The day earlier than she began her new job, Keyla Monterosso Mejia “cried my eyes out.”
It’s not the response you would possibly anticipate from an actress touchdown her massive break — on this case, on HBO’s “Curb Your Enthusiasm.” But Mejia, 23, mentioned issues have been much more excessive when she first discovered she bought the gig.
“My heart sank to my ass!” she advised The Post. “It was the best, worst news ever. I don’t think I’ll ever be as scared before a project as I was the night before I started shooting ‘Curb.’ I was so full of doubts. I had nightmares that I would be on the set and they would fire me.”
Instead, Mejia, who had no skilled TV expertise, turned out to be the brightest mild of the show’s twelfth season: stealing scenes from stars Larry David and Cheryl Hines.
Even higher, she’s executed it by enjoying the world’s worst actress. Maria Sofia Estrada is a Mexican brief order cook dinner whose brother blackmails David into hiring her for a component — meant to be that of a slim Jewish ballerina — on a show he’s producing.
But Maria Sofia fancies herself an actress, and has the ego and temperament as well. She turns into David’s bête noire as she bumbles, brawls and typically breaks out into extremely awkward “sexy” dances.
“Marques Rey, who plays my dad, was incredible,” Mejia mentioned. “He just said this line to Larry, ‘You know, my daughter can dance.’ He came up with the idea and all I had to do was execute it.”
The first-generation American daughter of immigrants from Guatemala and Mexico, Mejia mentioned she “had nothing on my resume but two short films,” however that was sufficient for a casting agent to find her. “They were really taking a chance on me.”
She ended up being in six episodes when she was initially employed for only one. Now the actress is getting a raft of presents, and has simply wrapped a nationwide business and booked a brand new film with main stars that she will be able to’t reveal but. She’s additionally a part of the solid of the upcoming Netflix collection “Freeridge.”
The bubbly Mejia spoke to The Post on Zoom from the similar modest bed room in Chino Hills, Calif., the place she additionally auditioned just about for David and “Curb” producers. She lives there along with her mom and youthful brother.
Her mother and father, Juan Carlos and Chely, each barbers, don’t converse a lot English. They nonetheless don’t have any concept who Larry David is, Mejia mentioned.
“But they gave me all the support in the world,” she mentioned, “even when they didn’t really understand what I wanted to do or why I wanted to do it.”
All she has in frequent with Maria Sofia, Mejia defined, is that she is aware of what it’s like to essentially unhealthy at one thing. In addition to her mother and father, a lot of her aunts, uncles and cousins are barbers.
Her household anticipated she’d be one too, and tried to coach her when she was an adolescent.
“I was the worst barber ever,” Mejia mentioned. “I apologize to anyone whose hair I cut. I was so nervous. I’d start sweating when I had to cut hair.”
She dreamed of being an actor however by no means advised anybody till a pal talked about a performing arts highschool in close by Pomona. Mejia, then 15, talked her mother and father into letting her apply, and she or he bought in. She stayed via her junior yr then switched to a homeschool program.
She mentioned that a few of her largest inspiration got here from watching the 2017 documentary, “In the Heights: Chasing Broadway Dreams,” that chronicled the life tales of Lin-Manuel Miranda and the solid of his musical.
“I wanted to be an actress but it seemed like a faraway dream,” she mentioned. “Then I watched that documentary. It gave me such motivation. I can’t sing or dance but it made me feel there is a place for me in acting — a place for people who look like me. And it might be tough but it’s not impossible.”
Her father, after working 12 hours in the barbershop, would drive Mejia to her appearing coach, Gloria Garayua, in LA and again a number of evenings every week. She was so scared the first time they went that she was afraid to go in, regardless that she’d set the complete factor up herself.
“My dad and I had an argument outside [Garayua’s] place,” Mejia mentioned. “I said, ‘No, I can’t go up to the door, I’m too scared.’ So my dad said, ‘We didn’t come here for nothing. I’ll do it.’ He knocked on this lady’s door and said, ‘This is my daughter. She wants to be an actress. Can you help her?’”
Her dad, Mejia mentioned, is happy with her however fell asleep whereas watching her first episode of “Curb” as a result of he didn’t actually perceive it.
The actress herself had by no means heard of the show earlier than her tryout, though she was vaguely conscious of “Seinfeld,” which Larry David famously co-created and wrote.
“We don’t have cable so I watched a lot of ‘Curb’ on YouTube clips” when she bought the audition, she mentioned. “Then I bummed a friend’s HBO account to watch the rest.”
She virtually misplaced it when she discovered actors on the collection are anticipated to improvise.
At her improv class at the performing arts highschool, Mejia mentioned, “I’d just sit in the corner, paralyzed. I told myself, ‘I never want to feel this way again.’”
After highschool, she determined to sort out the downside head-on by signing up for lessons at the The Groundlings, the famed improv and sketch theater and faculty.
“I sucked again,” she mentioned. “I just said, ‘Never again. I can’t do this.’”
So when “my agent said I was going to do improv [in an audition] with Larry David himself, I swear to you, my heart went to my ass again.”
When the massive day arrived, Mejia bought on Zoom in her bed room and noticed David, the director, two producers, the casting director, the casting affiliate and a casting assistant all gazing her from the different facet of the display screen.
Mejia mentioned she had deliberate the character as kind of “quiet and weird and soft.”
But to her shock, David “bought aggressive and imply and grumpy and began attacking me. At one level he mentioned he was going to pull me out by my fingers.
“I just felt, you’re not going to talk to Maria Sofia like that,” she mentioned. “And my character was born in that moment. I shoved my hands at the screen at Larry and said, ‘Try it bitch!’”
Everyone laughed, and she or he was advised she bought the half the subsequent day.
During filming, her improv principally went effectively — aside from when she by chance scratched Hines in a faked catfight and drew blood.
Mejia calls her expertise on “Curb” a “fairy tale,” however admits she doesn’t keep in mind a whole lot of it.
“I think my brain thinks it’s a bad memory and blocked it out because I had such nerves,” she mentioned. “But you have no idea how grateful I am.”