Diego Tinoco on showing up for your dreams and inspiring the next generation

Shirt and pants ORTTU, shoes DUKE + DEXTER, necklace PYRRHA.

“When I was shooting [Knights of the Zodiac], I didn’t think of the impact that it [would have]. Once it was released, I started getting Instagram DMs and Twitter tweets from Latinos all around the world saying, ‘Man, I feel represented. I feel seen. Man, I grew up with that anime. It’s such an honor to have a Latino playing [a] character that was loved by all of South America [and] all of Mexico.’ Being Latino, it’s just a huge moment in my career, and it’s huge to be able to represent. I plan on doing more projects like that. I want to do more projects that are inspiring and uplifting [for] my culture, my people, and more than that, the youth of today. I really want to just put out the message that if you work hard, you can get what you want out of this life. We’re all born with certain cards in life, some better, some worse, but it’s what you do with those cards that can really either make or break the experience of being alive.”

Covering our Summer 2023 issue, Diego Tinoco, who stars as Nero in Knights of the Zodiac, discusses giving back to his community, inspiring the youth of today, and the importance of diverse representation on the big screen. Diego reflects on how his parents’ work ethic inspires him to pursue his dreams, and how he hopes to connect with the people who support him through projects like his new online acting course.

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I feel like this is the perfect question to start us off because it’s something everyone is wondering, and that is, if you could be a mythical creature that doesn’t exist yet, what would you be?

Oh, wow! That’s a really great question. I love that question. I’ve always loved vampires and werewolves. I would definitely want to be either a vampire or a werewolf, but you said if they don’t exist, and I think they exist — I think they’re out there in the world. Speaking of mythical creatures, I don’t know if you’ve ever seen Dragon Ball Z, but I’d be a Super Saiyan. I’m a big fan of ‘Dragon Ball Z’ so I would have to say that, since [obviously] vampires are real.

Oooo, an anime fan. The important question I have to follow up with is, what’s your favorite anime?

Without a doubt, Dragon Ball Z. I just did a live action adaptation movie of an anime series called Knights of the Zodiac, so I would have to say Knights of the Zodiac second. And then third, I’m really excited about the One Piece anime. My friend Mackenyu [is] on that [show, which is produced by] Netflix Studios. I’ve worked with [them] in the past, and they always create magnificent work, [so] I’m excited to check that out.

I knew Knights of the Zodiac was its own thing before that adaptation, but I didn’t know it was an anime. I will definitely have to check that out.

It was a manga, and then it turned into an anime series in the 80s, and then Netflix did a 3D anime version of it. They’re all really good, [with] great stuff [and a] great story.

Prior to Knights of the Zodiac, you played Cesar in On My Block, which is a total genre change as far as characters, TV shows, and movies go. Was there any difference in the way that you prepared for Nero compared to when you were preparing for Cesar?

There was a big difference, absolutely. The biggest difference, [which] you can’t really prepare for until you’re there, was the CGI. It was my first time with a green screen, so I didn’t know what to expect. As an actor in this industry, you hear a lot of horror stories about working with green screen, so I was expecting the worst, but honestly, I loved it. It felt like being a little kid using your imagination on a playground, and you have to imagine this grand epic battle. For me, the biggest difference [between] shooting On My Block and Knights of the Zodiac [was] working with CGI and green screen, but honestly, both bring so much joy to me. I love what I get to do, and it’s just such a blast.

I feel like with a green screen, if you’re not prepared, it’s a bit more difficult from an acting standpoint because there is no giant castle behind you or fiery warzone happening, so you’re going to have to make it all up in your mind, and hope you’re doing what you’re supposed to be doing.

You have to have a lot of trust in your director, and you have to be smart as an actor and ask the right questions. You have to ask the director, “Hey, director, where exactly is this monster coming from? Where exactly am I getting hit on my armor? Where exactly am I looking for that action?” If you’re an actor and you’re on set, and you don’t ask these questions, you’re going to come up on the big screen, and you’re going to look like your performance is all over the place. It’s not going to make sense, and the audience will be very confused, so you have to ask the right questions when you’re on a set. Half of the work as an actor [is] knowing what to ask so on the day you just plug it in.

That makes total sense, because if you don’t know, you can’t work with that.

Exactly. Ask the right questions, and you shall receive the right answers.

Most definitely. What was your favorite scene in Knights of the Zodiac

My favorite scene would definitely have to be the scene where Nero, my character, turns into the Phoenix Knight. It’s the first time where he showed the world who he really is, for better or worse. When I was shooting that, I didn’t think of the impact that it [would have]. Once it was released, I started getting Instagram DMs and Twitter tweets from Latinos all around the world saying, “Man, I feel represented. I feel seen. Man, I grew up with that anime. It’s such an honor to have a Latino playing [a] character that was loved by all of South America [and] all of Mexico.” Being Latino, it’s just a huge moment in my career, and it’s huge to be able to represent. I plan on doing more projects like that. I want to do more projects that are inspiring and uplifting [for] my culture, my people, and more than that, the youth of today. I really want to just put out the message that if you work hard, you can get what you want out of this life. We’re all born with certain cards in life, some better, some worse, but it’s what you do with those cards that can really either make or break the experience of being alive. I try to tell the kids of today that.


