Keyla Monterroso Mejia Represents the Future of Comedy

Complex caught up with Mejia ahead of 'Freeridge'’s release, and she talked all about her journey, representing Latinas and what she hopes for the future.

Keyla Monterroso Mejia Freeridge Interview

Image via Netflix

Keyla Monterroso Mejia Freeridge Interview

After getting calls to work with comedy greats like Larry David and Quinta Brunson, it was only a matter of time before Netflix came knocking on Keyla Monterroso Mejia’s door. 

While David represents the comedic legends of Hollywood and Brunson represents the now, Mejia is the future. After a scene-stealing breakout role in Season 11 of Curb Your Enthusiasm as aspiring actress Maria Sofia Estrada, Mejia also made an appearance on Brunson’s Abbott Elementary Season 2 as a teacher’s aide named Ashley Garcia. Both of the roles were larger-than-life characters who lean so much into physical, over-the-top comedy that is both overwhelming yet incredibly entertaining—all while effortlessly matching the seasoned talent around her on both hit shows. 

Mejia, who is first generation-American of Guatemalan and Mexican descent, is a star, even if she doesn’t realize it yet. When speaking to her ahead of the release of her new Netflix teen-comedy Freeridge, Mejia seems humbled and surprised about her sudden burst of success and is filled with gratitude about the way comedy has become a vessel for her to achieve her dreams of being an actress. Being funny wasn’t something she thought she could be at first, but by chance, she auditioned for a role in The 90 Day Plan before realizing that it required “good comedic timing.” Mejia might not have auditioned if she saw the clause ahead of time, but she ended up landing the part and it unleashed a whole new side of her talent that has become the launching pad for her career. 

“If somebody had told me, ‘Write down your dream career,’ it wouldn’t even have crossed my mind. I would’ve never written down Curb or Abbott or even Freeridge,” Mejia tells Complex. “Truthfully, it’s just so much more than I thought was possible for myself. These opportunities are so much more than what I ever thought I would be able to do.” 

Freeridge is a spin-off of Netflix’s On My Block, which was a show about four friends from South Central Los Angeles. The series ran for four seasons and it was lauded for its diverse cast. Mejia appeared in one episode of the show and says its stars like Jessica Marie Garcia showed her that there was a space for people who looked like her on TV. Mejia plays the lead Gloria on Freeridge. She is the firstborn daughter who assumes the responsibility of taking care of her little sister Ines (Bryana Salaz), their dad, and their home after their mother passes away. Unlike her previous zany characters, Mejia got to navigate more emotional depth and feelings with Gloria as she deals with love, taking care of her family, and navigating her complicated life and friendships. 

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Freeridge is, of course, still a comedy, but it also makes clear that Mejia can play more than just a funny side character—it is proof that she can be the lead on any show. Complex caught up with Mejia to chat about Freeridge, which is now streaming on Netflix, and all about her journey, representing Latinas and why she is trusting the universe to guide her career this year.

Keyla Moterroso Mejia Interview
Keyla Monterroso Mejia Interview
Keyla Monterroso Mejia Interview

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It’s really special for a show like Freeridge to be about a Latino family, but it’s not at the center of the show. They’re just regular people, regular Americans, just living their lives. Was that something you noticed about the show?

Yeah, 100%. I love that the problems that we deal with didn’t have to do with what we look like or being immigrants or anything like that. It had to do with things that people deal with all the time, unfortunately, which is cancer. That’s something that I think everyone can relate to, no matter their ethnicity or even what my friends deal with in their sexuality. That’s not just conformed to one group of people, but it’s things that everyone can relate to. When they did show representation, it was done very tastefully, like with el Dia de los Muertos. I thought that was beautiful the way that they introduced my mom and what that meant because it wasn’t focused on Dia de los Muertos, even though it was. It was more on my relationship with my sister and how we deal with this day, or my relationship with my mom at this memorial, but it wasn’t like, “Oh, I’m Mexican.”

Do you feel like that also makes it relatable, not just for young Latinos, but also for a wider audience?

Yeah, because I think sometimes it sneaks up on you because you’re just watching this family and then they throw in a line in Spanish or they’re celebrating this holiday that other people might not know, but it’s not thrown in your face. You’re watching a show that you like and that you can relate to and they happen to be Latinx. That’s really cool and that’s really interesting. I like watching TV that way as well, learning without intentionally doing it or having it thrown in my face.

There are also certain things that show you that there are also Latinx writers in the writer’s room. When you read certain things like that in the script, how does that make you feel?

It feels really good. I’m not going to lie. Also, I had the freedom not only within the situations I was given but also in the things I say. I said “Callate, Ines” and that wasn’t in the script. I thought, “Can I just say this instead?” They were like, “Yeah, go ahead. That’s fine.” It was honest to the moment. It didn’t feel forceful. It didn’t feel like I had to say a word in Spanish or something, because I speak fluent Spanish and my sister doesn’t, but it works out.

I speak better Spanish than my little brother, because my little brother had me growing up to speak English with, whereas I didn’t have him for the first couple of years. It’s so special when it’s done in a very tasteful way. When I get to read it, I feel so lucky. I get excited as an actor, so I’m like, “Oh my God, I get to say these words or I get to show this.” I’m like, “This is awesome.” It’s really cool, I think, when you throw those tidbits in there and you get to see them. It’s really fun.

What are some goals and things that you have on your vision board that you want to accomplish going forward in your career?

I will be completely honest. This year, I think I’m taking a different approach. I think I’m letting life happen to me. All the opportunities that I have had, truthfully I didn’t think would ever happen to me. I didn’t ever think I would be so lucky enough to be on Curb and Abbott and now Freeridge, which is the spinoff of a show that I just loved. All these things, had you asked me to write them down and be like, “Write a list of your dream career,” I would’ve never been able to write these because I didn’t even think that there would be opportunities that I could do.

I feel so grateful and I’m afraid of being greedy. If I start asking the universe specific things, they’re going to be like, “Girl, relax. We’re doing a lot for you already.” But honestly, I’ve been so lucky with the things that I’ve already been able to do that I’m just taking them as they come and just working to be a better actress because when these opportunities come, I just want to be prepared for them. I’m allowing life to happen to me and not getting caught up in the specifics. I’m trying it out. If it doesn’t work, then I’m back to my vision board next year, girl.

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