Very few franchises have had an enduring 20 year lifespan that’s still revving up the box office. But back in 2001, we were introduced to Dominic Toretto and his family, and since then, movie theaters have never been the same. When you think about The Fast Saga, it is an unparalleled accomplishment; a franchise in Hollywood that was written off after its third installment, before making a monumental comeback after reinventing itself as an ensemble heist/spy series that was capable of enduring 15 more years.
Now F9, the latest installment in The Fast Saga, is coming June 25, 2021! And to celebrate members of the press were invited to a virtual press conference with the cast and crew, including Sung Kang, Nathalie Emmanuel, Justin Lin, Chris ‘Ludacris’ Bridges, Tyrese Gibson, Jordana Brewster, and Vin Diesel. We were present at the event to ask a few questions, and hear what the whole Fast family had to say about this installment, as well as the #JusticeForHan campaign, and the franchise’s legacy. Here are a few tidbits of what they had to say.
The event started with the cast member that represents the most anticipated return to the franchise of all time: Sung Kang. As many remember Han was killed in Tokyo Drift, an event that, at first glance was an accident, but was then revealed to be a murder at the hands of Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) in the final scene of Fast and Furious 6. Following Han’s death, the franchise elevated Shaw to an antihero and leading man in Hobbs and Shaw; something that was considered a great injustice given how callously it redeemed the man who murdered the only Asian member of Toretto’s “family.” Thankfully, after furious backlash via the #JusticeForHan campaign, we’re finally seeing the return of Han, and Kang in F9. Here’s what Kang had to say about his return.
“What have you done in this one, that you haven’t done before?” the moderator asked.
“I always wanted to be a UFC fighter,” Kang began. “It was a dream to be a champion UFC fighter or boxer. And I got to actually have an action scene with a true UFC champion: Frances Ngannou. Just being around someone like that, and being to learn from him, and being able to do a pretend fight scene with an actual fighter, is something that — as a kid I would play pretend I’d have these epic fight matches with an invisible enemy as a kid — to be able to do that with an actual champion, that was a cool thing to check off from the bucket list.”
He was asked how he felt about the #JusticeForHan movement on social media.
“It’s humbling… there’s this feeling of justice by the fanbase, an itch that needs to be scratched, and to be part of that story? These are the Hollywood fairy tales you see in documentaries. Amazing to be a part of it.”
Kang was asked about racism today, and his philosophy behind laughing in the face of it.
“You have to laugh at racism, because the alternative is too painful. If anyone has ever felt discrimination in their life, that feeling alone — I wish that feeling on no one, especially children. When I’ve been racially attacked, I go to anger, defensiveness, and go through a withdraw. And I realized that’s not the answer. That’s what they [the racists] want. Then you become part of the problem. And it becomes dark, and light becomes dark. You have to wake up and find laughter and joy. And in those moments, when you do have to deal with those situations, you have to use it as fuel and as energy. Here’s the enemy, and I’m not going to let this virus grow. Especially in yourself. You have to stop it and exterminate it right away… I have no answers. The only thing that’s helped me is laughing and being around people that make me laugh. We laugh the pain away. That’s the only thing I can control.”
Next up, was Nathalie Emmanuel, who joined the franchise in Furious 7 as the ace hacker Ramsay.
Emmanuel was asked about Ramsay’s journey in this film.
“[Ramsay is] really confident with her tech. And now she’s forced to do something that is completely out of her comfort zone. When there is literally no one else available, she’s forced to jump behind the wheel for the first time, and drive, not just a regular car, but a really big truck you need a special license to drive. So she definitely gets shoved in at the deep end, when it comes to driving for the first time in a really high stakes, intense situation. There’s a very kind of hilarious car sequence with Ramsay behind the wheel and it’s fun!… I’ve done three movies and I don’t drive. And neither does Ramsay, and we learn about it in Fast 9 because she’s forced to admit it.”
