‘On My Block’ season 3 ended with one shocking twist: Cesar is now the head of the Santos gang. HL spoke with Diego Tinoco about that dramatic evolution, the possible ‘end’ of the Core Four, and more.
On My Block fans, we need to talk about Cesar. The final moments of the season 3 finale featured a time jump 2 years into the future and Cesar (now going as Lil’ Spooky) is the head of the Santos. The Core Four are no longer friends, with Monse across the country with new friends at boarding school. When Cesar turns around in those last seconds, he’s got a broken heart tattoo that hints at a devastating end for Monsar.
HollywoodLife talked EXCLUSIVELY with Diego Tinoco about how things ended for Cesar. He admitted he was “heartbroken” by that dramatic turn for his character and had a “hard time” filming it. He revealed that he thinks Cesar’s broken heart tattoo is about Monse and revealed he hopes the couple is still endgame. Diego also talked about his hopes for season 4, including a possible confrontation between Cesar and Spooky. Read our full Q&A below.
First and foremost, we have to talk about that final scene. When you read the finale script and you found out that Cesar was going in that direction, what was your initial reaction?
Diego Tinoco: I never got that script until like four days before shooting it. They always keep the last script from us. In season 1, we didn’t know who was going to get shot. We didn’t know if anyone was going to die. We didn’t know anything. It happened in season 2 as well because we didn’t know who kidnapped the group before we shot that scene. When I was filming that final scene, honestly, I was just heartbroken. I had a hard time filming that scene. Nevertheless, I trust the writers, I trust creators, so I trust the creative direction that they’re going to take Cesar in a potential season 4.
So you didn’t see it coming at all?
Diego Tinoco: I didn’t see coming at all.
Looking back now and knowing how Cesar ended up, is there a moment where you think maybe things started to shift a little bit for him and he began to head in that direction?
Diego Tinoco: Yeah, absolutely. When I was talking with the writers and the creators, it was definitely episode 7 where Cesar starts flipping the switch, where he starts getting angry at Ruby and Jamal for not being able to find his brother and for not checking the house properly. I remember the writers coming up to me saying, “Hey, let’s change Cesar up a bit. Let’s make him break into his darker side a little bit more.” They kept saying that to me more and more as the show progressed. I was thinking that there was going to be a crazy arc at the end of it, but it was a curveball for sure. I knew something was going to happen, but I didn’t know I was going to have to shave my head again.
In episode 7, I definitely did see that shift for Cesar. For me, the biggest evidence of it was in the finale when he’s talking to Spooky. Cesar begins to realize that Spooky wants to give away his power, and I think Cesar sees the opportunity to take it. All of these kids, especially Cesar, they’ve experienced so much trauma in a very short amount of time. Now that Cesar is the head of the Santos, do you think this could be Cesar’s way of staying in control and making sure he’s the one calling the shots after everything he’s been through?
Diego Tinoco: You know, I think so, but I’m not exactly too sure where the writers want to go with it. But, in all honesty, that’s exactly what I think. I just think Cesar’s over not being in control. He’s over his circumstances and people trying to get on top of him and get the better of him. I think this is his way of saying, “You know what, if I can’t beat it, I’m going to join it. I’m going to be more in control. Nothing’s going to stop me or hurt me or my friends from here on out.” I think that is what’s going to happen. I’m not sure, though. It sounds like you nailed it right on the spot.
When Cesar turns around in the final seconds, we see that broken heart tattoo. A lot of fans already have their theories about what that tattoo means. This can be your personal opinion, but do you think that tattoo symbolizes a split with Monse, a split from his brother, or a split from the Core Four?
Diego Tinoco: For me, I would say it’s maybe about his split from the innocence of who he was and everything. But probably more towards Monse. I don’t think I would get a broken heart tattoo if me and my friends got into an argument, but if the love of my life broke my heart, then I would definitely do that.
I think that it sort of echoes what Cesar says to Monse before she leaves. He says, “When your heart beats, mine beats with it.” Monse and Cesar have gone back and forth over the past 3 seasons, but it’s clear they love each other. From Diego’s standpoint, do you think they’re endgame?
