'On My Block' Cast Seeks Truth in Playing Inner-City Teens

by Amanda Lee Myers

Associated Press

Sunday March 29, 2020

Cast members of Netflix's "On My Block" say they feel honored to be able to represent teenagers who've long seen themselves portrayed as stereotypes.

The show in its third season tells the story of a group of black and Latino teens navigating high school and the realities of growing up in inner-city Los Angeles.

Critics have praised the comedy-drama for its nuance and care in depicting the four bright, street-savvy friends.

In a recent interview, the stars of the show said they feel a level of responsibility in the truth of their portrayals. That responsibility can be "terrifying," said actress Jessica Marie Garcia, who plays an annoying but lovable busy-body who just wants to be part of the cool kids.

"We want to make sure that we do it right and that we don't let them down," Garcia said. "It's so rare that you get to see a cast like us in the same show that it's like, we just want to do it right and make them proud."

Her co-star Bret Gray, who plays a super nerd, said he thinks they're doing a pretty good job because their fans wouldn't hold back if they weren't.

"They are not afraid to tell us," he said. "They would let us know, like, 'You guys are not doing this,' " he said. "Since we know that, you know, they care so much that it's an honest feedback and the feedback is positive and that we are doing them justice. So it feels good."

The cast also hopes the show reaches more than just teens who can identify with the show's story lines.

"There's huge parts of the country that don't know how we grow up and what our lives are like," Garcia said. "So I think it's really important to humanize what you may have seen stereotypes of in the past. I think that's huge."

For actor Diego Tinoco, who plays a reticent gang initiate, he hopes the show teaches the importance of resilience.

"Push through the difficult times," he said. "(Don't) let your circumstances define who you are as a person. I think it's a universal message not only on our show, but just with everybody in their own life. Each and every single one of us are going through our own dilemma, our own problems and stuff, and it's just never get to give up."

The third season of "On My Block" came out on Netflix last week.

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