When asked about what it means to play a character that can encourage women and young girls in the field of STEM, Emmanuel had this to say:
“It makes me really happy. I’ve heard lots of people say to me about the lack of women in the tech space — especially women of color in the tech space — so the fact that Ramsay is a representation of the underrepresented makes me really happy and really proud. And I hope that anyone who sees her and has an interest in tech, and think they can’t do it, will just go for it!”
Director Justin Lin then took to the mic. He was asked if he expected that the series would be as massive as it has become when he first took the reins of the franchise.
“Personally I love, not only the people behind the scenes, but that we’ve been able to have this experience and grow together. To be part of a franchise where the building of it, earning each chapter, and trying to do something new each time, and not just repeating — that’s something that excites me. And to do it with this group of people makes it very special.
When asked about fan service and whether the films are made with fan requests in mind, Lin had this to say:
“I don’t think we’re trying to be reactive, and definitely not trying to pander for sure. I felt like when I came back, there were some thematic explorations of family through blood that excited me… I felt also excited about the fact that we’d be able to go back to the origin of this mythology. And I think doing that, and also the fact that we’re 20 years in, a lot of what the fans have been wanting and talking about were organically aligning as we were working on it.”
Next up was franchise veteran, Ludacris. When asked about his character Tej being the “Q” of the franchise, and what gadgets he would like to see in the franchise, that he hasn’t seen yet, Bridges had said this:
“It’s crazy man. I’d love to figure out a way where we could fight underwater somehow. And also something crazy like bungee jumping or skydiving and fighting someone at the same time. Just taking it extreme. And I would love to see us go to some continent like Africa or Australia.”
When asked about what he thought Sung Kang’s return brought back to the franchise, Bridges said:
“We all missed Sung so much. And his character coming back just feels like that gap that just needed to be filled to feel complete. And he brings so much great intellect, and he’s very strategic. His character, and everything that he does. He kind of sits back and he’s more quiet, and cool, calm, and collected. But when it’s time for action, he springs to life. And that’s what I love about his character.”
Jordana Brewster, who has been part of the franchise since the first film, sat out the 8th movie, Fate of the Furious. Given the nature of the film’s plotline, and the return of a long lost brother, F9 sees the return of Mia Toretto, and Brewster. Brewster was asked how it felt to come back, she said this:
“I was so sad to be, for a very good reason, left out of 8. Sad for me to see it coming out and see the posters all over the place. But once I got the call to join 9 I was trilled. I was also particularly thrilled because I got to be there for the entire shoot. For 6 and 7 I didn’t have the same opportunity because I was on a television show, so I sort of missed out on so much of the action. So with this one I relished every minute of it.”
When asked about what she misses about working with Paul Walker and whether or not it felt different or weird doing F9 without him, she had this to say:
“Paul had this way of making everyone feel so comfortable on set, and making everyone feel like they were seen. And I miss that level of ease and comfort. He’s irreplaceable… It felt incredibly strange shooting the scenes in 7. Because all of my scenes were shot without Paul. And they were shot either with his brothers or with a double, so that was incredibly, just a very strange experience. But I think the way that Brian is kept alive within the universe, and the way he’s honored — it doesn’t feel strange. It just feels — it’s sad, and it’s something that shouldn’t be. That’s the only way I could describe it.”
Next up was Tyrese Gibson, returning to the role of Roman Pearce. One of the things that Gibson was asked was about the huge success of the franchise.
“There’s something interesting about the mystique of the franchise. Doesn’t matter how long we’ve been doing it, you look forward to the next one. There’s a certain anticipation that’s created, just wondering how are they going to reinvent the franchise again. And we keep doing it over and over again. Can’t say it’s luck. Can’t say this is a microwave fly by thing. Can’t say this franchise has had it’s moment and it’s over. It just continues to reinvent itself. And we’re heavily relying on the fans and supporters to be able to help us make the statement we all want to make. Yes it’s very easy to go into theaters and go straight into streaming, But there’s certain movies that literally belong in the theaters and this is one of them.”