Diego Tinoco: First love is tricky. My first girlfriend and I were on and off like 100 times, so I honestly relate to what Cesar and Monse are going through. I’ve seen what they’re going through. It’s first love. It’s complicated. They’re kids and growing up. They’re trying to settle into their own skin and find out who they are while taking care of each other and dealing with some very mature stuff that you don’t see the average teenager go through. You don’t see the average teenager see their friend get shot or have to go on a crazy quest. It’s complicated stuff. I hope that they’re endgame but expect the unexpected. I thought I was going to die like 6 times when reading the scripts.
The time jump reveals that the Core Four have gone their separate ways. Do you think in a potential season 4, they could ever be as close as they were?
Diego Tinoco: I don’t see why not. I think they could probably be closer. I think history makes you closer. It’s not as if they’ve wronged each other. It’s not as if they stabbed each other in the back. I think there’s the tension there now because they’re just seeing that maybe together they’re not the best group. You’ve got to think about how they were about to do something that nobody should ever do. All the trauma pushed them to a sequence of events that almost resulted in a pretty epic tragedy. I think they could be closer, but I don’t know if they will be. This could be the end of the Core Four. I have no idea. I’m excited to see what the writers write.
I asked the co-creators if there was a specific incident that really broke them up or if it was a piling of things. Because they are in high school and I know that there were people I was friends with freshman year who I wasn’t friends with by senior year. I feel like that is a very relatable aspect of high school. By senior year, you’re not the person that you were when you walked out of middle school. I felt like that could be something that’s potentially explored.
Diego Tinoco: I agree. The reaction from the fans has been that they relate to that last scene. They cried and put videos of themselves crying or yelling or screaming. It’s not because they’re mad at us. It’s because it’s a reflection of what really happens. People grow apart and the people you used to call brother or sister become strangers. It’s a heartbreaking truth, but it is true.
Cesar and Spooky have done a swap. In the end, Spooky has a normal life. He’s got adult problems. Cesar is the one at the head of the gang. How do you think this shift will impact their relationship?
Diego Tinoco: I’m going to tell you my real thoughts as Diego. Spooky has put Cesar through so much. I don’t think any big brother should put their little brother through that much. Pushing him into a gang, putting so much responsibility on him, trying to shoot somebody, that’s not cool. You’re supposed to take care of your little brother. I’m going to be honest, Spooky is not the guy that I would look up to ever, but Cesar loves him. That’s his big brother. We’ll see what happens. The way I would write the sequence is Cesar snapping on Oscar. Something in that emotional ballpark. I hope the writers acknowledge it. You know in movies where you see something happen over and over again as an audience member and you’re like, “F**king acknowledge it. Say something!” That’s how I feel right now playing Cesar. He needs to call out Spooky.
This season, we did meet Cesar and Spooky’s dad. Do you think that relationship is unfinished between Cesar and his dad?
Diego Tinoco: I think so, for sure. I think we just barely touched on it. I think we can expect to see him if we get another season. At least that’s how I feel.
The show has explored so much over the past 3 seasons. If there is a season 4, is there anything you would want to touch on with Cesar?
Diego Tinoco: I feel like we would explore the relationship with Monse, explore the relationship with his two best friends, explore the relationship with his family. I have a weird feeling about next season. I’m kind of scared. I’m not ready to peace out to the world just yet, but I have a feeling season 4 would be wild. I don’t think any of us are going to see the next one coming.
The show has such an incredible fan base and these characters mean so much to so many people. What has playing Cesar meant to you?
Diego Tinoco: It means everything to me. It’s such an honor, such a privilege, to represent the Latin community in Hollywood with this type of project. I can’t say it enough, it just means the absolute world to me. It’s just been an inspiring experience and journey. I just want whoever watches the show to know that they can accomplish their dreams too, no matter what they look like, and not let anything stop them. I’m on the show as a lead being a Mexican-American in real life and character-wise. I’ll wear that proudly. I just want everyone and every race to wear their own skin proudly.