In an ever changing and at-times frightening world, the bond of family is often what keeps people’s spirits lifted and gives them hope that they can survive. That’s certainly the case for the cast, crew and characters of the hit action franchise, ‘The Fast Saga.’ Its latest entry, ‘F9,’ is proving that overcoming conflict is what the characters do best, even when the most terrifying aspects of life are a direct result of one of their relative’s actions.
The series’ eighth sequel is led in part by one of the ensemble cast’s main actresses, Jordana Brester. The performer’s famous alter-ego in ‘The Fast Saga,’ Mia Toretto, must battle her disappointment that her long-lost brother, Jakob, is determined to wreck havoc on the family of friends she has built throughout her adulthood.
Universal Pictures is distributing ‘F9’ in theaters today, after more than a year of delays. The action thriller was originally scheduled for worldwide release in April of last year, but was delayed due to theaters closing in the wake of the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
‘F9’ marks the return of director Justin Lin to the franchise, after he previously helmed four earlier installments in the series, including ‘The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift,’ ‘Fast & Furious,’ ‘Fast Five‘ and ‘Fast & Furious 6.‘ The director also co-wrote the ninth installment in ‘The Fast Saga’ with Daniel Casey, and served as one of its producers.
‘F9’ follows Dom (Vin Diesel) as he’s leading a quiet life off the grid with Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) and his son, little Brian, but they know that danger always lurks just over their peaceful horizon. This time, that threat will force Dom to confront the sins of his past if he’s going to save those he loves most. His crew, including Roman (Tyrese Gibson), Tej (Chris “Ludacris” Bridges), Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel), Sean (Lucas Black) and Han (Sung Kang), who they previously thought had died, as well as Dom’s sister, Mia, join together to stop a world-shattering plot led by the most skilled assassin and high-performance driver they’ve ever encountered: Dom and Mia’s forsaken brother, Jakob (John Cena).
Brewster generously took the time recently to talk about starring in ‘F9’ during a virtual press conference. Among other things, the actress discussed that she’s happy that the movie is a little bit of a retrospective of who Mia, Dom and Jakob’s father was, and what kind of trauma the siblings endured while they were growing up, especially after their dad’s death. She also reflected on her experience of returning for her first entry in the franchise that doesn’t feature the late Paul Walker, who played Mia’s boyfriend, and then husband, Brian O’Conner, in five of ‘The Fast Saga’s previous installments.
The interview began with Brewster discussing what it means to her that she was able to return to the series with ‘F9,’ after she didn’t appear in ‘The Fate of the Furious.’ “For good reason, I was left out of 8, but it was so sad for me to see it coming out, and see the posters all over the place. So once I got the call to join 9, I was thrilled, particularly because I was able to be there for the entire shoot,” she shared.
“For 6 and 7, I didn’t have the same opportunity because I was on a television show (the 2012 ‘Dallas’ revival series), so I missed out on a lot of the action. So I relished every minute I was on set for 9,” the actress also shared.
In her return to ‘The Fast Saga,’ Brewster embraced the fact that Mia goes through a large physical and emotional transformation. “It’s a huge development that there’s another Toretto brother. I think it’s nice that this movie looks back, and is a little bit of a retrospective of who our father was, and what kind of trauma Dom and Mia endured,” she noted.
“I’m now going to use this as a character piece to build Mia in the next film. It’s information that I wish I had earlier, but I also think it’s really nice that the audience is let into the Toretto world a little bit more, and so many questions are answered in this movie,” the performer added.
With Mia starting off as Dom’s sister and Brian’s girlfriend in the franchise’s earlier entries, to now being a wife and mother in ‘The Fast Saga’s later sequels, Brewster noted that she has embraced her character’s transformation throughout the series. “In some ways, Mia has come full circle. I think when I go back and watch the first film, Mia was very headstrong and independent because she had to be, since she grew up with Dom, and now we know, Jakob, as well. We don’t really know if she had a mother figure in her life, so she really had to hold her own.
“We saw her be a part of the action in the first movie, but that sort of faded into the background when she became a mom, and is now more of a partner. She’s now back to being that super powerful female who’s in the action, and that’s where I like to be,” the actress added. “I hope that trajectory continues for Mia.”
Another element of making the new drama that Brewster enjoyed was the stuntwork she was able to do on the set, which she called “really fun. Right before we began filming, I did a guest role on one of Justin’s television series, ‘Magnum P.I.’ I got to do a bunch of action scenes in Hawaii, where we shot the show.
“I was very deliberate in guest-starring on the show because I thought, this is going to enable me to show Justin what I can do. So on the (‘Magnum P.I.’) set, I would overlook scenes that we were doing and say to Justin, “I think this is what Mia should be doing, as well,” the performer continued.
“When I got back to L.A., I started training with my Tae Kwon Do master, and then sent Justin that footage. I was just trying to push Justin to give me more action scenes (in ‘F9’), and he finally relented,” Brewster revealed.
“When we arrived in London, I memorized the stunt sequences, and it was so much fun. It’s so much fun to learn the choreography and put it on film. It’s so much fun to be physical,” the actress added.
