As a member of the Latino Theater Co.’s predominantly Chicano players, Macias continued to explore this part of his culture, something he had not learned about growing up. Born in Mexico City, the now-31 year-old migrated to Los Angeles with his family in 1992, when he was 8. They moved right back to Mexico City a year after, but came back almost every summer to Los Angeles before finally settling in 1998, when his father successfully expanded his voiceover dubbing business to the U.S. Macias’ father’s industry made him acutely aware of his accent. “If you’re going to speak English, speak like this,” his father used to say. So he would have Macias watch Disney movies.
Although he was never bullied, Macias says there were many moments where he felt he didn’t quite fit into his new American life. Living as a pre-teen in the San Fernando Valley, a suburban neighborhood with moderate racial diversity, he was determined to learn how to talk like Blink-182, the “So-Cal bro-ey, surf dialect.” “In retrospect, I look at it and I’m like, wow, the community as a whole wasn’t diverse enough for me to feel comfortable easing into it,” Macias says. “It was very much, adapt or be an outsider.”
Macias’ upbringing differed significantly from the neighborhoods central to Latino gang life. Under Valenzuela’s tutelage, he sought to learn and deconstruct the fictional gang from “On My Block”: Los Santos. Although Oscar was originally intended for three episodes, the strength of Macias’ performance catapulted him into a leading role by Season 3.
As Macias learned more about his character’s cultural background, he learned more about his own identity. “I consider myself part of the Chicano culture,” Macias says. “I want to teach it, I want to be a part of it and hold it truthfully. And even though I’ve never necessarily felt like an outsider, I understand that people still see me as an outsider, so how can I bridge that gap?”