’ll keep trying to expand my skill set and expand the tools that I can offer to different roles. I don’t necessarily know what my next choice would be but I’m ready.”
Catch John Cena as Jakob Toretto in Fast and Furious 9 when it zooms into theatres on 26 May 2021.