I feel like that’s always important to remember, because everyone is given different scenarios in life, and it’s very easy for people to just see the very bad — but if you really look at it, think about it, and evaluate it, you can turn all of those things into something that’s actually successful for you.

I love that. That’s a great mindset. Somebody commented on my TikTok the other day, “How are you always so happy? Man, I wish I could be [as] happy [as] you are,” and I wrote him an honest reply. I [said], “Hey, it might look like I’m happy all the time, but I have times when I’m very down.” The thing that I’ve learned is the [people] who can keep this uplifting, positive mindset are the people who we always want to be around. It’s like a superpower, and I see it in you. You have this bright smile. You have such a positive demeanor. Those are the people we want to conversate with. Those are the people who we want to talk to and go in depth [with] about subjects and conversations. Those are the people that we want to be around.

I definitely think that if you keep more positive people around you, it will eventually branch out into you, and you can also start being a positive person in other aspects of your life.  
You were talking about being Latino a bit earlier. You come from a very diverse background. You’re half Mexican and half Ecuadorian. Could you share more about your culture and your upbringing in general?

My mother is from Ecuador. My father is from Mexico. I was born in California, [in] SoCal. Growing up over here, like anyone, [there’s] lots of ups and downs. The thing that really stuck with me from my parents was [that] you have to create the world that you want to live in. [The world is] such a big place, and if you try to place your focus everywhere, you’ll get lost. You will get distracted. You won’t know where to go, who to follow, what’s right [or] what’s wrong. But if you take [those] simple principles, and you apply [them] to create your own little world — with your own dreams and your own goals — and you create your own path, you can have it. You can achieve it, and you can create it. You can build it more than anything. You won’t get it. 

I hate the [phrase], “I want it, I get it.” You don’t. You have to work for it and build it. That’s what I really learned from my father. My father came into this country with absolutely nothing. He was dirt poor [coming] into this country. I was born [after] my father had worked his way up and he had his own business. He had one of the biggest businesses in Southern California for pest control, [and] I really admire my father for that. [I] admire the empire that he built. [I admire] my mother for being the brains of that, because my mother was the one who was the brain behind that whole operation. I just really look up to my parents. I’m inspired by their work ethic, and in my own life, I want to create something at least half as good as what they’ve created. I’m on my way, and I want to keep going, [and also] treat them to some nice stuff down the road.

That’s amazing. I think you’re definitely on your way there. You’ve definitely made some big splashes in your career so far. Slowly but surely, you’re going to get there.

Exactly, slowly but surely. Another message I really love. Today, everyone wants the whole world, and they want it tomorrow, [but I think it’s important not to] destroy [your] mental health trying to take the whole world in one bite. It’s impossible. It can’t be done. You have to work on it slowly but surely every day [and] work diligently.

I feel like with any creative career, there’s the good, the bad, and the dirty. It’s always competitive, and it’s always really hard to get into. My friend and I are always talking about the struggles of it, but we’re both firm believers that the hard work and sleepless nights you put in now will pay off down the road with something beautiful. That’s why I always admire people who start doing freelance stuff right off the bat, because that’s hard to do, and you’re so dependent on other people liking what you do in order to get anywhere. Musicians tell me that they started out just putting their stuff on social media. I have a huge amount of respect for that. I call social media the “soul crushing, dream-smashing, creative-sucking entity” because you always have to feed it. There’s no break.

I have a love hate relationship with social media. For a long time, I was very insecure. I was a little shy. I didn’t understand how much I should engage with social media. I didn’t understand how serious I should take it. I didn’t understand how much [of myself I could show the world]. I’m twenty-five years old now. I’ve lived enough life to realize that life is very short. Life is very precious. You have to appreciate [what you have]. Every day above ground is a good day, and you can’t take life too [seriously] because it’s going to be over very soon. For me, that was one of the biggest realizations. I [started thinking], “What am I doing with [my] social media presence?” I want to connect with people. I want to give back to my fans [and] to the people who support me. I want to talk to them. I want to help them in any way I can, in the smallest ways — whether it’s a tax tip, whether it’s a health tip, whether it’s a career tip. I want to help people, because should the lights go out tomorrow, I want to know that I left it all on the table. 


