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Vin Diesel says Paul Walker sent John Cena to join 'Fast & Furious'

"I thanked Pablo," Diesel said, using the affectionate nickname he gave Walker, who died in 2013.
/ Source: TODAY

Vin Diesel believes the spirit of his late co-star Paul Walker helped bring John Cena into the "Fast & Furious" family.

While chatting with host Kelly Clarkson Tuesday on "The Kelly Clarkson Show," Diesel recalled experiencing a "strange feeling" when Cena visited him one day, which led to Cena being cast as Jakob, the younger brother of Diesel's character, Dom, in “F9," the ninth installment in the blockbuster franchise.

"Obviously, I'm multicultural. You could have cast anybody to be my brother ... and it would be OK," Diesel, 53, said, laughing.

The action told Clarkson created a "shrine" where he could train and get into character shortly before filming of "F9" began. "For two months before I went to filming, I created a shrine where I could do all the combat training, all the stunts, and I had the Charger there to simulate the garage, to get into the Dom state of mind" he explained.

Everything was going well, except for finding the perfect person to play Jakob. The idea of the character "worked great on paper," said Diesel.

"But when the time came to cast it, anxiety," he recalled. "Who could you cast to be Dom's brother? And 20 years into the game, and the audience knows our mythology so much. Who could you cast?"

Then, one morning, Cena, 44, stopped by Diesel's shrine for a friendly visit. When the former pro wrestler walked through the door, Diesel felt as if Walker was telling him Cena was his man.

"If you look back on my Instagram, you'll see the post ... because I thanked Pablo," he added, using the affectionate nickname he gave Walker, who died in a car accident in 2013 at age 40.

"I had this strange feeling that Paul Walker had sent him," Diesel said.

For his part, Cena is thrilled to join the "Fast & Furious" franchise. During an interview this week on TODAY, he gushed, “It was just a special thing to be part of."

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Of course, "F9" is a family affair in more ways than one. In addition to showing the dynamic between Dom and and Jakob, the movie also features an appearance by Diesel's 10-year-old son, Vincent, who plays Dom as a boy.

The film's all-star cast also includes Michelle Rodriguez, Jordana Brewster, Tyrese Gibson, Chris "Ludacris" Bridges, Nathalie Emmanuel, Charlize Theron, Helen Mirren and Kurt Russell.

"F9" hits theaters and select streaming services on Friday.