Chambers is coming to Netflix on Friday, April 26, 2019. It's part coming of age story, part family drama, and part horror, so as usual, everyone in your family (who is of age) will find something to like about it.
Chambers focuses on a young woman named Sasha (Sivan Alyra Rose) who has her life upended when she suffers a near-fatal heart attack while still in high school.
Jonny Rios plays Ravi, a young man to whom Sasha finds herself mysteriously drawn to in ways she cannot fully understand. Rios was excellent in the role, his first, and shared some of his time with us to chat about the experience.
He's quite impressive and has a lovely attitude, so I hope you enjoy reading through parts of our conversation.
What can you tell me about your reaction when you first read the Chambers script?
Yeah, when I first got the script for Chambers, it was towards the end of pilot season. We were going through a few months of receiving a bunch of scripts and auditions and stuff like that.
Once I received this script, when I read the part, I immediately called my mother and I told her, I said, "This is my part." I felt like this was my part. It just felt like this script was just speaking to me.
The way that Leah Rachel, who's the creator of the show, and Travis Jackson, who's one of the producers and writers, and the many other writers, the way that they wrote the script, it's like the lines came off the page. They popped out of the page.
I immediately felt that when I was reading it. Also just how real these characters are. She's not writing stereotypes. She's not writing characters that fit any particular stereotype or mold. She's writing very complex, very real people.
I think you guys are going to be able to see that when you watch it. That's definitely what I felt when I was reading it and when I was doing it.
Can you tell us a little bit about Ravi, your character?
Yeah. Ravi Jerome, he's a first generation Hispanic kid. He goes to Crystal Valley High School. He's one of the few people of color at that school. He comes from a very hardworking family. He's very enthusiastic. He's very charismatic. Very smart kid.
But I think at the core of all that, he just wants everyone to be happy. He's such a big-hearted individual that is doing his absolute best to keep everyone protected and keep everyone happy. Yeah. We'll see if he's able to accomplish that.
He has a rather unique relationship with Sasha. How would you describe it?
I think at the core of it, there's definitely a reaction there that I can't go too deep into, but you'll sort of pick on as the season comes out, as you're watching the season. Sasha is from the "other side of the tracks." She goes to Cottonwood, which is a school over in the other side of town.
Ravi is easily going to be one of the kids that is going to be thought as that guy that is in the underprivileged area of town. So I think that the class status is one of the things that is an immediate "Oh, there's someone that is a minority like me" from the perspective of Ravi and Sasha.
But also there's just that energy. There's that sort of energy that Ravi and Sasha share with each other that goes beyond words. They just have that sort of connection that, they know they are compatible for each other.
How do you relate to Ravi in personality and through his position in the story?
Incredibly. That was another reason why when I read this, I was like, "This is my part." I know that sounds very egocentric and very cocky, but it just felt like-
Not at all.
I felt like I could honor this character to my best ability. Yeah, I'm Puerto Rican and Cuban, and my parents are very hardworking class family.
Growing up, I had to experience growing up in low poverty in the projects, and then also my dad and my mother working extremely hard to provide for us. We were able to move to a nicer neighborhood.
I think that the complexities of what Ravi feels as being one of the few people of color in this very rich school, I've felt personally, kinda going to these schools, being like, "I don't really fit in here."
Then when you see someone that looks like you, you run after them and you immediately gravitate towards them. I think what that leads Ravi to do, and what that led me as well when I was in school, was I didn't want anyone to feel alone.
I threw the biggest parties in high school, and Ravi's throwing the biggest parties in high school. I was getting involved and all these sports and music and all these other different things, and dancing, and Ravi's a musician as well. Ravi plays the guitar.
Yeah, and there's always going to be that one person that, no matter what, you're going to really fall in love with. I think that's how Ravi feels about Elliott. I think Ravi is absolutely 100% in love with Elliott as his best friend, and just wants to protect him and just wants to have his back in any way that he can.
Who did you most enjoy working with on set?
