After recently getting the green light for season three, viewers of Netflix’s critically-acclaimed original series, “On My Block,” are in a victorious uproar as they anticipate the show’s newest addition.
Set in South Central Los Angeles, the show follows the friendship of four charming, complex, and coming-of-age individuals working through the motions of life in the inner city. The light throughout the entire tunnel is the perspectives guided through by each of these teens being from underrepresented groups, and the show’s content is raw and realistic enough for those sitting at home to genuinely relate.
However, it’s the cast that shines through, creating conversations to arise within viewers through their portrayal of these characters and their day-to-day.
One, in particular, being 29-year-old, Julio Macias, who plays the vicious, but pridefully protective older brother to Cesar, and leader of the Santos Gang, Oscar “Spooky” Diaz.
Before Macias stepped onto the streets of L.A., his journey began in Mexico City, his hometown he holds close to his heart, and credits for his ability to be present within his surroundings today. “ In Mexico City, it’s a beast, it’s a monster of a town. You see that inequality rapidly throughout the society, so that was something that always struck me, especially always flying back between there and L.A. Growing up I never got it, I was thankful that my parents were able to afford me the life that I had, but I was always very aware of it. I kind of pushed myself to incorporate that in all communities. Even though there are real threats in certain neighborhoods, so much of it really is psychological and you know the threat or the danger, or level of insecurity that you have is something that you mentally put in your head before you even go anywhere. I tried to always keep present and always keep in mind that we can all do something to lessen those distractions. The best thing you can do is vote, and talk to those politicians and have them fix it. Then there’s stuff we can do within our daily lives, like speaking through each other as human beings. Just because someone’s serving you, they’re not your servant. Just because someone’s helping you out, doesn’t mean that you can speak or treat them a certain way. I try to keep that very present in my daily life. I’ve learned all that from growing up in Mexico City.”
At the tender age of 8-years-old, Macias had already dipped his foot into the TV and film industry. Aside from at one point dreaming of being a zoologist, his parents’ ownership of a dubbing company is what guided him into the avenue of acting.
His childhood environment revolved around sound studios, directors, actors and actresses, and the process of translating series and films into Portuguese or Spanish. A decade later, it became more surreal for a young Macias, when after high school he headed for Miami, which he left for California, and where the plan to transfer to UCLA turned into ending up at New York’s Circle in the Square Conservatory. “It switched my mind into the gear that I needed it to be. It was like ok, people are doing this professionally at my level, and they’re tackling this every single day, with everything they got. I have to give that and then 10% more. It was a scene study, acting study, breathing techniques, movement, script analysis, Shakespeare, singing. All of it filled me to the point where I was like, this is exactly what I have to be doing every single day. So make sure that every day you’re bettering yourself however you feel you need to do that. Always be in class, always keep studying, always keep learning, and keep yourself open to everything. Strive for excellence. Don’t try to be the best, be your best.”
“There’s stuff we can do within our daily lives, like speaking through each other as human beings. Just because someone’s serving you, they’re not your servant. Just because someone’s helping you out, doesn’t mean that you can speak or treat them a certain way.”
Macias wanted to create a space where he could incorporate this abundance of lessons learned, as well as his own creative genius into one platform. He teamed up with who he describes as his brother, mentor, and friend, Alfredo Ibarra, to create Blank Films, where the two would go on to produce shorts, comedy sketches, and a string of music videos for notable Latin artists.
Due to financial roadblocks, according to Macias, current projects within the business had to be put on hold. However, the biggest lesson he kept with him from the process, is the saving grace of working with a team and realizing asking for help can be our greatest strength. “In film school, Alfredo, who I started “Blank Films” with, was in the directing department and I was in the acting department, and one time he said to me, “My crew is being kind of lazy, I need your help. Can you please come on set and help me out?” I was like alright. I didn’t know what to do, but he told me he would show me. I felt so useful on that set, setting up all these lights and equipment I never known, or touched before in my life. It was maybe 3 o’clock in the morning and we were still pushing, and again this was film school, so we’re shooting 20 hour days, and everyone’s exhausted and cranky, and it smells bad, and people want to go home, and things are not working, and I’m just walking around with the biggest smile on my face, like, if this is how bad it gets, I can only imagine how good it gets. Yes, this is it for me.