Further speaking about Lin returning to ‘The Fast Saga’ as ‘F9’s director, Brewster admitted that she “really can’t imagine this franchise in anyone else’s hands. I feel like no one else puts as much work, thought and heart into it.”
The performer added that “This past year, I texted him, and we all called each other during the pandemic to check in on each other. Every time I checked in on Justin, he was still working on the film. I was like, ‘Justin, what do you mean? How can there be possibly be more to fix?’ He was like, ‘There is.’ He’s a workaholic, but in the best sense of the word.
“If you watch 9, you see that every character has an arc and his or her moment. That’s difficult to do when there’s so many characters to service,” Brewster shared. “When I’m working with Justin, I know I’m in the best possible hands; I adore him.”
The actress then delved into how she’s happy with the way that Mia returned to the franchise in ‘F9.’ She was also happy with the way ‘The Fast Saga’ is keeping Brian, alive off screen, following the death of Walker during the production of ‘Furious 7’ in 2013.
“I was really pleased because it wasn’t an arbitrary return for Mia; there was a real reason for it. I think Jakob coming back into our lives meant that Mia had to intervene in some ways. I think Mia knew that Dom would be incredibly triggered, and she wanted to stop him from doing whatever he was about to do,” Brewster divulged.
“I think there’s also something very refreshing and evolved about a woman leaving her husband and kids behind in order to take care of business. I think that’s something a lot of women will recognize in the film, and will say, ‘Finally, we get to see that on the screen,” the performer added.
Brewster added that she misses working with Walker on the series for many reasons, including the fact that he “had this way of making everyone feel so comfortable on set, and as though they were seen. I feel that level of ease and comfort. He’s irreplaceable.”
Filming her scenes for ‘The Fast Saga’ after Walker’s death “felt incredibly strange, especially for 7,” the actress admitted. “All of my scenes were shot without Paul. They were shot with either his brothers or a double, so that was a very strange experience.
“But I think the way that Brian is kept alive and honored in the universe isn’t strange. It feels sad, and is something that shouldn’t be,” Brewster added.
The performer then delved into what her first thought was when she first heard about the franchise introducing Jakob Toretto in its latest installment. “Who’s going to play him? was my first thought! I really wanted to know who could possibly fill those shoes. I think this might be something that Vin has also mentioned, but we’re both muli-cultural, so you could go in so many different directions,” she pointed out.
“The same thing was true for young Dom and our dad. I think I was driving Justin crazy because I kept pitching him ideas,” Brewster admitted with a laugh. “He’d say, ‘We thought of that,’ so I think he got tired of it after awhile. It was just exciting to me to think about who it was going to be, and I thought John Cena was a very good choice.”
Besides further developing the history of the Toretto family, the actress also embraced having the experience to form the bond between Mia and Letty in the new film. “It’s unbelievable that in the last 20 years, we’ve never had a scene together. So it was really fun to explore that, and I hope that we get to explore that further.
“I love working with Michelle; she’s always been such a great example to me, as she’s always been fearless and outspoken, and always speaks her truth. I can’t say the same about me; I’ve always been more of a follower, instead of a leader,” Brewster revealed.
Rodriguez is “a trailblazer, and I think what people are doing now is what she’s been doing since the beginning. I remember at the table read for the first ‘Fast and Furious,’ she said, ‘I’m not going to talk this way, and Letty’s not going to act that way, so if you want me to play her, we’re going to give her some more dignity and more to do,'” the performer divulged. “But I was a bit more passive, so I learned a lot from Michelle.”
One scene in ‘F9’ that Brewster enjoyed filming with Rodriguez was a fight sequence they have that’s set during a trip Mia and Letty take to Tokyo. “I loved shooting that scene. I trained a lot for the kitchen scene in Tokyo, which is a fight scene. They built such an amazing set; they built the entire apartment, as well as the whole city (of Tokyo) on a London soundstage,” Brewster revealed.
“I was dying to get on that set and train, but it wasn’t ready until the day before we started shooting. So we had to make do with makeshift cardboard boxes, which the stunt team built to look like the kitchen the best way they could,” the actress shared.
“But it was important to me to learn the sequence front and back. That way, when Justin chopped up the scene, and he wanted to start filming from the middle or end of the scene, I knew exactly what to do,” Brewster also revealed
“I loved it so much, especially the fact that it was dirtier and grittier, and not as sleek, as the other scenes. Justin was like, “You don’t have any weapons, so you’re going to have to get to the kitchen and figure out what to use because you didn’t expect to be under attack.” So I loved the realism in that,” the performer added.
With ‘The Fast Saga’ set to conclude with its upcoming tenth and eleventh entries, Brewster shared where she would like to see Mia go and end out her storyline. “I would love to see my character lose it. I think she has it together a lot of the time, so I would love to see her absolutely lose her patience.
The actress added, “There’s something that’s revealed in 9 that’s so interesting; **SPOILER ALERT** I contacted Jackob against Dom’s wishes when we were younger, and he never knows about that. So I would love to see a confrontation between Dom and Mia, where she maybe crosses him, because we’ve never really gotten to see that tension. **END SPOILER ALERT**
“I’d love to see more action out of her, as well. Showcasing her strength has been really fun for me,” Brewster concluded.