Actors Of ‘On My Block’ Discuss How They Authentically Tackle Serious Issues Facing Our Community
Audiences recently took to the comments of Netflix’s Latinx-focused Instagram account @ConTodoNetflix to choose which name blending they preferred for characters Monse Finnie and Cesar Diaz, two of the main love interests on Netflix’s ‘On My Block’ comedy-drama series.
BTW, if you were curious to see which won out between MONSAR and CEONSÉ, CEONSÉ seemed to be the fan-favorite, with actress Sierra Capri, who plays Monse on the series, writing, “I’m down for either but it’s something about that Ceonse 🌹🔥.”
Before season 3 premiered last month, mitú sat down with Sierra Capri and her on-screen love interest Diego Tinoco in between takes on the OMB set to discuss how this on-screen couple is able to portray that something when the camera is rolling, how the show is creating a learning experience for young audiences—whether it’s discussing gun violence or Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raids, and their friendships with the cast IRL.
Actors Sierra Capri and Diego Tinoco are proud of the representation they are offering to their fans.
The on-again, off-again relationship between headstrong and intelligent tomboy Monse Finnie and sensitive Cesar Diaz, who is trying to escape his family’s circle of gang violence, maybe dramatized for ‘On My Block,’ but the two actors say fans have related to their characters’ tough upbringings and in some cases, viewers have been able to leave precarious family situations thanks to the show.
During shooting one day, Sierra Capri was stopped by a police officer who knew the story of her character.
“She [the police officer] stopped me a couple of days ago when we were filming a scene outside a convenience store and she’s a cop now, and she was like, ‘I was Monse growing up,’” Sierra Capri recalled.
“I’ve had a lot of girls come up to me and they say, ‘I’m experiencing it now. I’m a tomboy, I come from a single-parent household and I don’t really know where I fit in, so I feel like I can relate to Monse as far as just trying to find out where I fit in.’ Because Monse, she’s not a normal girl. She’s def unique, so I appreciate when girls come up to me and they’re like, ‘You made me feel like I wasn’t alone in certain situations,’” she said about her fans’ relation to her character.
Fans are invested in the Cesar/Monse joint storyline.
Tinoco also had fans reach out to him, with one, in particular, telling him how his character inspired them to break away from the grip of gang violence in their family.
“I had a kid come up to me at the orthodontist saying that he watched season 1 of the show, and that he was in very similar circumstances as Cesar, and you know involved in some gang stuff and he wanted to go to college, but he didn’t know how to tell his brothers all that stuff that he wanted to get out of the gang, and that after watching season 1 he was really inspired and didn’t want any part of it. He said he’s going to college. We still DM each other. He’s a sweet kid,” Tinoco said.
Set in the fictional Los Angeles neighborhood of Freeridge, Monse and Cesar learn to navigate ordinary teen situations with their squad of friends while dealing with the uncertainty of gang violence in an area ruled by two rival gangs—the Santos and the Prophets.
Without diving too much into politics, ‘On My Block’ is still able to tackle heavy subjects.
The show touches on subjects such as PTSD, gun violence, and ICE raids in its scripts, essentially providing a lesson for its audiences without shoving a particular agenda in viewers’ faces.
“I think because gun violence is also in relation to police brutality, which is at an all-time high right now, especially in the African American community, I think a lot of people watch our show—and I’m not going to say whether or not we touch on that—but I do feel it’s something that they can watch and feel like they can learn from. I feel like we still need to make shows that kids can learn from and as well as be entertained,” Sierra Capri said.
One poignant scene in particular in season 2 was when Cesar, who at the time was homeless, sought refuge at a church where some undocumented immigrants were also staying. Tinoco said he purposely didn’t prepare his scene in order to keep that element of surprise undocumented immigrants face when bombarded by an ICE raid.
“That’s harsh terms—putting little kids in a cage—that’s not right. So I definitely empathize with that. Going into the scene, I didn’t prepare much on it because my character, it’s supposed to hit him [snapped his finger] by surprise, so I thought only for the circumstances, it would work better if I didn’t know until the priest walked in there. But yeah, me and Eddie [Gonzalez, co-creator and executive producer of OMB] definitely talked about that, ‘Like this is f*cked up what’s going on out there,’” Diego said about shooting the scene.
The actors see their show speaking to a community of young Latinos in a way they need.
“Our show speaks directly towards Hispanic, Latinx and YA [young adult] audiences with intent, purpose. And growing up, I certainly know I didn’t have that type of show. I’m Mexican, so I feel like I still don’t have the Mexican leading actor guy that I’m like ‘Oh! I want to be that guy.’ So I’m just really grateful to be on the show, be a part of such a great thing,” he commented.
Netflix executives also took notice of the work the cast was doing on-screen to promote diverse stories in the television industry. After fighting for pay raises, the OMB main cast was able to negotiate a pay raise of $81,250 per episode, according to Business Insider.
The bonds the cast made off-screen also carried into their scenes together before filming wrapped up on the show’s current season.
“It’s bittersweet. We’re finishing very strong so we’re happy on that, but it’s always a little sad to leave your friends,” Tinoco said about wrapping up season 3 shooting.
“It went by so fast. For me it felt like it went by really fast. Which tells me we had a lot of fun filming it. We had a lot of fun episodes,” Sierra Capri said.
Fans who have yet to watch season 3 will be glad to have some light-hearted laughs again.
“This season definitely taps into the humor from season 1, so that was nice to have back into our lives, but it’s [the season] definitely heartbreaking as well,” Tinoco said.
READ: Jason Genao Of ‘On My Block’ Talks Growing Up On His Block And His Secret To Making Bomb Empanadas
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