Honestly, and this is not a cop-out, I enjoyed working with everybody. Everybody came from completely different backgrounds. It was so beautiful.
I took a step back after the whole process and I was like, "Oh, the reason why I enjoyed everybody was because I was in these particular situations as well." We were all shared life experience, and we all related to each other one way and another. We were all just real people.
We were kind of picked out and plopped in the middle of Albuquerque and kind of like, "Okay." None of us had superstar status or anything like that. Even Uma Thurman and Tony, who are legends, but I think are just in their prime ... Uma Thurman and Tony.
There is not a nicer person I've ever met in my life, someone nicer than Tony Goldwyn. He is the nicest, most caring, lovable guy I've ever met in my life. This is my first film project, so I would go in, and when I saw him, I was like, "Oh, this is Tony Goldwyn."
I went to introduce myself, and he made me feel like he was a fan. That's how incredible he was. Uma Thurman, she's just incredible. She's so talented. I got to do a lot of my scenes with Sivan, who plays Sasha in the show, and Nick. Yeah, I very much enjoyed everybody.
In particular, working with Sivan felt just very real and natural. I remember one of our scenes, us walking away and just looking at each other, then we kind of hugged each other, then we were like, "This is fun. We're really doing this. This is great." Yeah. It was great.
It was an all-around incredible experience.
So this was your first on-film role?
Yep. My first on-film role. My first professional role.
How exciting is that?
Yeah, I know. What a job, right? Uma Thurman, Tony Goldwyn, Netflix, Leah Rachel, Alfonso Gomez-Rejon, who is the director and the executive producer, and Stephen Gaghan, who is an Oscar winner, who's producer.
Then just a bunch of real, organic, early 20s, just kind of being in the middle of Albuquerque and just doing it for six months. It was incredible.
And now you're part of the Netflix family, which is obviously a very good thing.
Yeah, exactly. It's not a bad company to be a part of, you know? It's definitely not a bad one.
To get with Netflix, it's like ... Netflix, what they've been doing, and what they are doing even more as I continue watching it, is they are really pushing the mold of what media, what entertainment is. They're pushing it towards what it should be.
I think with this show, they have so many other shows as well on Netflix that are tackling these issues, but in particular with this show, us working on it ... This is literally a bunch of people playing these characters who are essentially these characters.
Griffin Powell-Arcand, who is from Canada and who is Native American. Marcus LaVoi, who plays an ex-Marine and an ex-cop. Marcus in real life was in the Marines for eight years and served a few tours, and he was also a cop in San Diego and then became an actor. He's an incredible actor. Steals the show. He plays Big Frank on the show.
I got to interview him, too. Great guy.
Yes. Yeah. Great, great guy. How he is on camera, it's exactly how he is in real life. You would see him ... He's big with tattoos. I was walking down in New York City with him a few days ago actually, and he would get some looks and stuff like that.
But really when you know Marcus, Marcus is the guy ... I call him Panda, 'cause he's just a big, big, lovable panda. He just wants everybody to feel loved, but he also wants everyone to feel very protected. So he was like the big brother of us on set.
I can't imagine being in your place and having this show that ... I hope other critics have said how much they enjoyed it. But I think it's going to be a huge hit. And there you are, your first role, with a very pivotal role on the show.
Yeah. Thank you so much. I really appreciate that. Of course, I hope it does incredible numbers and such. But I also hope that, at the core of it, it's exactly what we expected it to be and what we worked towards, which is people seeing other people that they can relate to and that they can understand.
And that they can realize that what Leah Rachel, the creator of the show, and all these other writers were able to create, and the whole crew and everybody working tirelessly on set, 16-hour days then coming back the next day.
We just wanted to create a story that people can watch, people can binge, yes. But people will sit back, and they would almost have to pause it during the episode and soak in that moment.
I think that that's the beauty of Netflix, and I think that's the beauty of what Netflix was able to push with this project, is those moments where you almost have to press pause and just soak that moment in. And laugh and cry and whatever you need to do, but really soak in those moments.
