Netflix’s ‘On My Block’ Is The Diverse Teen Dramedy We’ve Been Waiting For

Netflix’s On My Block is a coming-of-age story about a group of best friends who are more like family that live in South Central Los Angeles. The majority of the cast of the cast is newcomers and made up of Hispanic and African American actors, including Sierra Capri, Jason Genao, Brett Gray, Diego Tinoco, Ronni Hawk, and Jessica Marie Garcia. The series was created by Awkward.’s Lauren Iungerich and All Eyez On Me writers Eddie Gonzalez and Jeremy Haft and I think that really reflects what this show is. It deals with heavy topics like gang violence, deportation, and gun issues while simultaneous capturing the awkwardness and humor of growing up. They tackle race is a way that’s self aware and funny. There’s true friendship and adventure and young love. All of this rolled up into one brilliant and diverse series.

Watch my review of Netflix’s On My Block season one, below:

Let’s dive into our diverse characters

First up is Sierra Capri who plays Monse. She grew up without a mom so she’s a bit of a tomboy and always hangs out with the guys, but when she makes friends with Olivia she learns she’s a girls girl too. She’s very conflicted about her feelings for her best friend Cesar, but at the same time will do anything to keep her friend group together. She ends up going on a mini journey to learn more about her mom, which I hope they dive into more in a potential season two. I also loved that her role really shed light on Afro Latinas who are often underrepresented.

Next is Jason Genao as Ruby. I really liked Ruby, he’s smart and a romantic. He talks a mile a minute and can talk his way out of anything. He’s hoping when his brother goes to college that he’ll finally get his own room, but one of the running gags is that there’s always someone who needs the room so his parents keep kicking him out of it. He ends up developing a big crush on Olivia who moves in with his family when her parents are deported. There was definitely something endearing about Ruby and I rooted for him all season.

Next up is Brett Gray who plays Jamal. Jamal had to be my favorite character of the series. I love how nerdy and goofy and funny he is. He spent half the season feigning fake injuries to get out of playing high school football and then  the other half doing research into the town’s rumored RollerWorld money and having a Goonies-esque adventure. One of my favorite scenes was when he was bonding with Ruby’s high abuela over RollerWorld. It was hilarious! I  really enjoyed the whole RollerWorld journey and thought it was a nice touch to add some more lightness, fun, and humor to the series with this wacky side mystery.

On My Block

Then we’ve got Diego Tinoco as Cesar. He comes from a family that is wrapped up in gang life and therefore he gets involved in it as well. He also has a bit of a love triangle going on with Monse and Olivia. I’ll be honest, Cesar wasn’t my favorite character. I didn’t believe him in the gang life role and it just seemed everything he tried to do backfired on him, which led to that really huge cliffhanger at the end of the season. He also did one of the things I truly hate that a lot of guys do in movies which is settle for being with the girl he doesn’t really care. He and Monse have feelings for each other, but he ends up dating Olivia for a little while. I really dislike when films and TV shows do story lines like that because it makes it seem like the guy can’t be alone, he has to be with someone even if he doesn’t actually like them that way.

We’re also introduced to Olivia played by Ronni Hawk. She becomes a big part of the group and Monse’s best girl friend. Another character I really enjoyed was Jasmine played by Jessica Marie Garcia. She wasn’t really their friend, but was this character that was consistently annoying them and trying to get into the group. She was so over the top and obnoxious, it was hilarious. I thought she did a really great job in the role!

That big cliffhanger had me shook!

*SPOILERS AHEAD*

The season ends at Olivia’s quinceanera where Ruby has spent weeks working really hard to make it perfect for her. He cares about her and just as things are finally working in his favor – he kisses the girl of his dreams and is dancing with her – until everything changes. Earlier, Cesar was tasked with killing a member of a rival gang. He lies and pretends he did, but really he just threatens the guy and tells him to leave town. Of course that doesn’t work out well for him, the guy shows up at the quinceanera with a gun and somehow ends up shooting Ruby. The scene was dark! Ruby was gasping for breath while his mother screamed over him and Olivia, who also looked like she was wounded, cried out for Ruby. Will he survive? Will the gang member be caught? That’s something we’ll have to look out for in a second season.

On My Block is a definitely a sleeper hit. It’s been getting more and more buzz and I feel like there’s no way this show won’t get a second season. There’s so many story lines to continue. I’m sure there will be repercussions over Cesar’s actions in the gang…plus what will Jamal do with his RollerWorld money? On My Block is the epitome of the type of show that I love – similar to Degrassi: The Next Generation or East Los High – it’s a diverse teen dramedy that isn’t afraid to really go there.

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