Keyla Monterroso Mejia Is Your Subsequent Favourite Humorous Lady

Minor spoilers for Freeridge forward.

Keyla Monterroso Mejia has rapidly developed a fame for taking part in, as she places it, “intense” characters, making her one among comedy’s newest secret weapons. After starting her profession in brief movies, together with because the charismatic lead of Ann Marie Pace’s “Growing Fangs,” Mejia landed her breakout function within the newest season of HBO’s Curb Your Enthusiasm, the place she dazzled audiences as Maria Sofia Estrada, a laughably horrible aspiring actress who goes toe-to-toe with Larry David and Ted Danson. Final fall, in ABC’s breakout mockumentary Abbott Elementary, she debuted as Ashley Garcia, the enthusiastic however simply distracted trainer’s support of Melissa Schemmenti (Lisa Ann Walter).

Following extra supporting turns in the dead of night teen comedy Boo, Bitch (reverse Lana Condor) and the function movie The Property (reverse Toni Collette and Anna Faris), the 24-year-old has stepped into her greatest function so far in Freeridge, a spin-off of the critically acclaimed teen dramedy On My Block. The brand new collection, which premiered Thursday on Netflix, follows sibling rivals Gloria (Mejia) and Ines (Bryana Salaz) and their associates Demi (Ciara Riley Wilson) and Cameron (Tenzing Norgay Trainor), who come into possession of a cursed field that brings darkish misfortune into their younger lives.

Under, Mejia displays on Gloria’s journey within the eight-episode first season, her greatest takeaways from engaged on Abbott, and the state of Latinx illustration in Hollywood.

Gloria looks like she’s all the time carrying the load of the world on her shoulders—whether or not that be assuming the unofficial function of matriarch in her family after the demise of her mom, or being the chief of her good friend group. How would you characterize her relationships with a very powerful folks in her life, and the place do you suppose her tendency to be a frontrunner may stem from?

I feel it simply comes from life and having to cope with the circumstances that she’s been given. Being first-gen and likewise the oldest daughter, I feel my mother and father are by no means actually like, “You’re accountable for this,” or “You must try this,” nevertheless it’s one thing that you simply simply tackle as a result of they’re coping with work or their very own lives. It’s only a on condition that, since you’re the oldest, you’re going to tackle these points and it’s a must to determine it out.

[Gloria] is simply this particular person that everybody goes to, and I feel when you could have lived this fashion for thus lengthy, different folks additionally are inclined to see you as that, and it’s not one thing that I feel Gloria means to do. She’s so used to assuming all of the duty that it simply feels pure to her, however I don’t suppose she’s acutely aware of it. So in episode 4, it’s good to see her be extra weak and say, “I’m actually drained, and this actually sucks. I simply gotta cope with it, however I’m harm, and it’s lots.” I used to be so grateful to the writers for giving Gloria that second as a result of I feel everyone knows folks like Gloria.

freeridge l to r keyla monterroso mejia as gloria, bryana salaz as ines in episode 102 of freeridge cr kevin estradanetflix © 2022

Mejia as Gloria and Bryana Salaz as Ines in Freeridge.


In that episode, Gloria tells the ghost of her mom, “I’m bored with being drained. I simply wanna be a child once more. A child for as soon as. I want you, Mother, and also you’re not right here.” What do you suppose Gloria learns from that much-needed religious dialog?

It’s straightforward to fall again into patterns, however I feel she possibly understands that, greater than she wish to admit, she does put this burden on herself as properly, and I feel she realizes that her sister is [actually] actually nice. And regardless of how she may get into bother typically, on the finish of the day, she’s only a nice particular person and [Gloria learns] to belief her. She’s like, “Rattling, I’ve been tremendous laborious on her.” I feel it’s an exquisite reminder, and at first she doesn’t need to hear it, and she or he’s like, “That’s not truthful. How am I unsuitable when I’ve to tackle these obligations?” However I actually suppose she realized she simply has to like her, and the remainder will type of determine itself out.

Additionally, earlier than this second, she doesn’t actually imagine within the curse. … However the curse leads her to imagine that her mother continues to be round and she or he nonetheless will get to see her, and there’s this second proper on the finish [of that scene] the place she appears on the grave and is like, “Issues will probably be alright. My mother is round me.”

Why do you suppose comedy is such an incredible automobile to debate heavier subjects, resembling loss and grief on Freeridge? What does comedy do in another way than some other style?