When asked about what his favorite lines were in the film or the franchise that made him laugh the most, Gibson had this to say:
“Here’s the thing. We come up with a lot of funny stuff on the fly. And if it’s not done on the fly in the moment, spontaneously, then I always get the script, we pick it all apart, then I send in all my thoughts and ideas over, and have them drop it into the movie. And so to be honest, I think the funniest stuff that happens to us is the stuff that’s on set, and you’re being funny, and hope everybody can keep a straight face. Because if they all start laughing while you’re doing something funny, then you can’t make the movie. Because we can’t laugh at the things that I’m saying that’s funny. The audience is supposed to laugh. And I think I love irritating Vin. I love irritating The Rock. I loved irritating Kurt Russell – Mr. Nobody. Anybody who has a role where they’re supposed to play it straight, and very intense, I love poking at them and irritating them. I don’t really have a favorite moment. That would be for them, the fans and supporters to tell me what their favorite punchlines are in the movie. So you should pose that question back to them.”
Finally, the day came to a conclusion with the main man himself, Vin Diesel. When asked about what keeps himself and audiences coming back to this franchise, Diesel said this:
“The anticipation of what happens next… It’s a very special and unique thing to have an audience see your movie, and as they’re walking out of the movie theater, go to the ticket booth and try to get a ticket for the next movie that isn’t even made yet. It’s a testament to how in-tuned the fans are to the film. And we don’t shy away with it. We evolve. Our characters evolve. We’re in the ninth chapter, 20 years to the anniversary of the first film, and Dom’s a father, going through fatherhood. I think that’s part of what makes this special. Of course the #1 reason is because Fast and Furious has always been that movie that you can watch from anywhere in the world and feel like you belong in Toretto’s backyard in that barbeque table.”
He was then asked about the biggest highlight and setback in the past 20 years:
“I will never forget being in an airport in Mexico. The [first] movie hadn’t come out yet. It was April 2001. And Paul and I were sitting on the floor with our bags on the side about to board a commercial flight back home. We just few down there for the MTV Spring Break thing. And I remember him leaning in at me and saying ‘take all this in.’ And I said, ‘what?’ And he said ‘Take in the fact that people are walking over our legs and almost kicking our bags, and not paying any attention to us.’ I said, ‘why?’ And he said, ‘Because after this film comes out, there too will go our anonymity.’ And I think that that is telling of this journey we were about to go on… Ironically, for me, when people ask about the memories, my memories aren’t just what you see on film. Because everything behind the scenes contributes to what you see on film. Obviously the biggest setback is the loss of my brother, in the middle of filming. I felt like my brother was ripped away from life and from the planet… But I don’t know if I’m ever going to be able to articulate it right. But it is clearly the thing that’s been the biggest tragedy in my life and the most life altering moment.”
Diesel was then asked about what director Justin Lin brought to this film and the franchise as a whole:
“I knew Justin Lin was directing Fast 9 before he knew he was directing Fast 9. He thought I was crazy that [I said that] prior to me filming 8 (And I love the other directors that were a part of this — James Wan and Gary Gray — all did fantastic jobs). The task of creating the finale weighed on me five, six, seven years ago. It felt like I was getting closer and closer to Fast 10. And so what Justin brings is, for me personally as an artist, extraordinary for the production as a whole. A commitment that’s unparalleled. And in terms of the storytelling, a deep understanding of the mythology that you only get from being associated with the mythology for over 10 years. So all of those reasons were why it was so critical for him to direct the Fast 10 two-part series and the finale, and the prequel to that, this film, Fast 9.”
Given how amazing Lin’s work has been for this franchise, from the amazing action to the return of Han, I whole-heartedly agree with everything Diesel said. And we’re all looking forward to seeing where Diesel, Lin, and the entire Fast family take the future of this franchise as it races towards the finish line for one final lap. F9 hits theaters June 25!