‘On My Block’ showrunner Lauren Iungerich breaks down the shocking time jump, how the Core More will be brought back together, and how Cesar’s broken heart tattoo happened.
On My Block season 3 is currently streaming on Netflix and fans have a lot of questions after that epic time jump. HollywoodLife spoke EXCLUSIVELY with showrunner Lauren Iungerich about ending the season with a time jump. Turns out, this wasn’t the initial ending the writers had planned. Once the idea was thrown out there, everyone realized this would be an “exciting” way to “reset” the show.
Lauren revealed some (potential!) season 4 scoop and promised an “endgame” as to how and why the crew fell apart. One of the biggest moments in the time jump reveal was Cesar’s metamorphosis into the leader of the Santos and that broken heart tattoo. Lauren admitted the tattoo wasn’t in the script originally and was a last-minute addition on the day the episode was shot. Check out our full Q&A below.
After the time jump, everyone is in different places in their lives. When you were coming up with the time jump and where the characters would end up, whose fate came to you the easiest and whose was the most difficult to decide on?
Lauren Iungerich: It was all about just figuring out how we were going to end it. What would be the cliffhanger? Initially, we had a different ending, which would end with Monse. It was a little bit of we’ve been there, done that kind of energy, so we knew it wasn’t going to sustain. And then one of my brilliant writers, Adam Stark, pitched the end with Cesar. And it was like, “Yes, that’s perfect.” I think the one that we knew going into it was Spooky. We knew Oscar was going to be on the outside and what it would look like for him to be with real adult problems and wanting to see that. Also, just the bittersweet notion of the boys no longer being friends and having that look between them was just great. We wanted to see Monse fully immersed in her academic life and thriving and really see her be. We felt like this time jump was an opportunity to not only delve a little deeper with each character but also reset the show a little bit and delve even further into their stories and arcs in a way that we couldn’t if we were just picking up where we left off with Monse leaving. We just knew it would be a really exciting way to end the show.
You don’t have to tell me, but do you already know what would bring them back together?
Lauren Iungerich: Yes. If we were going to do something like this, we have to have ideas about where we’re going so we don’t get stuck. Season 3 was the hardest season to break. I knew it was going to be because the search for Lil’ Ricky, while albeit awesome, was going to be a little tricky, no pun intended. What was tricky about the Lil’ Ricky search is that a search for Lil’ Ricky in an age when it’s easy to look up identities and try to track people could be a bit treading water. So how do we do that? It’s summer, number one, so they don’t have the school to fall back on. Number two, they’re on this wild good chase and we had to sustain that and also their arcs as friends and characters. It took a lot of work and we have such a great writing team. But we also knew that where we were headed was going to be tricky because we didn’t find Lil’ Ricky. That was a really hard balancing act. But we did know where we were driving to and we also knew that finding Lil’ Ricky would be too much of whiplash tonally to find these kids in real peril with him. So we had made that decision to not find him and leave it open-ended. That gives us sort of a great tether for the next season to play that out a little bit, if we get a season 4. We know what the endgame is with Lil’ Ricky and we knew going in where we were going to be driving to. Things changed in terms of season 3 with the drive, but we definitely knew from the beginning we were going to be chasing to find Lil’ Ricky and how that would impact the friends and that it was going to tear them apart. That’s what we knew. If we get to season 4, we have an endgame. You will understand why the crew fell apart. What specifically were the little specifics along the way other than just the mission to find Oscar and band together to kill Cuchillos. That was the first crack in the veneer of friendship, the idea that they love each other so much they would consider killing someone.
Everyone’s ending in the time jump made me a little sad because none of them are friends anymore. But I think the one that really got everyone was Ruby and Jamal’s looks at each other at school. That hit me right in the gut. I feel like there’s a longing in Jamal’s eyes, but I can’t quite get a read on Ruby. How do you view their looks to each other in that moment?
Lauren Iungerich: It’s bittersweet. It’s that notion of this person used to be so familiar to me and now we’re not even nodding hey. It’s that look of knowing that they’re each talking with each other saying, “Hey. Hey, you. I see you.” I think that’s real. I think kids have their besties in junior high or whatnot, and then you can fall out of touch sometimes. But you always have that knowing of that used to be someone I was really close to. I definitely can think of friends that I fell out of touch with who were super close friends of mine in my formative years. As I became a teenager, we weren’t friends in that way. It’s funny because that look of longing that you see in Jamal, I see way more in Ruby.
I think Jason Genao has such a remarkable way of acting with just his eyes.
Lauren Iungerich: He is brilliant. He could become one of the best actors of his generation. Both he and Brett [Gray]. I mean, that Brett Gray, that young man is so talented. He is astounding in his talent and his range is unreal. I am flabbergasted at what that young man can do at every turn because he is so gifted. They’re all really gifted. We get to write to their strengths because we know them. That look that was scripted, when I shot it was even more powerful in how I was putting those pieces together and designing that shot. I couldn’t have had better reactions. We had no time to shoot that, by the way. I probably had one take on each, maybe two.
Cesar has always teetered on the edge of the gang lifestyle, and he’s been immersed in it his whole life. Was Cesar embracing that life something you always wanted to explore with him?
Lauren Iungerich: No. That really came from the shocker ending. With that, we were like, “Oh, sh*t. We’re really going to do this.” What’s so beautiful is that you can have big ideas — we have big ideas for how the show is ultimately going to end — but that wasn’t part of it. When that was pitched, we all just went, “Whoa. What could that be?” As we started really talking about what that would look like and how we could set that in motion and how we can really see that transformation for Cesar, which you see in the back half of last season. You see him slowly but surely becoming more and more connected to the Santos, more connected to himself as a leader and protecting everyone. It’s not really hard to buy that he could make that change in 2 years, especially when you have that scene between him and Spooky in the living room where Spooky is saying it’s not worth it anymore. You have Cesar telling him he’s flipping and he’s being naive. The reversal is happening. It’s complex because they’re not in it for the same reasons. It’s just that Cesar can’t unsee what he’s been forced into. One getting out and one stepping in is out of love for each other, which is really what’s special and unique and really profound about those character arcs. They each have had an incredible influence on each other. It’s out of love for each other that they have different sides of the moral compass. We never want to judge our characters and the decisions that they make. We’re just telling their story as best we can without judgment. That’s what makes the show really fun to write and to tell these stories. It’s not all one thing. Everybody’s got so many layers to them.
When Cesar turns around in the final seconds of the finale, he reveals that broken heart tattoo. Everyone had something to say about that tattoo. Is it about Monse?
Lauren Iungerich: Here’s what I can tell you. I can tell you that you can interpret however you want to interpret it. That tattoo was placed on him that morning. It was not scripted. It was picked by Eddie Gonzalez and our head of the makeup department. They really loved that tattoo. I was like, “Oh, that’s great.” The way I originally was shooting it, we weren’t going to pan down to it. It was so great that I did because I knew it was going to lead to so much speculation. Of course, there’s a lot of heartbreak there. You can already see in the 2 years forward. But what does that mean? We’re going unpack that. It was one of the beautiful moments that was discovered as we were shooting it. That tattoo was not scripted.