I recently started an online acting course, at thediegotinoco.com. The number one question that I [kept] getting asked every single time I [met] a fan or somebody who’s seen the show [was] “How did you become an actor? I’ve always wanted to start, but I don’t know where to start. How did you do it?” I created a sixteen step online course [for] anybody and everybody who wants to become an actor, who is even curious about how to get started. I put it out there. It’s online at a super affordable price. Most acting courses are $200 to $800 a month. Sixteen classes, sixteen chapters for forty bucks. My team wanted to put it at $400, but I [said], “Guys, let’s do it for forty bucks.” I’m very excited [about] that. I want to start doing a lot more things to really connect with the people who have supported me, and I want to give back. Life is short. I just want to make the most of it. I want to have the most fun and work really hard to give back to the world.

Talking more about your acting course, what is something that you wish the industry taught you earlier on that you think would be valuable to teach to people going into acting right now?

That’s a great question. I go in depth about that [in] the course. [The course is about] four hours, [and it goes in depth] on every single little detail. The thing [I understand] now, being in this career since 2018, is [that] it’s literally the smallest increments and the smallest details you have to perfect that will make the biggest difference in your career — night and day. It’s the smallest things that we don’t focus on starting off as an actor that [make] or [break] your career essentially. I dive into all that. I talk about [it] all the time. I always tell the story [of] how literally right before my audition for On My Block, I had done 200 to 300 auditions, and I got told no time after time. The day I got the audition for On My Block, I remember thinking, “This is just another audition. They’re just going to tell me no. I don’t want to study. I want to go out with my friends. It’s Friday. I want to go out, hang out, be an eighteen-year-old, and just enjoy life for once.” But something told me, “Hey, sit down, study, read your lines, make your choices, [and] prepare for your audition.” Whether it makes a difference or not, you have to show up for your dream. If you don’t show up for your dream, your dream will not show up for you.

I stayed indoors. I didn’t go out. All my friends went out. They enjoyed the night. I saw it on Snapchat. I [kept thinking], “I wish I went.” I sat there, and I studied, and I fell asleep. I woke up the next day and showed up to my meeting. Just those simple exercises that I practiced [made the biggest difference]. I talk about [it] in the program. I sat there, I took in the material, and I showed up. [Within] two hours, my life essentially changed. Investing two hours of my time changed the entire trajectory of my life. It’s such a butterfly effect. The smallest things in life can make the biggest difference. That’s what I talk about in the program, the things that you need to absolutely focus on — and some other things, but you know, we keep those hush hush.

Going back to your family, how did they respond when you went into the entertainment industry, and how do you feel like they best supported you?

Starting off, my mother did not want me to be an actor. She said, “Diego, you’re crazy. Don’t do that, get a job [at] a bank.” She [also] wanted me to be a translator, [but] I [told her], “Mom, I can barely speak English or Spanish.” She didn’t want me to do it. My father, on the other hand, knew how much it meant to me. He wanted me to work for his pest control company, but I told him, “Dad, I’m eighteen years old. This is my dream. I have to go chase this.” He [looked] me in the eye, and he [said], “You know what, if that’s what you want, you go out there, and you go and chase that dream. You’re young. This is the time to chase big dreams. It’s the time to fall flat on your face, and if you fall flat on your face, you’ll be okay, you got time to recover.”

So I went out to Los Angeles [at] eighteen years old. I moved into these apartments that were not in the best area, and quite frankly, [they were] a little dangerous. My mother called me every night. She didn’t visit me much — she was a little scared of the apartments — but she’d always send me blessings and pray for me. My father [would] always motivate me anytime I had a bad audition or bad class. I was always in acting class. [He would say], “Diego, it’s okay, what’s for you is for you. It’s coming, it’s coming. What’s for you is for you. It’s coming.” And sure enough, it came. Being ready at the right time, right place, with the right mind. It’s all about being ready.

That’s amazing. It’s always nice to hear about parents who actually support their kids, even though there are a lot of doubts about a lot of things in this industry, which is fair. There’s a lot of uncertainty and no guarantee that everything’s gonna happen.


We were talking earlier about how you come from a very diverse background. I feel like we’re getting better about it, but we don’t always show how diverse cultures and ethnicities are in the world. Can you talk a little about the importance of representation to you in portrayals of characters?

Absolutely. Representation is a very important subject. It’s a very important thing in this industry of cinema movies. Movies and music are the two major sources of entertainment, sources of influence, [and] sources of inspiration. One of the most important things that we need to do in the world is to inspire the youth. We need to inspire children. We need to inspire kids, and we need to inspire them with correct messages, with powerful messages that are motivating, that will uplift them — that will help them be better people, better sons and daughters, and [just better] people in this world. If you’re a kid and you don’t [ever] see [anyone] who looks like you on a movie screen, and everybody’s completely different [from] you, how do you expect that child to feel seen, to feel heard, to feel connected to?

