On My Block is a masterclass on how to portray the difficulties of growing up in a neighborhood like Freeridge without exploiting those communities. It shows that individual choices do matter but never forgets that systemic ones have power. And the show itself works to chip away at one of those systems – specifically, the dream factory of Hollywood and how it works to tell us only certain stories matter.
Sierra Capri, who plays Monse, told Remezcla, “We’re starting to see Hollywood become a little more diverse. And I like to think that we had something to do with that.” Indeed, On My Block centers on the lives of Brown and Black teens and does so unapologetically. It embodies Jessica Marie Garcia’s, who plays Jasmine, declaration that, “Wherever you come from, your story is valid and deserves to be heard.”
In our interview, Garcia also noted how Jasmine and Monse’s “biggest storylines are as counterparts. And there’s so much more to us than that.” We can’t limit women to just being the love interest, the wife, or the girlfriend and On My Block made sure not to do that. Because we need stories that follow the journeys of women, and particularly Latine, Black, Asian women, etc. without reducing them down to someone else’s partner or stereotype.
“We’re not the girls who catch breaks. We’re the girls that just… don’t break.” That is Garcia’s favorite line in all of On My Block and with it her character fully owns her power and the hand she was dealt as a smart, kind, ambitious Latina teen, growing up in a rough neighborhood who’s not afraid to be too much.
For her part, Capri too sees On My Block and how it portrays the coming-of-age story of a group of African American and Latine teens as an inspiration. She remembers growing up in a neighborhood like On My Block’s Freeridge and is glad the show reminds viewers that, “Just because you come from certain circumstances doesn’t mean that you can’t grow, move past it, and follow your dream.”
“This show has changed our lives, all of us,” says Brett Gray, who plays Jamal. Gray is grateful to be part of something that had “such an impact [and] gives people a feeling that they can be authentically themselves and be proud of what ‘authentically them’ means.” Jason Genao, who plays Ruby, agreed. Genao said it clearly when he credited On My Block with “using representation to let people know that they matter.”
That’s a message that’s particularly important for the Cesars of the world as well – he’s the character who has it the hardest, raised by his brother and the Santos gang, thanks to parents who can’t or won’t take care of him. Diego Tinoco, who plays Cesar, said this character taught him resilience, calling his experience in the role, “an honor and such a privilege to work on representing the Black and Brown community.”
On My Block’s final season premieres October 4, 2021 on Netflix.