That was one factor that basically particularly caught out for me in Freeridge and that I didn’t understand in addition they did with On My Block till studying the scripts. They have been coping with actually severe points about gang violence and what it may well do and the way it can destroy lives. I bear in mind watching On My Block, and I used to be laughing one minute, after which right here comes the scene that I used to be like, “Oh, shoot. That is actual [life].” And the writers do it in such a manner the place these youngsters are having a very good time, after which it type of sneaks up on you, after which the gravity of what they’re taking up actually hits you within the face. Since you are laughing and having fun with what you’re watching, I feel it makes you understand [the issues] otherwise than possibly dramas do, as a result of with a drama, you type of know what you’re going to observe. I simply suppose the writers do such an incredible job to have the ability to showcase actually essential points in a manner that’s interesting to teenagers.

freeridge keyla monterroso mejia as gloria in episode 106 of freeridge cr kevin estradanetflix © 2022


There’s something significantly relatable in regards to the sibling relationship between Gloria and Ines, as a result of you’ll each do something for them however will anger one another extra rapidly than anyone else. How did you craft that relationship and set up that historical past with Bryana?

To be fully sincere, it was tremendous pure for the each of us. [Laughs.] She has an older sister; I’ve a youthful brother. … I perceive being the older sibling. So in that sense, the vitality that we got here in with was what our characters wanted as a result of we each knew what that felt like. … It’s attention-grabbing since you meet actors and also you simply have this chemistry with them which you can’t clarify, and I actually felt that with Bryana. She brings out a facet of me that’s a lot enjoyable as an actress to play with, but in addition she’s very open, and we’ve got this actually nice communication when doing these scenes. We do yell at one another; we are saying some actually imply issues to one another [as Gloria and Ines]. However I additionally suppose we share some actually candy moments, so having the ability to have her each step of the best way and talk with one another was such an enormous a part of it.

Gloria additionally falls for a good-looking classmate named Rusty (Michael Solomon), however she discovers within the finale that her tío (J.R. Villarreal) initially paid him to be her boyfriend. Though there may be some type of reconciliation, and Rusty says he stopped taking any cash when he began growing actual emotions for her, how does Gloria really feel about him by the tip of the season?

Oh my God, Rusty… [Sighs and laughs.] It was actually enjoyable to see how the issues that you’ve in widespread actually bond you with folks that you’d have by no means anticipated. … Gloria is somebody who doesn’t actually take the time to get to know folks exterior of her good friend group. She’s put within the state of affairs the place Rusty is at her residence and in shut proximity to her and the folks she loves, and she or he doesn’t have a selection.

By the tip of it, she learns that possibly individuals are not as horrible as they appear, and [it’s more important to] take somebody at their actions and never their phrases, as a result of I feel she’s used to having a very quick fuse with folks and writing them off instantly. And it’s good to have Mariluna [Peggy Blow] information her and be like, “Lady, look, folks’s actions truly communicate louder than phrases, and he’s carried out all these fantastic issues.” I feel that’s additionally an incredible life lesson: Don’t have a look at what folks say, have a look at what they do. … I feel [her attraction to Rusty] sneaks up on her in a very natural manner, and by the tip of it, they’re in love. [Laughs.]

In addition to the common want for human connection, why do you suppose Gloria and Mariluna are so drawn to one another? What did you get pleasure from most about leaning into the eccentricities of these two characters with Peggy?

At first, I used to be like, “Oh my God, Abuelita [the identical twin sister of Mariluna, also played by Peggy in On My Block].” However she’s such an outstanding actress that immediately, I used to be like, “Oh, that is Mariluna, lady. You’re coping with somebody fully completely different.” Peggy and I did have a number of conversations about how we needed to construct out this relationship, however I feel it’s lovely as a result of they each gravitate in the direction of one another as a result of there’s a necessity that the opposite one offers [for].

I feel Gloria is trying, in some sense, for a maternal determine, and I additionally suppose [Mariluna] has been alone for thus lengthy that she simply desires a good friend. So it was attention-grabbing to see the development from how actually awkward they’re at first to how ultimately, they actually look after one another. It’s additionally very attention-grabbing the way you see Gloria’s character come proper out, how as quickly as she feels snug with [Mariluna], she turns into overbearing and she or he’s like, “We now have to do that. Let’s do that!”

“It’s due to folks like John Leguizamo, America Ferrera, and Jessica Marie Garcia who’ve labored their asses off and fought for folks behind the scenes that now I’m capable of get a shot.”

Contemplating the best way this season ends, I hope that’s not the final we’ve seen of Mariluna!

