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Lauren Iungerich teases how the Core Four got here... and what's next
[Warning: The following contains spoilers for On My Block Season 3. Read at your own risk!]
After On My Block's first two seasons each ended with a shocking cliffhanger, we had braced ourselves going into the Season 3 finale. But nothing could have prepared us for what happened in the episode's final minutes.
After getting out from under Cuchillos' (Ada Luz Pla) control -- thanks to Spooky (Julio Macias) brokering a deal with the 19th Street gang and turning on his old Santos boss -- Monse (Sierra Capri), Cesar (Diego Tinoco), Ruby (Jason Genao), and Jamal (Brett Gray) were ready for their lives to return to normal, or whatever passes for normal in this group. But only a few days later, Monse had to leave Freeridge to start her first year at her new all-girls boarding school. The Core Four plus Jasmine (Jessica Marie Garcia) gathered to see Monse off and promised that the distance wouldn't change anything. But then a flash-forward to two years later revealed how wrong they were.
In the heart-wrenching look ahead, viewers saw that Monse had moved on from the group and now has a new gang of female friends at her boarding school. Ruby and Jasmine were shown to still be going strong (thank god), although Ruby's clearly going through a punk phase based on that Misfits shirt. Spooky finally got the suburban family life he had wanted, complete with a wife and baby on the way, and Cesar had stepped up as a leader of the Santos in his absence. But perhaps the most shocking twist of all was that Jamal -- the same Jamal who spent the majority of Season 1 faking injuries -- had joined the football team.
This was all a lot to process, so TV Guide hopped on the phone with showrunner and co-creator Lauren Iungerich to talk about how the kids ended up here and what she and co-creators Eddie Gonzalez and Jeremy Haft have planned for a potential Season 4.
This flash-forward was devastating. Had you always intended for the show to build to this place where the kids aren't friends anymore?
Lauren Iungerich: It was always a conversation of "How do we separate these kids?" as part of the whole fabric of the show. From that first speech that Mario [Martinez] gives, it's sort of like, "we have to stick together in order to survive," and what that looks like with friendship. And so we knew, we just didn't know how we were going to get there. But we knew we wanted to see conflict with the friends and this notion of examining who stays in your life and who doesn't. So just being able to build to this place -- which your first thought, you're like, "Oh sh--, how do we adapt Season 4?" But it actually opened up so many different ways and different avenues to really allow these characters to grow and spread their wings and for us to see their stories evolve and change, because that's what happens. Your core friends sometimes stay your core friends and then sometimes they don't.
What can you say about what led to the group's disbandment?
Iungerich: If we get a Season 4, those things will be answered. There will be definitive answers to what really dismantled this group of friends. But where we leave off is the notion of, here are these kids who are banding together to save Cesar multiple times and then it becomes they now have to save themselves, and it's kill or be killed. And they get to a place where they actually contemplate killing someone and then they don't have to. But the idea that they got to that place as a group of friends, I think takes a toll on all of them because they're all such good people.
I was shocked to see that Jamal had joined the football team. Jamal famously hated football, so what can you say about how he wound up changing his mind?
Iungerich: I think if you really look at it through the prism of he didn't want to play football when we first met him out of fear, and then to see him leading the charge to find the RollerWorld money and then going down and leading the charge to save Cesar and find Lil' Ricky -- I think you see a kid who has walked into the fire and confronted his fear, who is no longer fearful, he's fearless. ... He's obviously talented at football and knowingly leaning into that. And also potentially we're looking at a kid who's always been an afterthought to his friends, or seemingly a joke to his friends, because he has always had these wild beliefs in the other and the unknown and the supernatural and the paranormal and all of that kind of stuff. And for him, he's been looking to have greater acceptance and that is what he's finds. In that moment when we when we see him at the end, you see he's entertaining a crowd of jocks and he's holding court. And he looks really different and got a little bit of a swagger and potentially has found his confidence in a different circle of friends.
Monse almost didn't go to boarding school because she was afraid of the group breaking up, but she moved on just like they did. What can you say about what Monse's like now and how she got to this place?
Iungerich: I think what's so fun about her as a character and a girl is she's so full as judgment and thinks she knows it all and then realizes she doesn't. That notion at the end of Season 2, where she was going to go to the girls school and she's pissed at the friends, and [says] "maybe we've grown apart." And then she has this really kind of wild ride of summer, of not wanting to leave, and now afraid that if she really is the glue of the crew, they will disband. And on some level that is true, right? So I think it's almost like she wants to stay to keep the relationships solid. She needs to leave to spread her wings. And what we see in that flash-forward is that when she does spread her wings she's seemingly OK. She is the first maybe, seemingly, to have abandoned those friends. I can't tell you who drives what or how it happened because that would be unlocking ideas for Season 4 and if we get Season 4 I don't want to ruin those ideas. But I think we just see a girl who has finally embraced, potentially, the opportunity of spreading her wings. ... It's going to make for a very complicated interesting story but it's heartbreaking because it's so real, right?
