‘On My Block’s Diego Tinoco On Cesar’s Guilty Conscience & His “Odd Couple” Friendship With Jamal

'On My Block' image courtesy of Netflix

Life will never be the same for the kids on Netflix’s On My Block, after the bloody season one finale which saw one of their own lose their life. This is a reality for kids like the ones on the streaming series, living in urban neighborhoods similar to Freeridge, who join gangs hoping it raises their chances of survival.

During the season two opener, the tone is somber as the camera pans the local streets showing makeshift memorials to fallen friends and loved ones. We learn about Olivia’s demise as Jasmine (Jessica Maria Garcia) tearfully visits her classmate’s forever little spot on the block, dropping off a plush brown teddy bear before blowing a kiss into the wind.

Audiences learn early on that everyone has been affected in the aftermath, especially Cesar Diaz (Diego Tinoco), who has lost the support of his family and his home for his role in the shooting. Remezcla spoke to Diaz during a set visit last year about why things will never be the same for his character, who remains torn about what he should’ve done on that fateful night.

“If that happened to me in real life, the guilt would be immense,” Tinoco told Remezcla. “It would be a good long while before I could even look my friends in the eyes. It’s obvious that there will be some sort of punishment for him, because if you do something like not following your gang’s orders in the real world it won’t go unnoticed. His relationship [with his brother] Oscar is definitely not as close and so he will rely a lot more on his friends.”

While on set, we watched a scene being filmed between Tinoco and his co-star Brett Gray, who plays Jamal Turner on the 10-episode dramedy. Jamal and his family open up their home to the homeless teen after Oscar kicks him out of the Santos gang and their home.

‘On My Block’ image courtesy of Netflix
Read more

“You’ll see Cesar almost raise himself this season,” Tinoco explained. “It’s really sad to see what he goes through, which is something that happens in real life, too. Thankfully, he has his group of close friends like Jamal that he can count on. They get really close, Cesar becomes the brother Jamal never had as an only child.”

Gray adds, “Individual relationships we didn’t see in season one will develop in season two, like with Cesar and Jamal. In terms of our characters, you’ll see more segmenting with everyone going off on their own paths and building more of their own story lines. This is very much a character fleshing season. We are finding out more about who we are and what we mean to each other this season. There will definitely be a lot of banter but you’ll see them become brothers and best friends.”

Showrunner Lauren Iungerich explained that series co-creator Jeremy Haft is most similar to the character of Jamal. So it was perfect that Haft directed the episode we saw being shot, which takes place in Jamal’s bedroom. It features a giant movie poster of the ’80s hit movie The Goonies, one of Haft’s personal favorites.

“The scene I directed has Jamal and Cesar sharing a room because Cesar is currently homeless,” Haft said between shooting scenes. “He’s been thrown out of his house and so he and Jamal have become roommates. They’re having a great time and simultaneously being this odd couple and driving each other crazy. Cesar and Jamal are very different characters, so it was easy to get that odd couple vibe from them. Cesar has grown up in a tough environment, alone with his brother, just scraping by. Jamal has this great sort of life with all the sneakers and the gadgets he could ever want. He also has all these weird rules about how his room is divided and what kind of clothes you can wear when you’re sitting on the bed. It’s these two totally different worlds colliding. I think everyone will really enjoy this pairing.”

On My Block season two is currently streaming on Netflix.