When The A.V. Club spoke to On My Block’s Jessica Marie Garcia, she was in the middle of some important business. “I’m writing a series,” the 32-year-old shared excitedly. “I decided to step into my own power. I want my own show, so I gotta do it my damn self.” One could only imagine what a Garcia-helmed show would look like; the Liv & Maddie alum’s comedy chops are no joke. Much like Jasmine, her abundantly confident counterpart in the Netflix coming-of-age comedy, Garcia is an unrepentant go-getter who’s determined to forge her own career path in a variety of genres in lieu of waiting for doors to open before her. Still, she’s not afraid to admit that she harbors some understandable insecurities when it comes to her craft. With the third season now streaming on Netflix, we talked about Jasmine’s source of wisdom, becoming a “boss ass bitch,” and On My Block’s uncertain future.
The A.V. Club: A common assumption about actors who start at Disney is that they have to choose between children’s programming and distancing themselves to do more adult work, but you’re doing both with Disney+’s Diary Of A Future President and Netflix’s On My Block. Is there anything that you haven’t done yet that you really want to do?
Jessica Marie Garcia: I want to wear all the hats. I look at Mindy Kaling and Issa Rae and I’m just like, “That is a boss ass bitch and I need to do those things.” Amy Poehler said something about there not being a ton of women directors because they feel like they’re not ready. I’ve been doing this for so long that I felt like I was going to name my incorporation Professional Guest Star Productions, because I felt like that might be where I live and breathe. It wasn’t until On My Block that I was given the opportunity to be a series regular, and I can’t thank them enough. I was working for that title for so long. Anything I’ve manifested has happened, so I’m going to keep it going. But part of that manifesting is making sure you’re ready and prepared.
So as far as what I want to do next, I would love to dive into independent film, like doing some crazy indie. If you think my comedy is good, my drama is better by far. You could get stuck in a comedy box and as much as I live, breathe, and love it, comedy stems from a very dark place. So I would love to show all different facets of that.
AVC: Jasmine’s evolution speaks to that a little bit. She’s really evolved since season one, from what could have been just the annoying, lovably horny neighbor to one of the most responsible voices of reason on the show. When you were promoted to a regular, did you get to have any input on Jasmine’s characterization?
JMG: Well, it’s interesting because I saw through her as soon as I read that pilot. She’s very similar to me where if I’m making the joke, I won’t be the joke. She’s building a wall so you that you don’t see the real her. I always told [co-creators Lauren Iungerich, Eddie Gonzalez, and Jeremy Haft], “You know, this is all coming from a dark place, right? I’m not going to play this one-dimensional person because that’s not real.” And they agreed. They never thought that Jasmine was going to be a bigger character than what she was in the first season, so they let me improv. That was important for me, and they knew that.
I think the response after season one—thank God—was that fans wanted to see more Jasmine, but they also wanted to see who she is, because they did get criticism for that. So I think that as soon as we found out that we got a second season, I was ballsy as hell. I was like, “So does that mean I get to be a series regular? Is that what that means?” I was ready for a fight, but they were like, “Oh yes, of course!” [Laughs.] I was just very happy it worked out, and they let me know that they wanted to see different sides of her, too. So when they wrote that scene with my father in season two, I was like, “This is what I’m talking about.” That’s where that wisdom comes from, and I feel like you see that even more in season three.
AVC: It’s clear that Jasmine wants everyone to believe that she knows what she’s talking about when it comes to sex. She’s always the first one to talk about it, but then she admits this season that she hasn’t gotten very far at all. It’s the purest, most relatable thing.
JMG: I think it was already on their radar, but I told Laura and Eddie that people wouldn’t like Jasmine if she was really that aggressive. She’s talking out of her ass and watches a lot of porn. She has no idea what she’s actually saying. And that’s what I thought made her so endearing. I never bought that this 15-year-old who is taking care of her dad was bringing guys into her house all the time. That’s just not who she is. I was happy that we talked about that because she’s still a kid. Kids talk a big game when they’re insecure and scared of judgment.
