In this world of egocentricity, materialism, and unparalleled careerism, it is rare to find people who are genuinely kind and are willing to go out of their way to put others first. And in the vast sea of Hollywood, that breed is nearly extinct. Young people who can act as positive role models are almost as difficult to find as the proverbial needle in a haystack. However, permit me to introduce one such person who not only “talks the talk,” but “walks the walk”–Alexa Penavega. Some viewers may remember her from her Spy Kids days, but she is grown up now and still pursuing a career in the dog-eat-dog world of entertainment. Not only that, but she and her husband have determined to stay true to their faith-based values in all areas of their lives. Recently, I had the opportunity to sit down and chat with Alexa, and our discussion encompassed a wide range of issues, including her recent and past works and her views on living as a person of faith in today’s society.
RH: I only made the Spy Kids connection today when I was getting ready to interview you.
AP: It’s so funny because it was so long ago. I have friends who have kids, and now their kids are watching it. It’s so hilarious to see it go from generation to generation.
My daughter was a huge fan of the films. She saw every one of them multiple times, and she loved them. So when I said I was interviewing you, she was really excited.
How cute is that? It’s so funny because parents will come up to me. Sometimes they’re very, very nice, but other times they are like, “Oh my gosh, I see you every day at my house.” And I’m like, “I’m sorry.”
Of course, you got started as a young person in acting. So what was it that inspired you to become an actress?
I started when I was four. I guess I was just one of those little “hams.” I was already a little entertainer when I was younger. We’re from Florida, but we were in California. My mom used to be a model, and she was on a shoot. And her friend kind of snuck me into an audition, and I got the job. It was for a Burt Reynolds series called Evening Shade. That was a two-year job. It wasn’t just like a quick little job. It’s been such a blessing. I’ve been able to work ever since. And I truly think this is what I was meant to do.
Was the transition from child actress to adult actress a difficult transition?
Let me see. I don’t think I had the horror stories that you sometimes hear from kids in the industry. They say, “I didn’t know what to do,” or just seem lost sometimes. But I think in general, when you’re going through that age, it’s just so awkward anyway. But I was really fortunate to continue to work, and thankfully I made a lot of wonderful–you could say friends–but really the people in the industry made you feel more like family throughout the years. And we all were able to work together again and again to where I never really felt like I hit that time like–oh, here’s that awkward phase. I never really felt too awkward about it. It all felt really natural. Things happened kind of at their own pace, so it felt right.
I hear about some of these transitions, and it’s really heart-breaking because some people go through such a rocky and rough time. And it’s sad because it doesn’t have to be that way for everyone, and it’s unfortunate when that does happen. But I was very, very thankful to have had a pretty easy transition.
I’m grateful to the fans because I’m usually running a hundred different directions at once, and then they ask these great questions. I had forgotten that you and your husband were on Dancing With the Stars.
Oh, that was such an incredible experience. I will say it was difficult though. Super, super difficult.
And you got voted off before your husband, correct?
I did. You know, it was interesting because you work so hard. Everybody works so hard, and you never want to see anybody go home. But, boy, did they milk it when it was just us two against each other. (laughs) They sure milked it.
But it was great that he was still so supportive.
Well, of course. I don’t know what they were expecting because when you’re married, your partner is first in your life and vice versa. I don’t know why people expected us to be so competitive with one another. It seems like such a silly concept. But it also made us realize that when you look at what’s on TV nowadays and what actually represents a solid marriage, they don’t really have anything out there. So we just wanted to be a big light to promote a good, healthy marriage that doesn’t have to be competitive. You can still enjoy each other and be on a competition together. But have fun and it not be pitting against each other.
Today I got a chance to see Ms. Matched.
Oh, wonderful! You’ve seen it before I have! I know everything has been last-minute because they have pumped this thing out so quickly, but I had an opportunity to work with really lovely people. I’m thankful they were able to get it all together.
Well, I truly enjoyed the film.
Oh, thank you.
And honestly, it was such a joy to watch your character. And I’m not just saying that because I’m talking to you. I loved what you brought to her. There was something charismatic that drew me to your character.
