Netflix’s new teen horror series Chambers may make you sleep with the lights on (lest you see the ghost of mean girl Becky), but it has more than just scares going for it. The series, from creator Leah Rachel, is a refreshing dose of representation. Its lead, Sivan Alyra Rose, is the first female Native American to star on the streaming service — and she’s just one example of Chambers’ inclusive casting. Jonny Rios, who plays soulful high school student Ravi on the Netflix show, was thrilled to find a program that had a role in mind for a Hispanic teen.
“My character is, like me, a first generation Hispanic kid, just trying to find his place at his school,” says Rios over the phone of his first television role. “What I love about Chambers [and my character] is that there are no stereotypes. Ravi is a super smart kid, someone that people can rely on. I loved that about him, and I was immediately attracted to that. There are people like Eva Longoria, Jennifer Lopez, people who are pioneers — with this project, one of the biggest things that I’m so proud of is the fact that I get to follow in those footsteps.”
As we see in the first episode of Chambers, Ravi is a popular guy — both with his girlfriend Marnie (Sarah Mezzanotte) and her deceased bestie Becky (Lilliya Reid). The tension between Ravi’s present relationship and not-so-distant past fling certainly provides juicy drama for the actor to play with. One particular moment, which comes halfway through the season, involves Ravi’s connection to Becky (and now Rose’s Sasha, who has Becky’s heart after an organ donation) coming to light.
“[The producers] wanted the actors to really feel things out in the moment,” says Rios of a big scene in which Ravi’s best friend Elliott (Nicholas Galitzine) confronts him over his relationship with his sister Becky. "When everything happens with Ravi [in that scene], it was an incredible challenge. This was one of those experiences where you had to be 100% in, and there was no backing out. I trusted the writing, I trusted the actors I was working across from — they gave me so much. The moment was just beautifully written, beautifully shot, the set was incredible. The experience was so open and comfortable, and everyone was so supportive."
That doesn’t mean working on the show didn’t come with its own challenges — or unsettling moments.
“New Mexico [where we filmed] is a very interesting area,” Rios explains. “It’s the first time I’ve ever been [out west.] We were out in the middle of the desert, where we shot a lot of our scenes on location in Albuquerque. The weather could be absolutely beautiful one minute, and a hailstorm the next, that’s cracking windshields. There were some spooky moments where it was like, ‘Oh, there’s something going on here.’”
“Being on set, there was one day when we were filming a horror scene, and all the lights shut off. The whole studio went black. We were like, ‘Wow, this is creepy.’ This is my first-ever gig [so] I tried not to pay attention to all of that, but stuff definitely happened. There were definitely moments where we’re like ‘Oh, this is weird.’"
Chambers has yet to be renewed for a season 2, but Rios is hoping to use his particular platform — and the potential rush of fans who want to follow their new Chambers crush on social media — for good.
“With social media it’s such a beautiful opportunity to spread my voice, and show that I’m just an everyday guy, and be able to break stereotypes and encourage others to break stereotypes,” says Rios, who shared he worked with the organization Primary Stages while in college. “With everything happening in the world, I think it’s most important to focus on the next generation. My experience in elementary education, and with me being involved in the arts now, I can hopefully inspire people to keep moving forward."
Chambers is streaming now on Netflix.