Oh my God, so there’s this recurring [premonition] the place “one sister would be the downfall of the opposite.” The entire time, as Gloria did, I used to be pondering the identical factor. I used to be like, “Oh my God, it’s Ines and Gloria…” After I was on the desk learn, studying with everybody else, there was this verbal shock, like, “Oh!” [Gasps.] “Oh my God, they’re speaking about Mariluna and Abuelita.” I used to be freaking out—it was one of many craziest twists and simply horrible in one of the simplest ways.

You lately guest-starred within the second season of Abbott Elementary. What are some particular issues that you simply realized from working with the principle forged?

To begin with, they’re all powerhouses. I bear in mind I used to be so, so nervous with Janelle [James], and she or he was simply so reassuring and she or he was like, “Calm down, you bought this. Simply be current.” [I was struck by] how form and open she was to play with.

And with Lisa, I used to be being actually candid together with her and I used to be like, “I’m having some difficulties as a result of I feel it’s one factor to play extra of an intense character, however whenever you’re coping with youngsters and their training, it’s actually laborious to justify your [bad] conduct.” She gave me some actually fantastic recommendation that led to the understanding that for Ashley, she cherished play time when she was little. So it’s not that, when she grows up, she means to be disruptive, however she simply feels prefer it’s play time once more with the children, and she or he simply actually desires to dwell these recollections once more. [Lisa] was simply so instrumental in serving to me determine that out.

Quinta Brunson is a freaking badass and likewise the kindest particular person. Simply by and thru, I’ve a lot admiration for her and everybody at Abbott.

abc's "abbott elementary" season two

Mejia as Ashley with Lisa Ann Walter as Melissa in Abbott Elementary season 2.

Gilles Mingasson//Getty Photos

It’s been some time since we’ve seen Ashley wreak havoc on the present. Have we seen the final of Ashley this season?

I undoubtedly need to get again, however I don’t know… You’ll must maintain watching and see if we’ve seen the final of Ashley. [Laughs.]

A lot of the attraction of On My Block lied in its capability to humanize and symbolize folks from marginalized communities who’ve lengthy been ignored. Do you bear in mind the primary Latina who made you are feeling seen and represented in mainstream media?

Why I feel On My Block and getting Freeridge was simply so particular to me is due to Jessica Marie Garcia. I undoubtedly grew up understanding about America Ferrera and Ugly Betty, and the way she was a pioneer for girls of my dimension, my coloration, and my ethnicity, however I actually wasn’t capable of watch it because it was occurring. I type of realized about it.

We now have some actually unbelievable illustration, nevertheless it’s additionally a extra digestible model that Hollywood likes. So seeing Jessica Marie Garcia, for me, was an out-of-body expertise. It was fantastic as a result of I don’t suppose most individuals get the prospect to inform the individuals who made a distinction of their life [what they mean to them], and I used to be fortunate sufficient to let her understand how a lot she meant and did for me. It was the primary time that I noticed myself, in actual time, being represented by somebody, and I bear in mind assembly her and simply crying profusely, and she or he was so form to me.

However though we’ve got such a protracted method to go along with illustration, I additionally suppose we’ve made strides and since folks have fought for [people like] me. I’ve a really common face—that’s to not be self-deprecating, however I’m 5’1” on a very good day, I’m a plus-size lady, so I’m not what Hollywood actually gravitates towards. And it’s due to folks like John Leguizamo, America Ferrera, and Jessica Marie Garcia who’ve labored their asses off and fought for folks behind the scenes that now I’m capable of get a shot, and I’m so grateful to now be part of the motion that propels that ahead.

[With] Quinta Brunson, [I noticed] how she has illustration not solely on display however behind the digicam as properly, and I’m speaking all the best way from the highest to the underside. I had by no means seen a extra numerous set, and that was genuinely life-changing. I bear in mind feeling actually emotional about it, as a result of I’m so grateful to be an artist on this area and this time with these folks. I don’t are available in and really feel actually awkward or uncomfortable as a result of I’m the one particular person of coloration within the room. I get to be surrounded by people who find themselves so lovely in their very own proper.

This interview has been edited and condensed for size and readability.

Headshot of Max Gao

Max Gao is a contract leisure and sports activities journalist primarily based in Toronto. He has written for The New York Instances, Los Angeles Instances, NBC Information, Sports activities Illustrated, The Every day Beast, Harper’s Bazaar, ELLE, Males’s Well being, Teen Vogue and W Journal. Observe him on Twitter: @MaxJGao.


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