Wow. Thank you so much. I really appreciate that. When you have an awesome team–I always say a good set starts from the top–and we had a wonderful producer–Beth Grossbard. An amazing director, Mark [Jean] who was really just so positive all the time. When you have someone so uplifting and reassuring, it just makes for a smooth sail.
I noticed that the chemistry between you and your costar [Shawn Roberts] was so authentic–
Yes, it really was. I’m always watching for that, and most of the time in Hallmark films, it is. But it was nice to see that. It seemed so authentic and easy.
I’m so glad because you never know when you’re shooting it. You work hard, but you never know what it’s going to turn into so that’s really good to hear.
And it was a fun story. Most Hallmark stories have a formula, but they changed it up a little bit with this one. It was entertaining and fun to watch.
Thank you so much.
And it seemed like you really enjoyed it as well.
It was so much fun. I just can’t believe how quickly they got it out there. It really is impressive.
Were there any moments that stood out during the filming of Ms. Matched?
One thing we always laughed about was the lead actor, Shawn Roberts, who played Ben. He’s this muscle guy. He cares about fitness and his body so much, and it’s hilarious–we teased him about it all the time. He was a very clean eater. He didn’t eat any junk food. He was constantly in the gym. And there were some scenes where we had to taste-test wedding cake together. And normally, you can spit your cake out, and it’s totally fine. But the director didn’t cut. So one of the funniest moments was watching him continue the scene and realize that the director’s not going to cut, and he’s going to keep going. So him just staring at me with these wide eyes and having to swallow the cake and look like he was enjoying it. It was one of the funniest moments ’cause I just knew that in his mind he’s like, “This isn’t healthy. I can’t be eating this. ” We just teased him so much. (laughs)
Was this your first Hallmark film?
No–you know, even Hallmark kept saying this was my first Hallmark film. I’m like, “Wait a minute, no!” A couple years ago, I did a Hallmark movie called The Hunters. And then when I was twelve, I did a Hallmark Hall of Fame film with Campbell Scott and Kim Williams Paisley, and that one was called Follow the Stars Home.
Now, this is really cool, and I wanted to read this to you. One fan left a really neat comment. “Alexa has been a role model for my four daughters since her Spy Kids days. We recently watched her and her husband on Dancing With the Stars, and we were so impressed with how she and Carlos have been able to hold tight to their faith and values even as celebrities. What advice could she give to teenage girls who look up to her in doing the same for themselves as they get ready to enter a world where faith and values aren’t always appreciated and supported?”
Wow. Well, firstly, that’s a beautiful thing to write, and I thank her very much. You know, for my husband and I, we both met at Bible study, so truly our faith is our foundation. And I’m very fortunate to have my husband ’cause if there’s ever a time where we’re not always going to be happy all the time, there’s things that definitely test us in life, and he has truly helped remind me that God has your back. You don’t ever have to worry or stress. And having that kind of partner for me has been super helpful.
But for someone who is a teenager going into adulthood and off on their own when it’s so true that faith and values are not something that are important any more–which is so sad–you just have to remember that it’s going to be so much more meaningful to everyone around you when you can be that light for people. And it’s not always going to be easy. It’s something that is going to test you. It’ll be difficult at times, but truly you just have to know that if you want to be a world-changer, something as simple as taking the time to smile at somebody–you know, just today, my husband and I were out at lunch, and he opened the door for a woman, and she looked at him, and he smiled at her, and she said nothing. She did not smile. She just walked right past him. You know, we walked away and he goes, “It’s just so strange to me that people don’t even smile anymore.” So something as simple as a smile can change somebody’s day. So regardless of what you get in return, remember the importance of staying true to who you are. Because it’s easy to follow the crowd. It’s hard to be the leader. I hope that made any sense.
Yes, that is excellent advice. And it made perfect sense. Until the fan questions started coming in, I didn’t know you were a Christian. So that was an exciting moment for me.
Aww, thank you so much.
When I find an actor who is truly a Christian and not just in–
Not just talkin’!
Exactly! And that’s so neat.
