The Fast Saga, Vin Diesel, and Pachinko

anna sawai

Akina Chan – with permission

Anna Sawai smiles when she recalls telling a friend as a teenager that she wanted to become an actress. Her friend told her, “You look like you could be in Fast & Furious.” Little did Sawai know she’d one day land the role of Elle, a mysterious girl who loses her parents at age 11 in F9: The Fast Saga, out June 25. “Elle had a very traumatic childhood, but she’s a fighter,” says Sawai over Zoom from Tokyo.

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Sawai at the F9: The Fast Saga premiere.

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The 29-year-old actress grew up between New Zealand, Hong Kong, the Philippines, and Japan due to her father’s job with an electronics company. Meanwhile, her mother, who studied opera, taught her to sing, which helped her secure the title role in a Tokyo stage production of Annie. From there, she made her film debut in 2009’s Ninja Assassin and performed as part of a J-pop group named FAKY.

Joining a well-oiled machine like the Fast franchise was intimidating, but director Justin Lin couldn’t have been more welcoming. “He knew I didn’t have much experience and really guided me through it,” she says. Next, Sawai will play Naomi, a savvy businesswoman in the Apple TV+ adaptation of Min Jin Lee’s historical novel Pachinko.

Here, the actress discusses F9, working with Vin Diesel, and eliminating stereotypes for Asian female characters.

How does it feel to be joining the Fast & Furious franchise?

I still don’t believe it. This is something that I grew up watching, and Tokyo Drift was so huge in Japan. Fast forward to now, I’m part of it and it’s so iconic and it still feels like a dream. I think once it’s out and people watch it, I’ll be able to kind of feel like it’s really happened, but at this point it feels unreal.

anna sawai, michelle rodriguez, jordana brewster

Sawai, Michelle Rodriguez, and Jordana Brewster in F9: The Fast Saga.

Giles Keyte/Universal Pictures

Do you remember the moment you heard you got the role?

It was a few weeks after my audition, and it was my birthday. I was in my bed in my Tokyo apartment. I knew that I might be hearing from my reps during the night, so I woke up to check my phone multiple times. It was the most amazing gift I could ever receive.

Can you tell us about your character Elle?

She’s a 19 year old woman who lives in Tokyo, and she loses her parents when she’s 11 years old. Her parents are scientists. She has this very big secret that is yet to be revealed in the film, but I think that’s all I can say. I don’t want to spoil it!

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Sawai and co-star Sung Kang in F9: The Fast Saga.

Giles Keyte/Universal Pictures

What was it like working with director Justin Lin?

He was so patient with me. We have some emotional scenes in there, but he would just look at me and ask, “Are you okay?” You can really feel that he was there for you. The way that he approaches actors is so gentle, and he’s very collaborative. He’s open to hearing what you think, and it’s just been such a wonderful process with him.

fast and furious 9 premiere

The cast of F9: The Fast Saga with director Justin Lin.

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How was the cast chemistry on set?

It was such a warm environment. Everyone was so welcoming, but obviously I was really nervous being the new kid coming from nowhere. But Nathalie Emmanuel [who plays Megan Ramsey] came up to me, and she was like, “I totally understand how you feel. I was the new girl too a few years ago, but you have nothing to worry about. I’m here. Just let me know if you need anything.”

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What was it like working with Vin Diesel?

He’s really like the character you see in the Fast films where he treats everyone like family. I remember him telling me that he’s really proud of what I’ve been doing so far and that there is a lot to come. He treats everyone equally and watching him made me think, when I’m eventually at that point where I’ve had a lot of experience, I want to be able to treat everyone the way that he does. With so much love and care.

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Sawai with co-star Vin Diesel at the F9 premiere.

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Next, you’re starring in the Apple TV+ adaptation of Pachinko. What drew you to this project?


Grand Central Publishing

I loved the book so much. My character Naomi is one of the few who doesn’t appear in the book, but when I read the description for the audition, I just knew that it was something I wanted to do. She’s working in this time when, even more than now, women didn’t have the same opportunities as men, and they weren’t taken seriously in society. She’s struggling to prove herself to the men in the office.

How do you approach choosing the characters you play?

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. She had to become a fighter to protect herself. There’s so much depth to her. And Naomi is struggling to stand up for herself at a time when it was really difficult for women [to do so]. I don’t want to perpetuate the stereotype of Asian characters because there are still a lot of characters like that. I just want to try different roles.

An abridged version of this article appears in the June/July 2021 issue of ELLE.


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Shopbop Has a Bunch of Designer Styles on Sale for Prime Day 2021

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Prime Day is happening right now, so if you don’t know the drill, you’ll want to drop everything to shop all the incredible fashion deals before it ends tonight. They tend to sell out fast, so it’s a blink-and-you’ll-miss-them kind of opportunity. The same rings true with Amazon-owned Shopbop, where on-sale items disappear before you even have a chance to add to cart. Right now the best of both worlds are colliding and there are some truly luxe designer finds heavily discounted from brands like Ganni, Marc Jacobs, Vince, and more. You can take to up to 40 percent off active apparel, bags, accessories, and dresses, but since there’s a lot to browse through we rounded up some of the best steals for you below.

