Manfred Baumann

Before signing onto to star in the new series Freeridge, Ciara Riley Wilson was already a huge fan of On My Block, the spinoff to the Netflix series, which premieres on Thursday, February 2, so getting the role was even sweeter for her.

“I watched it right when it came out, and I remember it being a huge hit. The show made such waves with teen representation, and it was so funny and dramatic at the same time. I actually auditioned a couple of times over my career for On My Block, like little sidekick characters,” the 21-year-old exclusively tells GRAZIA USA. “I auditioned quite a long time ago for Freeridge — in May of 2021 when they only had a rough idea of what the characters were going to be. I had no idea it would be an actual project. When I found about it was going to become a series, it was so exciting to film,” she says.

From there, the brunette beauty nabbed the role of Demi in Freeridge, which follows a group of friends who may have unleashed a deadly curse, resulting in them beginning a new adventure. The other up-and-coming Latinx actors include Keyla Monterroso Mejia (Gloria), Bryana Salaz (Ines) and Tenzing Norgay Trainor (Cam), who were all introduced at the final episode of the final season of On My Block, where they peaked over the neighbor’s fence while watching the party scene.

“They are all navigating the ups and downs of being teenagers, and it’s in the same town as On My Block, which is how it connects,” she notes of the plot. “We’ve all become really, really close friends. Even before we started filming, we made it a point to be like, ‘We’re going to go through this experience together. We need to know each other really well.’ We would go to brunch and hang out before we started filming. It’s so easy, and they’re the most special people. We’re always laughing nonstop. Our dynamic and chemistry offscreen is very similar to how we are onscreen.”

Manfred Baumann

Wilson reveals she and the three other main characters have such a strong and unique bond that they would come to set, even if they weren’t filming that day. “Not only do we have so much fun together, but we hang out on our off days — and on the weekends,” she gushes. “It felt like summer camp. We were also there for each other if anyone was going through something because it can be hard to be a young person in the industry. We always had each other’s backs and had a lot of powwows in our trailers just to make sure everyone was doing OK.”

Since the cast didn’t start filming immediately, Wilson got to research and understand who Demi really is: someone who loves spirituality, crystals and tarot cards. “It’s something I’ve incorporated into my life now. Also, getting into wardrobe helped me get into character. Demi has a specific and fun wardrobe that I love so much,” she notes.

Though there’s a curse happening in Freeridge, Wilson notes that the show still deals with relatable topics such as friendships and relationship problems. “I hope the original fans come over to Freeridge and love it. After On My Block, we have such big shoes to fill, but I think Freeridge does a good job of that. Of course, there’s Easter eggs for the original fans, too! Freeridge is funny and brash, but it also has surprising and heartfelt moments that are intertwined between the comedy, and I think that makes it even more special. The show also does a really good job of bisexual representation, which we don’t see a lot of in the teen space. I hope people resonate with that.”

Since Wilson is bisexual herself, she was over the moon that it was incorporated into the show somehow. “It’s huge,” she declares. “I love [the character] Cam, who is bisexual. It’s part of his life, but he’s not defined by it. It does come up in these hard conversations. When I first read it, I was like, ‘Wow.’ It’s cool to see a character who is open to both girls and guys and not stereotyped.”

Manfred Baumann

Over the years, Wilson, who started acting at a very young age and immediately fell in love with it, has made a name for herself in the industry by starring in Greys Anatomy, Quantum Leap and L.A.’s Finest alongside Gabrielle Union and Jessica Alba. “It’s surreal,” she says of how much she’s evolved. “I have to really look back and say, ‘Wow, I’ve come a long way.’ I have so much to be grateful for. I wish I could hug my younger self and be like, ‘You did it! Everything turns out the way you want it to.'”

However, she feels strongly about Freeridge. “I feel like it’s the first time I have played a character so similar to myself and I could pull from my own personality traits. I learned a lot about playing Demi, and it’s a fun show,” she shares. “The cast is so talented, and it was inspiring to be around them. I don’t think there is a week I go without seeing them. We hang out all of the time and plan a lot of trips together, especially around the big celebratory moments. We’ll be in Palm Springs to celebrate the show coming out!”

Manfred Baumann

Now that Wilson is in a sweet spot with her career, she hopes to show everyone that it’s important to be genuine and real. “That’s something I want to hold onto. If I can be authentic in interviews and stories that we’re showing on Freeridge, it means that I can show who I am and achieve my dreams by being myself. That’s the kind of impact I hope to leave,” she notes. “I had a breakthrough moment where I was like, ‘The show is coming out, and I am so proud of it.’ It’s always a journey.”

Freeridge is now streaming on Netflix.