The Fast & Furious franchise is known for adding fresh faces from diverse backgrounds on almost every new installment. For F9, the recent addition was Japanese-New Zealand actress Anna Sawai.

Joining the cast of Fast & Furious was a childhood dream of Sawai and a friend of hers had even told her once that she looked like someone who would be in the franchise.

I grew up watching the Fast films, which has always been special to me because, unlike most films in the early 2000s, I saw myself in the characters of the franchise.

Joining the cast of a successful franchise can be intimidating, especially for one as huge as Fast & Furious.

However, it posed no problems to Sawai as she said she felt welcomed from the very beginning by the entire cast.

Director Justin Lin also guided her through the movie knowing she had little experience.


A post shared by Anna Sawai (@annasawai)

When talking with Elle, Sawai shared that Vin Diesel treated everyone like family. Watching him made her want to assume a similar role in the future, once she accumulated more experience.

Sawai added she wanted to play characters that represented things she thought were important. She also said that she did not want to perpetuate the stereotype of Asian characters as there were plenty of characters like that.

The characters I play always [represent] something that I think is important. Yes, Elle is Asian and does action, but there’s a reason why… There’s so much depth to her… I don’t want to perpetuate the stereotype of Asian characters… I just want to try different roles.

Elle In ‘F9’

Sawai plays Elle, a 19-year-old Japanese woman who lives in Tokyo. In a short video released by The Fast Saga, the actress recounted the origin story of her character and her experiences on set.

Elle’s scientist parents were killed when she was 11. She learned how to fight so she could protect herself and later joins Vin Diesel and his gang to defeat Diesel’s character’s brother, played by John Cena.

Sawai’s Acting Career

Playing Elle in F9 has catapulted Sawai to global stardom. And while she wanted to be an actress from a young age, she was previously known for being one of the lead singers of FAKY, a J-pop girl group.

She left FAKY in December 2018 to focus on her acting career.


A post shared by Anna Sawai (@annasawai)

Her first acting job after leaving her pop group was the crime TV series Giri/Haji (2019) where she played Eiko.

Giri/Haji premiered on BBC Two and was distributed internationally by Netflix. She was cast to be in F9 the same year.

However, Giri/Haji wasn’t Sawai’s first time in a TV production. She made her professional acting debut in the 2007 Japanese series Ai no Uta!

he also played the younger version of Kylie Liya Goldstein’s character in the 2009 action flick Ninja Assassin.

Sawai is set to appear as Naomi in Pachinko, the Apple TV+ adaptation of Min Jin Lee's historical novel by the same name.