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this cute top

Plaid Blouse

Natasha Zinko


$255.00 (40% off)

Though it’s only available in two sizes now, this adorable top is 40 percent off. The square neckline, pattern, and asymmetrical hem make this a standout style. 


this tie-dye tee

Tokyo Crop Tee

Need anymore dyed T-shirts? Grab this vivid green one from Cotton Citizen at 40 percent off. 


this cutie bag

Micro Mini Bag

A baby bag in this bright shade and elegant gold accents is made for summer. You can even attach it to another purse with the clip. 


these espadrilles

Carina Wedge Espadrilles

Castañer x Paul Smith

Okay, so there’s only one of these left in a 7.5, so if that’s your size it’s a race to buy these oh-so pretty rainbow espadrilles! 


this popular dress

Seersucker Check Dress



$199.50 (30% off)

Ganni’s check dress is one of its most popular styles, and it’s 30 percent off now in sizes 2 and 10. Go, go, go!


these knit sweats

Chabela Pants



$197.50 (50% off)

I know, I know, you prob don’t need any more sweats, but these pretty knit ones with pastel hearts are so hard to resist. AND they’re more than half off…


these fuzzy slides

Kalina Slipper

Your feet will be so happy with these slippers, and your wallet will be so happy with the deal. A win-win. 


this graphic sportsbra

Sara Airweight Bra

Take 28 percent off this hard-to-miss sports bra by this athleisure brand favorite. 


this quilted bag

Quilted Nylon Large Bag

Marc Jacobs


$196.83 (39% off)

A roomy bag to take on a weekend getaway is a must, and this Marc Jacobs bag with its quilted texture is a no-brainer. 


this buttoned dress

Loretta Dress


This flattering red dress hits below the knee and will look great with a summery straw bag. 


this mask and headband set

Face Covering and Headband Set

Two for one! This leopard-printed mask and headband combo by Lele Sadoughi is a straight-up deal. 


this chain belt

Le Petit Oval Buckle Belt

I’m usually not a belt person, but the chain detail on this tan FRAME style is very convincing at 20 percent off. 


this gold necklace

Polished Gold Chain Link Necklace

You can’t have too many gold necklaces, right? A chunky chain one at 20 percent off makes a compelling case. 

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The Best Sneaker Deals Worth Snagging on Prime Day 2021

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Prime Day officially kicked off this morning, and the sales just keep getting better. For the next 48 hours, shoppers can save on everything from chic designer deals to beauty buys. For now, we’re focusing on stylish kicks.

If your sneaker collection needs a refresh, Amazon Prime Day 2021 is stocked with some incredible deals that are worth taking advantage of. Whether you’re in the market for a pair for the gym or a leather option to head to dinner in, you’ll find a variety of styles for every occasion. The best part? Most of these deals are under $100. Ahead, uncover the 16 best sneaker deals hailing from tried-and-true top brands like Adidas, APL, Vince, and more.

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Grand Court Sneaker

With more than 23,000 reviews, these best-selling Adidas sneakers have become a cult classic over the years.


Techloom Breeze Sneakers

APL: Athletic Propulsion Labs


$140.00 (30% off)

Take your sneaker collection to the next level in something red and knit.


Cloudfoam Pure 2.0 Running Sneaker

For just under $40, this lightweight sneaker featuring Cloudfoam cushioning is a no-brainer.


Kam Sneaker

Kenneth Cole New York


Is there actually such a thing as too many white leather sneakers? We think not.


720 V1 Sneaker

Inspired by the New Balance heritage, this neutral shoe will add a vintage aesthetic to any outfit.


Techloom Breeze Sneaker

Crafted from high elastic stretch made to move with your feet, APL’s best-selling sneaker is the perfect mix of luxury and performance.


Tech Response 2.0 Golf Shoe

‘Tis the season for golf and what better way to get ready than to invest in a new pair of kicks perfect for the course?


Zoom Winflo 6 Running Shoe

One Amazon shopper claims,  this shoe can handle “10 hour days and no heel pain.”


Renno Sneaker

For anyone looking for a ’90s nostalgia moment.


411 V1 Walking Shoe

This sneaker offers incredible support for long walks and is made with a cushioned insole for all-day comfort.


Nergize Sport V1 Sneaker

Available in more than 40 different colors, this one might be hard to snag in just one style.


Memory Foam Sneaker

If you’re looking for an easy pair of gym sneakers that are high quality and won’t break the bank, this pair has you covered.


Carina Sneaker

Nearly 10,000 shoppers gave these leather Pumas a perfect rating.

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