It broke my heart to see Cesar joining the Santos but I also wasn't surprised. Why do you think Cesar wasn't able to learn from Spooky and wound up repeating his family's history?
Iungerich: Well, we hope that we nuanced it enough that you saw his -- you know, when he talks about [how] his family crest is the gang sign, that's his future, and that that he was born with this future. And when he says that to Monse in the first episode of Season 1, I don't know if he totally believed it. But in that moment, he's a little nihilistic to the idea of [how] this is just what's expected of him. ... The thing between Season 1, Season 2, it's like seeing that he doesn't have to -- it isn't his destiny.
What happens in Season 3 is the stakes of his brother's life and him trying to now protect his friends, those stakes rise and with that so does his feeling of needing to be the hero. And with that comes the protection of the gang. And so when he goes to the Santos and tells them they need to go look for Spooky, we were watching him stepping into a leadership role and stepping into the shoes of what this familia is. The Santos familia. It's not the Core Four or Core More anymore. It's this other family he has that he can tap into that he's part of, whether he likes it or not. And when he needs help to find his brother, he leans on them. ... So for [Spooky], he's like, f--- this, I need to go do something else with my life and take care of myself. I need to have adult problems. ... And Cesar's at a place where now he's seeing what is the call to loyalty in this other family because he was just deep in the thick of it and saw the band of brothers that he had maybe never really seen or really experienced firsthand and then finally did see it firsthand. Because the irony of ironies is that it's same love of brothers -- one wanting to get out and make sure his brother's out and make sure he's out, and the other brother saying, "I need to make sure we're safe." And it's the two sides flipping, right? They're changing on the spectrum, but it's out of love of each other that they're changing.
I loved that Spooky was such a bigger part of this season and that at least he got his happy ending. Can you talk about Spooky's journey and why you wanted to at least show him being rewarded with everything he wanted?
Iungerich: I think that we wanted to see that sort of mistrust and see Spooky seeing it through his prism ... I mean, one of the most powerful stories that we wanted to tell was that story about parents in Episode 5 -- Monse's mom dying and how you continue these cycles and having that confrontation and seeing Spooky really vulnerable with his father. You see the little boy who was abandoned. We've never seen that side of him, but it's there, it's real. He's a fully realized person. ... And I think for us, we wanted to see somebody [redeem] themselves and he is at the forefront of his own manifestation of self-redemption. And, obviously, it's not an easy journey for him, but it's one he is taking and it's one that we hope emboldens and empowers -- you know, for all kids who love this character, to see this character really taking the lead in his own life and circumstances and making change with them and that he has the power within himself to do that. And I feel like a really important thing to see in these characters is that they're not all knowledge, but there's so much heart. And there's so much power that they have over their own circumstances to change their narrative -- that we all can sort of rewrite our stories, even as we're living it.
Compared to the rest of the Core Four, it wasn't really clear how much Ruby has changed over the years other than the fact that he was wearing a Misfits shirt. So can you talk more about how Ruby has grown and where his relationship with Jasmine stands now?
Iungerich: Well, I think the fact that you see them in what appears to be a steady relationship is amazing. And I can't really say more other than you see that bittersweet look with him and Jamal and realize that there's a disconnect and they aren't the same kind of friends. There's almost a longing and a look of knowing between them. I can't really tell you any more.
One of my favorite scenes of the season was Jasmine breaking down everything she learned from spying on the group and she's pretty much spot-on about everything -- except for Monse's dad moving drugs for the Prophets. This doesn't come up again this season, but was Jasmine actually onto anything?
Iungerich: No, it was totally a mislead that like, she seemingly has all the information but has distilled it in the absolute wrong direction with the exception of some information about Lil' Ricky. It's like her idea of what she thinks actually happened was totally not what happened; it's like she's close, but not close enough. And we just wanted it to be funny -- like how from her prism, if she pieced it all together and it was in the neighborhood, but somewhat adjacent to what really happened, how ridiculous it could be.
So much of this season was about the search for Lil' Ricky, but in the end the kids gave up looking for him. Will we ever learn where Lil'Ricky has been?
Iungerich: I think what I can tell you is that RollerWorld, the myth of RollerWorld, is the long-form driving arc of the series. So RollerWorld is not dead. And so we didn't find Lil' Ricky. Is he alive or dead still is yet to be determined. And that's all I can tell you.
On My Block is available to stream on Netflix.