Teamwork also makes the dreamwork on the set of “On My Block,” which Macias claims makes the entire series so dope. With the shift from season one to season two, he labeled it as “perseverance in the face of challenges,” but despite it all, each character finds a way to stay strong and conquer not staying down.
“So make sure that every day you’re bettering yourself however you feel you need to do that. Always be in class, always keep studying, always keep learning, and keep yourself open to everything. Strive for excellence. Don’t try to be the best, be your best.”
For Macias’ character Spooky, intimidation is a mantra. With the two being almost complete opposites, Macias had to put on a bit of extra weight for the role, literally and figuratively. Through the dialogue, and Spooky’s actions and purpose of motives, Macias found a way to root for him overall, by figuring out his ultimate purpose comes from a place of love. “It’s a pleasure to play him, and it’s a responsibility I have to to take with great caution and respect. I knew I needed to look a certain way before I got into the character. So for me, it was first physically training to get to a place where I thought that I could achieve the biggest that I had ever been in my life. I wouldn’t want to mess with me [laughs]. At that point, that’s when I started to go back to the text, and what I loved about this particular character is that it’s hard to argue that what he’s doing is the right thing, but he does it out of love. That’s what I rooted from. His love for his brother, and the limits he’ll go to protect him. I’m a little bit more you have to handle your own things, so I’m not going to physically harm anyone. That’s not the person that I am, and that’s something I had to learn to open up to with Spooky. I had to feel that anger and rage quickly, and for a while, it stepped over to me being Julio and within my daily life. One way to control it, which is what Spooky does, is to speak up on anything, and that’s one attribute I can thank him for because it gave me the confidence to say, hey, probably not right now, or I don’t think so.
Another “thank you” Macias can gratefully hand out to Spooky, comes from the ability for this and the younger generation to see characters like the one he plays, or Manse, Cesar, Ruby, Jamal, or Jasmine; and know they’re not alone.
“…what I loved about this particular character [Spooky] is that it’s hard to argue that what he’s doing is the right thing, but he does it out of love.”
Macias retorts back to growing up in Mexico City where the idea of representation wasn’t as abundant. He would watch a film like “Hocus Pocus,” and see three women as witches, and wanting to embody those characters. Then it was when he scored a role in Evelina Fernandez Mexican Trilogy the play, where each character shared the same ethnicity and cultural background of Mexican roots, and Macias newfound perspective and landscaping across discovering multiple diversities grew. “When people started reaching out to us through social media, something I’m new to, the outpour of “Dude, thank you for doing that, thank you for being here,” and the younger kids, and asking me how I did it and telling me they never saw themselves, and telling me their brother is in the life, he’s like that dude [Spooky]. I’m like “Oh shit, they’re seeing that!” [laughs]. So for me, it really opened up my eyes. It didn’t really affect me in my personal life, that I can consciously remember because I had whitewashed my head trying to blend into the United States when I first came here. People asked, “Where is your accent?” I’m like, this is my accent, and do you know how hard I worked to get here. Maybe it is super self-conscious in my head, but being in this show now and seeing everybody respond to it the way they’re responding to it, it really shows how overdue it was. It’s coming. Every single network right now is buying up property that betters diversity as a power of this industry, so it’s coming.”
Ultimately, Julio Macias would categorize himself under the category of an actor that has been working at his craft for a very long time and doesn’t plan on stopping. His goals stretch to the many opportunities and experiences playing different characters will allow him, and that’s exactly how he plans on solidifying his prosperous career. “I think I’m definitely going to be pushing envelopes here and there. So my advice for anybody that’s doing this is staying true to what you want to play. Be flexible obviously, be willing to play whatever comes your way, but they know the character you want to pursue and chase them. If it comes to where you have to give up a role to really be able to play that one character that you really want to do, be true to yourself, and it’ll shine through. All you have to do is focus on your grain of sand, and the beach will come together.”
As fans await the next set of chapters from “On My Block,” they can catch Macias behind the scenes of short films and comedy sketches, and voicing a part in the animated series “The Grandfather.”
“All you have to do is focus on your grain of sand, and the beach will come together.”
Macias plans for the rest of the year couldn’t be more authentic, as he continues to enjoy the humbling process and reality of being an actor, by auditioning for those game-changing roles.
To keep up with all things Julio Macias and “On My Block” head over to Twitter and Instagram and follow @AJulioMacias & @OnMyBlock.