Keyla Monterroso Mejia at the premiere of

INTERVIEW: Keyla Monterroso Mejia Talks ‘Freeridge’ & Wanting to Work with Lin-Manuel Miranda

Keyla Monterroso Mejia at the premiere of "Freeridge" held at Tudum Theater on January 26, 2023 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Mark Von Holden/Variety via Getty Images)

When actress Keyla Monterroso Mejia heard that the Netflix series On My Block would not be returning after its fourth season, she had some feelings.

“I was obsessed with the show, so I was sad that it was ending,” Mejia, 24, told Remezcla during a recent interview. “I just thought there was so much left to do.”

A few weeks later, Mejia found out that although On My Block had run its course, Netflix was planning to produce a spin-off series centered on four new students from the same high school as the original cast of characters.

“I was so intrigued,” she said. “I was excited because it was going to be in the same universe [as On My Block]. I thought it was a really good move.”

The spin-off series Freeridge, which is the name of the high school in the On My Block universe, is a coming-of-age teen comedy that follows the adventures of Gloria (Mejia), Ines (Bryana Salaz), Cam (Tenzing Norgay Trainor) and Demi (Ciara Riley Wilson) after they accidentally unleash a curse from a mysterious box that one of them purchases at a yard sale.

ON MY BLOCK (L to R) Bryana Salaz, Keyla Monterroso Mejia, Ciara Riley Wilson, and Shiv Pai in episode 410 of ON MY BLOCK
Photo by Kevin Estrada/Netflix
Read more

The foursome actually made their first appearance during the series finale of On My Block in 2021. At the end of the episode, they are seen curiously looking over a wall at a high school party just like the original cast did in the first episode of On My Block’s debut season three years prior.

“That scene with our four little faces made me so emotional,” Mejia said. “People [online] started putting that scene side by side with the original scene [from On My Block], and I just started crying.”

Mejia said that when she auditioned for Freeridge, she saw the similarities it had with the original series right away. “As soon as I read [the sides], I fell in love with the show,” she said. “It was just so funny, clever and heartfelt, and it had the same essence of On My Block. I had faith that it was going to work.”

Other projects at the start of Mejia’s acting career have worked incredibly well, too. In the 11th season of Curb Your Enthusiasm, her breakout role as Maria Sofia Estrada, an aspiring actress with no talent, was side-splittingly hilarious. She followed that up with an equally impressive turn as Ashley Garcia, an enthusiastic albeit clueless teacher’s aide in the second season of Abbott Elementary. It’s an understatement to call both these roles scene-stealing performances. The compliment, Mejia said, is both “sweet” and “uncomfortable” this early in her career.

Keyla Monterroso Mejia in Abbott Elementary
Courtesy of ABC/Gilles Mingasson
Read more

“I’m just starting, so I’m like, ‘What’s going on?!’” she said. “It’s very surreal. I just wanted to make a living acting and never thought people would take to me like this. So, to not only be able to live my dream, but for it to get such a positive response is very crazy.”

For Mejia, it feels like yesterday when she was watching a documentary in high school on the making of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s stage production of In the Heights. It’s what she describes as a “pivotal moment” in her life that she said proved that “people who looked like me” could make it in the entertainment industry.

While Miranda’s stage production was a catalyst for Mejia to pursue acting as a career, she will have to wait for another one of his projects if she wants to work with the Oscar nominee. In the Heights isn’t on Broadway anymore and a film adaptation was already released in 2021. But if he calls, she’ll be ready – for anything.

“If he wants me to be a tree in the background, I will be a tree,” she said. “Whatever it is that he needs – 100 percent.”

Freeridge premieres on Netflix on February 2, 2023.