Julio Macias is excited about the new season of On My Block, premiering Wednesday on Netflix. "There is a lot of change, a lot of exploring of who people are and who they will inevitably become," he tells People CHICA. "There are two new chess pieces introduced in this new gang, there are reunions with old family members - it's heavy. The writing is incredibly smart and also very funny. It makes you think about serious issues and makes you think about not only your own life, but someone who is living across the street from you. It's done in a palpable way through comedy. At the end of the day you have to find a way to smile and to overcome."
The Mexican American actor, 29, says his character Spooky has had a powerful impact. "I've enjoyed being able to take responsibility for such a strong and prominent character that speaks to a very unspoken voice - one that is portrayed many times in one particular way, as 'this is bad, this is wrong,'" he says. "It's an honor. I'm very happy. On My Block has not only changed other people's lives, it has changed my life."
(Photo by Charley Gallay / Getty Images for Netflix)
Bringing more authentic Latinx characters to the screen is a fascinating challenge. "I had linguistic issues with the term 'Latinx.' At first I thought, 'It's Latinos and Latinas, it's already diverse.' I didn't understand the inclusivity of the term, "he explains. "I also respect the older generations who say, 'I am Latino' or 'I am Mexican.' What I want to do is portray myself and the values that were taught to me by Latinos in the best positive light. There is not that much representation, so it's a heavy burden to carry, and I'm happy I don't have to carry it alone because now I'm watching Gentefied and having a blast. There is a great wave of young Latinx talent coming up that is ready to represent and to own that stage.I'm excited for people to see that in the next couple of years."
On the upcoming Netflix series Selena, inspired by the life of Selena Quintanilla, Macias plays musician Pete Astudillo, one of the members of Selena's band Los Dinos. "It's a beautiful homage to Selena," says Macias. "She became such an icon so quickly and was then taken away from us. Praise J. Lo and everyone who made that first movie, but that was just a quick synopsis of everything Selena was, and Selena's story is about all of the Quintanillas."
Macias grew up listening to Selena's music at family parties in Mexico. "When my uncles, aunts, and my grandparents stopped playing Luis Miguel or Pepe Aguilar, my cousins would take over the radio and play their music and 'Como La Flor' would come on, or 'Bidi Bidi Bom Bom' or 'La Carcacha. ' It was a younger vibe when Selena's music came on - that's when the party started. Orale, a dance! In Mexico, people still talk about Selena like she's alive, like she's part of our community, maybe because we celebrate El Día de los Dead and know that there is life in the afterlife."
He relates to Pete's character in his passion for music. "I write music but I don't share it. I keep it to myself, it's my own de-stressing thing," the actor says. "I wasn't expecting to have to do so much dancing," he jokes. "I don't know if I can dance like Pete!" Watching Selena come alive in the series has been magical for him. "There are glimpses of Christian where I'm like, 'Yo, are we singing with Selena right now?'" He says about actress Christian Serratos, who plays the iconic singer. "It's surreal."