It pays to be part of the Fast family. Though the ninth installment in the saga, titled simply F9, has yet to open in U.S. theaters, the movie already earned more than $270 million overseas. Even more extraordinary, the franchise has officially revved past $6 billion at the box office, cementing itself as one of the most successful franchises of all time.
"What the numbers represent is the people that have been affected by the film. The people that have supported the franchise. That makes me feel incredible and grateful and blessed," star and keeper of the franchise Vin Diesel told ET. "But it also inspires me to reach higher and to keep on earning it and make it worthy of the support and loyalty that you've shown it."
Meanwhile, the Fast family is bigger than ever in F9, as Diesel, Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson and Ludacris welcome back members from past films (like Jordana Brewster and the Tokyo Drift crew) and a few new faces, including one of Diesel's real-life family members: his 11-year-old son, Vincent.
ET's Nischelle Turner spoke with Diesel on the Universal Studios backlot to discuss 20 years of The Fast and the Furious and surprise unsuspecting fans with an impromptu meet-and-great. (Watch in the video above.)
ET: We're celebrating 20 years of the franchise this year. At this point, Dom is part of your DNA. He's a part of you.
Vin Diesel: Dom is part of my DNA. [Laughs]
How has this character and this franchise changed the trajectory of your career?
I might not have anticipated the family component that I would be rewarded with by dedicating two decades to this mythology. That is a reward that is indescribable. The fact that I can make these movies and these chapters with people that I love is probably the biggest blessing of all.
In this one, the stakes are even higher because Dom is a dad. How did it raise the stakes for you, now mirroring what you went through when you became a daddy for the first time?
That's 100 percent right. I love the idea that our mythology doesn't shy away from that, and I love the idea that our mythology allows the characters to evolve onscreen. You've got people that went 20 years ago to see the first Fast and Furious that are bringing their children to chapter nine. And that is amazing. That's what family is. So, I feel just grateful. It has very much mirrored my life. There are lines that my son in the movie says that come directly from my kids. But you have to consider the fact that every time a child was born, I was working on the Fast set. So, the Uncle Tyreses and the Uncle Chrises and the Auntie Jordanas and the Auntie Michelles, that's all real. They were there the day they were born.
Your son is in this movie playing young Dom. Take me to that moment when he's there in the scene and you're watching on the monitor, what is that like for you?
First of all, it wasn't my idea for my son to be in this movie. It was a Justin [Lin] idea. And to be a 100 percent honest, I'm not sure that I would've thought it was a good idea, because that's a moment when Dom is in a very emotional and vulnerable and reflective moment. What was probably the most wild aspect of that was he had worked 12 hours, he had grinded, he was dedicated, he was going over his lines with the other cast members. He was eating lunch. He was bonding with his young brother and his father [J.D. Pardo] in the movie. And I was off in my space, in the Dom state of mind. The thing I remember the most about the whole experience was the moment that I came home and there was a little twinkle in his eye and he saw that Daddy had returned. That was the moment.
I know your heart and I know you would not make another Fast film if you still weren't keeping Paul's memory alive. You all do it beautifully again. And I know for you, that has to happen, correct?
That does absolutely have to happen. I can't envision making a Fast film continuing this mythology without my brother Pablo's soul being the guiding spirit.
I can't imagine how you felt when you saw Meadow's Instagram pictures of you and Paul [captioned] with just the word "family."
I just got off the phone with her. That's so funny that you say that. I literally just got off the phone with her. That means everything, and that's what family does and it goes beyond the success of the franchise. That's about the success of your soul.
You have two films left. Possibility we can get her in one them?
[Diesel smiles and points at the camera.]
I'm going to take your non-answer as my answer!
F9 is in theaters on June 25.