Diego Tinoco Is Hollywood’s Newest Heartthrob But He Just Wants To Learn How To Dance
Netflix’s coming-of-age series “On My Block” delivers on laughs as much as it does in showcasing the complex story arcs for the teen characters in the series. Diego Tinoco, the man who plays Cesar, spoke with mitú about his hopes for his character, his challenged playing the role, and the moments he is most proud of.
“On My Block” is currently in its second season and one of the central characters in this dramedy is Cesar Diaz played by Diego Tinoco.
Tinoco brings Cesar to life as an intelligent teen who is close with his Goonies-esque squad of Ruby, Jamal, and his girlfriend Monse. He is shunned by his own family for not joining the neighborhood gang that his older brother Spooky runs and that’s just fine with him.
In an exclusive interview with mitú, Tinoco talked about Cesar’s internal struggles on the show, how he wishes he could be a better dancer for more reasons than one, and how he connects with Cesar the most.
Cesar has gone through a lot of emotional and physical issues over the course of the two seasons. He has been rejected from his family for standing up to his older brother. He was homeless. Then he witnessed gang violence first-hand that took the life of his close friend. All the while, he is juggling a blossoming relationship with Monse and eventually getting over his heartbreak when they break up.
When talking about his character, it’s clear Tinoco is proud of the young man Cesar is turning into.
“Initially from season one, Cesar never really wanted to be in the gang,” Tinoco says. “When you’re a kid, your options are so limited—but regardless through it all, he kept his focus through it all to not be in a gang, to not be like his brothers and [instead] focus on his dream.”
The first few episodes of season two show Cesar dealing with a very real and growing issue—teen homelessness.
Cesar, like most people in his situation, explores other options besides living on the streets. He tried staying at a seedy hostel before Monse convinces him to sleep in her dad’s car. Jamal also allows him to spend nights at his house.
“It’s a real issue that is not just happening in TV—it’s happening across the world,” Tinoco says. “Most teen homelessness comes from California. It gave me a new perspective.”
While Tinoco plays a tough-as-nails character on the show, his own childhood was much different.
Tinoco started acting when he was young. In fact, the actor is 21 years old and has been acting for a number of years. “On My Block” is his biggest break, but it is clear that he has quite the future in this industry. A lot of his success can be credited to the support of his parents.
His mother is from Ecuador and his father crossed the border from Mexico, and Tinoco is very proud of the family’s immigrant Latino roots.
Like a lot of Latino children of immigrants, Spanish was his first language and he grew up eating dishes such as arroz con pollo, frijoles, and tortillas.
“My parents kill it on the dance floor, but they haven’t taught me any of the moves yet,” he said.
He even had to pass on a couple of auditions that required dancing scenes because he didn’t know how to dance.
What Tinoco lacks in dancing skills, he makes up for in tenacity.
He struck out on his own when he was just a few years older than the character he plays on the show.
Cesar’s inner strength allows him to overcome the challenges he’s up against, something Tinoco can relate to as well from his own early days in his acting career.
Tinoco landed the role of Cesar after working his way up from minor roles in short films and the guest role of Mateo in MTV’s “Teen Wolf.”
“When I first moved to LA when I was 17, I lived in a little studio apartment. It was rough, it was a battle. You don’t know if you are doing the right moves. In that battle aspect – we are both warriors,” he said.
“I think Cesar is in all of us,” Tinoco added.
That fighter spirit in Cesar is something fans will continue seeing if On My Block is renewed for Season 3.
You can stream the first and second season of “On My Block” on Netflix.
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