Growing up, I had a skin condition called vitiligo. [There was a] patch of skin all over my left arm. It’s not bad anymore, but it used to be really bad, especially when I was younger. I remember feeling like an outcast, like a little monster. I remember feeling alienated. Nobody ever put me on their team. Nobody ever wanted to get near me because they thought I was infectious. They thought that my skin condition [was] contagious, so they really avoided me at all costs. It wasn’t until I started watching a lot of Tim Burton films [that] I started seeing these monsters, and for some reason I connected with these people. I connected with these images and the story and these characters who felt like such outcasts. It was the first time in my life where I [thought] “Wow. I feel like I have a community of people.” It was the first time that I felt seen and connected to. 

Being able to connect comes in so many different ways. When you meet somebody who listens to the same music as you, you [think], “Oh, I connect with you, we watched the same movie, we read the same books, [we] listen to the same artist.” That’s one of the simplest ways that we can connect. Another way that’s very powerful is when you see somebody on the big screen who looks like you, somebody who came from the same cultural background as you. That’s when you really connect [and you’re] like, “Holy crap! This person from Mexico, with the Mexican father [and] the Ecuadorian mother, this person is a first-generation Latino in this country. This person’s on the big screen. This person is doing that movie. He’s the lead in this film. He’s in the freaking sky, flying and whooping butt!” That’s a very powerful message, and it’s a very important thing. It’s a very important subject. As I mentioned, I’m just trying to do the best projects to put [out] the best messages for the youth, for Latinos, and on top of that, just connect with them. Give them advice, talk to people.

I’m actually doing a meet and greet [on] June 17, and at these meet and greets, I talk to everybody. It’s not just [walking] in [and saying], “Hi! [Here’s a] selfie [and] signature.” I don’t do that. I don’t want to do that. I go there so I can meet the people who are around me, in my community, and who are really struggling with anything in their life. If they need advice, if I’m the candidate to help them, I’ll give them advice. I’ll tell them what to do, where to go, and if I’m not, I’ll tell them where to go or who to go to, who to listen to, because I think it’s important. It’s three hours of my day and costs me absolutely nothing, and I’m giving back to people who support me, so I want to keep doing that in my life.


I think that’s absolutely beautiful. I feel like a lot of times, there’s this separation of connection between viewer and actor, or viewer and musician. A lot of talent are portrayed as at a different level than you are, so it’s always nice when I hear stuff like what you said about your meet and greets where you make that connection, because I feel like that helps a lot for people, whether you understand it or not.

I absolutely think we’re all equal in this world, and if I could help anybody in any way, shape, or form, I’m going to. That’s what I really plan on doing for the next twenty years of my life, whether it’s films, whether it’s with teaching, whether it’s with other projects or other ventures. I want to connect with people. I want to give back. I want to help out in any way, shape, or form that I can, and I want to keep growing as an artist — as a human being. I want to keep growing. I want to keep going. And that’s all you can really do.

What is a talent you don’t currently have that fascinates you enough that you would want to learn it?

Definitely dancing. I need to learn how to dance. I one hundred percent need to learn salsa or something. I get auditions for these projects, and in the fine print, it’ll say must be a dancer. I’ll [tell Peter, my manager], “Hey, you know I can’t dance, dude,” and he’ll [say], “No, no, the director knows you suck at dancing,” and I’m like, “Gee, thanks.” I need to learn how to dance. [I] can’t be having a bad reputation for not being able to dance in Hollywood.

You’re Latino, you gotta learn how to salsa or something.

It’s in our blood, I just need someone to show me the first five moves, and I’ll be good from there.

We’re already in June, which blows my mind. This year has gone by so fast. In the remaining months of 2023, are there any other things you are excited about that you haven’t talked about, either professionally or personally?

Professionally and personally, both worlds collide. I’m very excited [about] a film [I’m in] called Bad Hombres coming out with Tyrese Gibson, and then I have another film called Muzzle alongside Aaron Eckhart. I’m excited for those two films to come out. I’m excited to launch this acting program and really give back to the community and people who have supported me, and teach them a little bit about what I do and how to do it, how to break into [the industry] with a clear and safe roadmap.

I’m just really excited to see what’s in store for me [in] these next chapters. I’m twenty-five years old. I feel sharper than I ever have. There [are so many] things that [I’ve] learned in this career. I’m really excited for my next project because I truly think I’ll be able to do the role justice. Any role that comes my way, I’ll be able to do it justice. I’ve been working with an acting coach lately, and really trying to not [necessarily] perfect my craft — because [perfect’s] not the right word — [but] sharpen it. Sharpen the blade. I love what I get to do for a living, and I’m excited to go back on set. I think I’m back on in August. I’m very excited. I love what I do, and I want to keep doing it.

Photography IRENE CHEN




Fashion Assistant OLIVIA MCPHERSON


Special thanks to IMPACT ARTISTS GROUP

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