Fans of Netflix's "On My Block" were passionate about the slice-of-life show that followed the lives of four high school students in Freeridge, CA, as their friendships were tested navigating high school, romance, and socioeconomic hardships together. The show ended in the fall of 2021 after four critically-acclaimed seasons, and it's safe to say the young cast taking on the mantle of a brand new core four in its spinoff "Freeridge" — Keyla Monterroso Mejia (Gloria), Tenzing Norgay Trainor (Cameron), Ciara Riley Wilson (Demi), and Bryana Salaz (Ines) — had quite the legacy to live up to. However, they were the perfect group of up-and-comers to take on the challenge because they love "On My Block" just as much as its fans.
"'On My Block' is so special. These characters, the actors who portrayed them, are so special," Mejia shares with POPSUGAR about the original show, admitting she would probably have doubts about the series if she weren't starring in it herself. "As a fan, I'm very overprotective of 'On My Block.' And I'm biased because it's myself, but if it wasn't, I would be like, 'Who are these kids? What's going on?'"
"As a fan, I'm very overprotective of 'On My Block.' And I'm biased because it's myself, but if it wasn't, I would be like, 'Who are these kids? What's going on?'"
But Mejia and her castmates knew they were stepping into greatness with "Freeridge" for one simple reason. "The fans are going to identify with the essence. It's honestly the same," Mejia insists. "The reasons that I loved 'On My Block' was because it was so special, it was so honest, and it was witty and smart and hilarious. And I think that same essence is in 'Freeridge,' just in a different way."
Mejia's not lying. As fans work their way through the eight-episode first season of "Freeridge," they'll notice a lot of the same themes being explored in new ways — perhaps most apparent in the many forbidden love triangles that fans of "On My Block"'s Monse and Cesar, and Ruby and Jasmine are all too familiar with.
In "Freeridge," Mejia's character Gloria and her sister, Ines, are both pining after their school's child star newcomer, Rusty (Michael Solomon).
Salaz thinks her whip-smart character Ines's only downfall is how she "gets hidden in her need for validation," and that certainly plays into her feelings for Rusty. "I think, initially, Ines is more in the realm of, 'Oh my gosh, that's an upperclassman? Yeah, that's my in'. . . She loves the chase and the pull," Salaz says. But when Rusty's feelings for Gloria lead to rejection, it complicates matters. "When the rejection stuff starts happening, I think that's when she realises, 'Whoa, I have feelings for this dude? That's wild.'"
Meanwhile, Cam and Demi attempt to work out their long-held, complicated feelings for one another. The problem is Cam (whose greatest weakness is his "indecisiveness," says Trainor) is already in a relationship with their classmate Andre (Zaire Adams), and he could end up ruining a good thing for something fleeting.
"I think Cam and Demi have just been friends for so long, and it was so exciting, the first spark of romance, and it was such a whirlwind," Wilson says about their layered relationship, adding, "We love the chase and the sneaking around."
Beyond the romance, "Freeridge" also delivers intrigue. There are curses the core four must break, a doppelganger that looks eerily like Abuelita from "On My Block," and even a return of the roller world money. But in the end, much like its predecessor, the series' strongest moments come when it explores complicated real-life issues like death, sexual identity, class conflict, gun violence, and, of course, all the angst that comes with teenagers growing into young adults.
"There's no room for growth, and I think our show opens up a space to see that, 'Oh my gosh, OK, I did do that in the past . . . I did not know. But wow, haven't I grown since then? And thank you for holding me accountable and allowing me the space to grow.'"
The biggest lesson Trainor hopes viewers leave the season with is about "responsibility" in relationships. "A relationship is two people, so there are two sets of feelings, and just understanding that," he says.
Salaz echoes his sentiment and adds, "I think one of the biggest messages [of 'Freeridge' season one] is . . . not invalidating someone's experience because it's not your experience. I think that's something that people struggle with . . . There's no room for growth, and I think our show opens up a space to see that, 'Oh my gosh, OK, I did do that in the past . . . I did not know. But wow, haven't I grown since then? And thank you for holding me accountable and allowing me the space to grow.'"
"Freeridge" is streaming now on Netflix.