AVC: One of the best scenes of the season is when Jasmine takes Ruby out of Monse’s mother’s funeral after he says some really dark stuff and explains how he still needs to be careful about triggering others even while dealing with his own trauma. She’s one of the few people who can be totally honest with him outside of the core four. How would you describe Jasmine and Ruby’s friendship from platonic to where they are at the end of season three?
JMG: I think it’s really realistic when it comes to showing how relationships are so fluid and always changing. You can be in love one second and in the next minute can’t stand the person, especially as a teenager when your emotions are all over the place. I think for Jasmine, Ruby is her end-all, be-all—like, she would tattoo his name tomorrow—but she also cares enough about him to know that she might not be it for him. She sees his steps before he even takes them. So for her, I think she’s just giving him enough rope to figure out what to do. She’s wise enough to know that if she monopolizes him at this moment it’s going to be more for her and not for them or him, especially when he kind of shows his feelings for her before the timing is right.
AVC: Do you feel as confident as Jasmine while you’re filming?
JMG: I have to tell you, when we’re shooting, that is not my mentality. When it’s done, I’m like, “Was that okay? Did I do what you want to do? I could probably do it funnier. I could do it again in Latin.” I never feel comfortable with anything. I’m such a perfectionist. I can be my worst critic in the world. I thought that it would go away as you continue to work, but it doesn’t.
AVC: Has this show brought up any insecurities for you, professionally?
JMG: Yes, absolutely—the fact that I don’t speak Spanish fluently and I’m supposed to be like, “Yeah, I can represent an entire culture.” It’s not easy! It’s funny because the show that I’m trying to write for myself is also about that, about being first generation and feeling stuck between two cultures and neither one fully accepts you. It shouldn’t necessarily feel like you’re less of either, you know? So it has opened that up because I’m meeting incredible fans that have these stories and they might not speak English and though I can understand all of it, when I go to speak I’m like, This is going to come out wrong and I don’t know how to conjugate a sentence correctly. And then you see that light leave their face when you’re not connecting to them and you’re like, Nooo! But then I have so many people that I meet who are like, “Oh my God, I know exactly what that’s like.” So I’m just trying to tell my truth.
AVC: Can we take a moment to talk about Jasmine and Ruby’s dance competition scene in season two?
JMG: With my Ariana [Grande] ponytail?
AVC: That moment when you’re holding your hair up at the end to flaunt the length is the most resonant part. It’s such a power move.
JMG: Thank you! I fought for that. Really, nobody knew what the hell that was. I was like, “Are you serious? Do you know any kids at all?” [Laughs] Seriously, they made me look good, and Jason [Ganeo] was great. If you really look at that scene, I am a white as a ghost and I’m about to pass the hell out. We had done it so many times. There were so many lights and so many people are just staring. And I am not a dancer, but they keep pretending I am. Jason and I choreographed the dance scene in the first season in front of Julio [Macias] and Brett [Gray], who were watching and critiquing us, trying to come up with this dance for the next day. The show didn’t want to get a choreographer because they didn’t want it to look professionally choreographed. This time they got us a choreographer and it still didn’t help me. I’m just so thankful for our editors because they made us look great.
AVC: How did you feel about the two-year time jump at the end of the season?
JMG: They waited until, like, a week before we shot it to give us the last episode. You’re just so uncertain because you don’t know if you’re going to get another season and I certainly don’t want to end on that note. At the same time, is that realistic as hell? Yeah. Kids grow up. there are friends that I had forever you either move or have different classes and you don’t see them as much. I know you grow out of people, but to see such a beautiful point in time when they’re all friends and know that that’s not happening? That’s just so upsetting. So I’m hoping it’s not the end.
AVC: If On My Block were to get a fourth season, what Jasmine-centric stories would you like to see?
JMG: I would like to find what she wants to do for the rest of her life. I feel like she’s a planner and I would love to see her move out of the Explorer program because I don’t feel like that’s something long-term for her. I can see her being either a senator or a Latina Wendy Williams. She’s at least one of those women, if not both of them combined.