Why ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’ Star Keyla Monterroso Mejia Was Shooting for the Moon With Maria Sofia’s Return

“Bigger, always go bigger,” the breakout actor tells TheWrap of advice she got ahead of Season 12

Keyla Monterroso Mejia
Keyla Monterroso Mejia in "Curb Your Enthusiasm" Season 12

Note: The following story contains spoilers from the “Curb Your Enthusiasm” Season 12 premiere.

It’s rare for “Curb Your Enthusiasm” to revisit a side character once their main season has ended. But in the HBO staple’s final season, the series makes room for one final nod to Keyla Monterroso Mejia’s delightfully bizarre Maria Sofia Estrada.

Mejia told TheWrap it was “crazy” to be back after the end of last season. “The overwhelming response that I received, I felt really grateful,” she said.

Maria Sofia was a thorn in Larry’s (Larry David) side all throughout Season 11 of the comedy. After a man drowned in his unfenced pool, Larry found himself blackmailed by Marcos (Marques Ray). As long as Larry agreed to cast Marcos’ daughter in his new show, the restaurant owner promised to not press charges for his brother’s death. The only problem was that Maria Sofia was one of the most inconsistent actors ever brought to screen.

In true “Curb” fashion, Season 12 doesn’t start with the world agreeing with Larry’s assessment that Maria Sofia is a bad actress. Instead, it starts with her becoming the breakout star of “Young Larry” complete with magazine covers, late night appearances and a tiny emotional support Corgi.

“It’s fun to be the same crazy, weird person but in a completely different situation, which I think is a dream situation to her,” Mejia said. “I think she loves being famous and rich and important.”

Though Maria Sofia was an annoyance to Larry last season, his main feud took place with her father, Marcos. That’s not the case when it comes to Season 12’s premiere, an episode that pits the gregarious and fun-loving starlet against the curmudgeonly Larry.

Larry David and Keyla Monterroso Mejia
Larry David and Keyla Monterroso Mejia in “Curb Your Enthusiasm” Season 12 (HBO).

Mejia said that working more closely with David in these scenes was “nerve-racking” but also “really fun.”

“It’s crazy to watch someone who’s — I feel like legend is such a funny word to say — but to watch [David] in action and see how he responds or see the things he comes up with. It’s like a master class. It’s crazy seeing it happen right in front of your eyes,” Mejia said.

As for her own time on the show, director and executive producer Jeff Schaffer’s main note for Mejia was always “bigger.”

“It was like, ‘Bigger, bigger, bigger, always go bigger. We can bring you down, but it’s really hard for us to get you to go bigger,’” Mejia recalled. It’s this encouragement that helped Mejia embrace one of Maria Sofia’s signature qualities, her endless dancing.

Originally, Maria Sofia’s love of dance wasn’t part of the script. Instead Mejia called the detail a “gift” from her scene partner and in-show father, Marques Ray. During her first or second day of shooting, Ray made an offhand comment that his daughter also danced while he was trying to sell Larry on Maria Sofia. That’s when Mejia knew she had to “commit” to the bit. The dancing became the final piece she needed to understand “where this character lives.” But it didn’t come without a cost.

“What is so sad is I’m trying in that scene,” Mejia said, laughing. “I’m not a great dancer, I know. But that was me trying my best. Immediately, when everyone started laughing out loud, I was like, ‘I’m happy that you’re laughing, but oh my god.’”

Between her time on “Curb” and as Melissa’s (Lisa Ann Walter) incompetent teacher’s aid in “Abbott Elementary,” Mejia has made a name for herself portraying characters that simply rub people the wrong way. The actor noted that these characters don’t mirror who she really is.

Keyla Monterroso Mejia
Keyla Monterroso Mejia in “Curb Your Enthusiasm” Season 12 (HBO).

“I don’t think anybody in the real life necessarily reacts that way, or there are very few and far in between. Maybe they even react the way that I wish I could react sometimes,” Mejia said. But she enjoys portraying these larger-than-life figures and taking up space.

“I’m like, ‘Yeah, I’m going to be who I am. I’m going to be loud. This is me, and I’m going to do whatever I feel,” Mejia continued. “Every intrusive thought wins.”

As fun as it may have been to play Maria Sofia, above all else Mejia is grateful for the opportunity to be part of such a storied piece of television history.

“They’ve been together for years, this is a very tight knit group,” Mejia said. “Even in the season before this, they took me in and they were so kind to me, and they showed me such great hospitality. I feel really grateful to be a small part of what this show is and the legacy that it has.”


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