Hopefully this is one of those projects that will have that reaction. I think so.
I know you're also a trained EMT. I'm wondering, are you ever hopeful that you may get a role that can combine your two lives?
Yeah. Yeah. I would love that. Before I even got into acting, and actually what led me into becoming an actor, was Paul Walker. Rest in peace. He was one of my biggest influences just in life, and I loved ... Most of my teenage years, I grew up in Florida.
So I grew up towards the water, and I would always watch Fast and the Furious and all these other things. But I started tracking his personal life and what he was involved in. He has this beautiful company called ROWW, Reach Out Worldwide, R-O-W-W.
He actually got his EMT certification, and I believe his paramedic, before he passed away. His brother is now running the company. But what they do is they travel around the world, essentially, and they help deal with any natural disasters that go on.
So when I was watching him, I was like, "Oh, that'll be cool." I'd get my EMT certification. I'd move forward and keep growing as a fireman, work for the fire department. Then I'd sign up for his not-for-profit and travel around with him and his team and just shape lives.
Then as I was doing that, I decided to take an acting class as an easy A, to be honest with you. I was just like, "Oh, I just want an easy A so my GPA stays up." Then I fell in love. I remember after the first class, we were doing the exercise, and I walked away.
Then I waited for everyone to leave, and I walked right back in as my professor was cleaning up. I went up to him and I said, "Hey, look, this is what I wanna do. This is the first time I've ever experienced this. This is it. I really wanna give it my 100%." He said, "Okay. If you're serious, come to my office and I'll give you a few books and stuff like that on Wednesday," I think it was, or something like that.
So I went back, and sure enough, he gave me a bunch of books that I still have now. Shoutout Greg Jones. He's amazing. And yeah, that's just how it was. Then what I realized was like, "Oh, I'm in love with acting now."
I've always been someone, based off of how my parents raised me and just who I am, is someone that always wants to find a way to give back with what I love to do. I said, "Okay, I got my EMT certification. I'm an actor now. Hopefully I'll have some success in the future and I'll be able to kind of have some sort of platform to encourage others to help, and to be able to participate in these organizations."
Like the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation, which is another incredible foundation about environmental awareness, and Teach for America, which is you go to underprivileged areas and low-income areas and you teach students, or you help rebuild the education program, and ROWW, of course, which was what we were talking about.
But yeah. So now hopefully this show, it keeps going. Hopefully my career continues to move forward, I guess, hopefully. Who knows. Then I'll be able to really push forward and really help out in any way that I can, and I'll be able to meet Leonardo DiCaprio and meet Paul Walker's brother.
First thing I'll say to them is, "It's great to meet you. What do you need? What do you need from me? What can I do?" I hope that comes sooner than later, but that's definitely been the plan since the beginning.
It can't be any more beautiful, could it?
Yeah. Who knows, you know? We'll see what life throws my way. But it's absolutely been my goal, and I'm sticking to it. I'm a person that always sticks to my goals. Definitely one of the biggest parts of my goal is being able to use that platform and move forward.
Oh, so far so good, I think.
Yeah, I think so. Think so.
My last question for you is, what are your expectations once the show drops? Do you think anything will change?
My weekends? My weekends are going to look like the same as I've been doing. I'm sticking to my guns, focusing on the work, focusing on staying true to myself. Yeah, just finding other ways to use and do what I wanna do on a larger scale.
I wanna be able to start getting involved and organizations at a higher level. Yes. That's honestly the only thing that's going to change, is everything that I've been doing as far as involving myself in not-for-profits and giving, hopefully will be done at an even larger scale.
And hopefully encouraging others to do the same, and kind of creating that beautiful cycle of life, you know?
Carissa Pavlica is the managing editor and a staff writer and critic for TV Fanatic. She's a member of the Critic's Choice Association, enjoys mentoring writers, conversing with cats, and passionately discussing the nuances of television and film with anyone who will listen. Follow her on Twitter and email her here at TV Fanatic.