You know what? I will say though there was definitely a period in my life–I was raised in a home that had Christian values, but we never really went to church. The Christian values were taught, and I think that’s why I ended up going to it later on in my life. But we never went to church, so when I was sixteen, I started thinking, “You know what? I want to start going to church. I want to seek this out more.” So I would drive myself to church and to Bible study, but it wasn’t something I was completely committed to. I knew I loved Jesus, and I knew I had faith, but I didn’t truly understand. It was very surface. And I hadn’t really had the chance to dive in and go, “Okay, what is this all really about?” And it wasn’t until about four years ago that I started diving in, and that’s when I met my husband. And we were both kind of on that journey together. And once you do that, your life completely changes. And I think the one thing you can tell obviously from a career standpoint are the types of roles I’m willing to take now as opposed to what I was taking then. Even your friends–so many things change. And I think it’s scary for people because they’re afraid they’re missing out on so much or like, “Oh my gosh, I don’t want to give up all these things.” But when you realize what you’re missing, by kind of living this other lifestyle, there’s nothing more fulfilling than making that decision to fully commit. And that’s been exciting.
It’s tough enough to be a Christian in the world, but–
(laughs) –in this industry, it’s a little crazy. But it’s interesting some of the comments I get sometimes. There are so many people who are like, “Are you only going to do Christian movies now?” And I’m like, “Well, for me, that doesn’t make sense.” Absolutely, I love faith-based films. The idea is I want to reach people who are not Christians who would never go see a faith-based film. And there are so many films out there that I truly do love and TV shows that I love that aren’t necessarily Christian, but they have great values, and they tell an amazing story. Or I love characters that have redeeming qualities that may not start off so great, but really turn around at the end. My husband and I said that what we want to do is to take our faith and make worldly content, but with the morals and values of what Christianity is about.
Would you and your husband consider doing a film together?
Oh my gosh, yes, we would absolutely. I mean, we’ve done one together before called Spare Parts. I think it was so exciting for people to watch that because we were engaged during that movie, and we had not yet been married. It was so fun. We played boyfriend and girlfriend in the film. It was so sweet. And it truly was a great movie. It’s kind of like an underdog story. Ideally, if we could do every project together, we would. And we know that’s not how this industry works. For us, if we could do a show, like an I Love Lucy or Everybody Loves Raymond, that would be ideal. We would love that.
In addition to Ms. Matched, do you have any other upcoming works you can mention?
At first, this just started off as something fun and silly, but my husband and I started vlogging. And I’d never really done vlogs before, but apparently they’re really huge on YouTube. And we kind of did it for fun, but when we realized what was out there, again, it was the same thing that happened with Dancing With the Stars. We realized there were no real, true, young, positive role models for young people who are married who believe in a wholesome marriage who kind of want to be a light. And we realized, gosh, everyone has this distorted image of what marriage and relationships are supposed to be because of what they see on TV or even what they see from the Kardashians–even though everyone knows they are silly and not quite real. But it still gives you a distorted view of what relationships are about. So we just decided we’re going to start vlogging. And the response has been incredible. We literally just video ourselves being goofy and silly, but truly people have been loving it. And they’re like, “We just love that you guys are normal. We don’t get to see normal people.” I don’t think anybody’s normal. I think we’re all weird. (laughs) We are weird. But that’s what they like. There aren’t filters to what we’re doing. We’ll be honest about the conversations that we have, and we’ll post it.
After speaking with Alexa, I have to say that both of us truly seemed to connect on a spiritual level (which is so exciting when that happens). I learned so much about my “sister in Christ,” and it was a joy to discover that the woman I had just seen on Ms. Matched was the same woman I was spending time chatting with. She is blessed with boundless energy, a vivacious personality, and one of the most benevolent hearts I’ve ever seen. She truly cares about reaching a world of people who are negative, jaded, and filled with despair. She and her husband Carlos seek to bring a message to all that positivity is possible and accessible if you remain true to your convictions and who you genuinely are. Be certain that you tune into the Hallmark channel tonight (June 4) to see the premiere of Ms. Matched, as it will be a story that will delight everyone in your family!
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