Alexa and Carlos PenaVega Talk Picture Perfect Mysteries [Exclusive]
[Warning: General spoilers ahead.]
Alexa and Carlos PenaVega have become regular fixtures on the Hallmark networks in recent years, and the third installment of their charming Picture Perfect Mysteries franchise, Exit Stage Death, premieres Sunday on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries.
Exit Stage Death finds Allie once again in the thick of a murder scene when, while working as the photographer for a new play by celebrated murder mystery author/director Neil Khan (Willie Aames), she discovers the body of the show’s leading lady just as the curtain rises on opening night. Sam catches the case, which soon puts Allie in the killer’s crosshairs. Earlier this week, I spoke with the couple about the new film.
The PenaVegas not only star in the films, but are also executive producers, and were involved in the creation of the film series, which came about after Alexa passed on another project. “I was actually attached to do a different mystery project for Hallmark, but it was by myself and…we just felt like we really wanted to do one together. So I ended up reaching out to Hallmark, [and asked if I could] be released from this particular one [and instead] find one that fit [us],” she recalls.
“So we started coming up with different ideas. We all just got our brains together [with the team at Hallmark] and figured it out. And our director, Ron Oliver, who has been here for all three movies now, had such a cool concept in mind. So he took what we all came up with and just elevated it to another level because it has this neat old school kind of Pink Panther vibe.There are some funny moments, but there’s some exciting whodunnit moments. I think they just did a really good job at making it very stylized.”
One of the things the series has done with each subsequent installment is give each member of the ensemble cast a little more time, and Carlos says that was intentional. “We always knew that we wanted this to be an ensemble…that there needed to be more than just the two main characters. We went in from day one and said, ‘Let’s find the best people to create that Scooby Doo vibe,’” he explains.
“Everybody has their own job that they’re really good at. It’s fun to watch everyone. I think that we went in with that mindset. But we had no idea that the people who got hired would take it to the level that they did. The magic with my partner, Nick [Paul McGillion]…we have the most fun.”
“Being executive producers on this…it’s not like we’re just showing up and reading some lines and then going home and getting a paycheck. We’re super invested. We come to set every day with new ideas that we’re talking to the writers and the directors and Hallmark about. And we’ve really relayed that freedom to our other cast members, which really creates a fun environment for everyone to be creative.”
Erik Estrada appeared in the first two films, and the couple says his inclusion came together with a little universal nudging. “Timing is everything. Erik played my father on my television show back in the day and I had stayed in touch with him. Hallmark had been kind of fighting to get him to do a project. Erik sat next to [the Picture Perfect Mysteries producers] at a Hallmark dinner and they went back and forth on how great it would be and how he would just be such an awesome addition to these movies.”
“He jumped right in,” adds Alexa. “He’s been such a good guy. He literally reaches out to us all the time to check in on us, just so kind and fun. And his family is incredible. They actually came out here to Hawaii to visit us. And it was such a fun adventure. He is just so cool. We both just stayed in contact. And hopefully if we get to come back [for another film], he will be back.”
There’s a sweet moment in the film where Allie and Sam work on a painting project together, and Alexa says that’s a little nod to their history. “That happened in real life. We were just friends for a bit before we started dating,” she shares. “I guess we could technically call it a date, but we were still only friends. He came over to help me paint my wall. And it was almost paying homage to that moment.”
The couple have a unique professional history, too, with both working on wildly popular shows as adolescent actors, and they say that lends itself to having a wide range of fans. “[It varies] depending on where we are. We have very young people who are just now getting Spy Kids and Big Time Rush,” says Alexa.
“And then you have an older fan base that loves and watches Hallmark. But what I have noticed in the last couple of years, is that Hallmark is gaining a lot of the twenyusomething audience. I’m seeing a lot more people who are younger who are watching Hallmark and it’s super exciting. Whole families are watching together and [are] really fans of the network.”
The PenaVegas have been at home in Hawaii with their boys during the pandemic, sharing a window into their world on their Instagram feeds. Carlos has been at work on a podcast that will be launching soon, and says being home gave them a chance to pull together and be more introspective as a family. “It was fun for the first three months. We were like, ‘Dude, we’re all going to be super close,’” he laughs.
“At three months, [I was asking], ‘When can we get back to work? My kids are driving me nuts…’ And I think what it’s done is it’s really forced us to create a routine for the family, which I think is so important. And a lot of people nowadays, they kind of dismissed those old family values where people would come home for lunch or dinner, sit down as a family, and have these moments and truly gathered and asked, ‘How was your day? What did you do?’”
“Versus now [when] everything is so fast, ‘Go, go, go, get up, eat your food in the car before you get to your destination.’ I think it’s been a blessing to have to force ourselves to say, ‘Okay, we are here together.’ [It’s been an opportunity to] go back and correct things that we may have been doing, I don’t want to say wrong, but things that we could do better.”
Picture Perfect Mysteries: Exit Stage Death premieres Sunday at 9 pm/8c on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries. The first two films repeat that morning starting at 9 am ET. Here’s a sneak peek.
Photos and Videos Courtesy of Crown Media.
This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.
Catching Up with Ted Lasso and Previewing Season 2
[Warning: General spoilers ahead.] The not so dirty little secret about how I approach a new series is that I sometimes make a call based on the headspace I’m in at the time. It’s been a minute since I’ve picked up a show after the first season and then binge…
Interview: Henri Esteve on Grown-ish Season 3
An interview with Henri Esteve, who plays Javi on Freeform’s Grown-ish. He talks about his season three experience.
For All Mankind Season 2: Talking with Wrenn Schmidt, Krys Marshall, Jodi Balfour, and Sonya Walger [Exclusive]
[Warning: General spoilers ahead.] One of the hooks of For All Mankind is that it’s very much a story about the women of NASA. In Season 2, we explore the journeys of the women in the program, either through their own service or through their family affiliations. Four of those…
Rosy McEwen Talks The Alienist: Angel of Darkness Season Finale [Exclusive]
[Warning: Spoilers for the season finale episodes.] How’s everyone after that finale? I will freely admit I got a little misty in episode eight as John told Sara why he loved her, and later that he wanted her despite what he might forfeit, and then at the end when he…
Rosy McEwen Talks The Alienist: Angel of Darkness [Exclusive]
Hands down, one of the best surprises of The Alienist: Angel of Darkness is that the serial killer this season has been front and center alongside the cast as a fully-formed character. We’ve watched Libby Hatch devolve from a prim, mild-mannered nurse to a woman in a rage hell-bent on…
The Alienist: Angel of Darkness Relationship Recap: John and Sara
[Warning: Spoilers for “Belly of the Beast” and “Memento Mori”] If you’ve read me for a while (thank you!), you know two things — I lean way, way in on the characters I adore and I loathe love geometry arcs. So, I’m torn about where we are and where we…
Louriza Tronco Talks The Order Season 2 [Exclusive]
[Warning: Spoilers ahead for Season 2.] The Order’s second season is dark yet delightful entertainment on many levels, and one of its biggest sources of joy and snark is the sassy Gabrielle Dupres. Last season, she was assertive and deadly and fairly annoyed with the world. This season, she’s been…
Previewing Netflix’s Virgin River
[Warning: General spoilers ahead.] Full disclosure: I have a Netflix account for my Mom, but I’m not a regular viewer. If I get a heads up on something, I’ll go look for it, but I don’t have a wander across its offerings, which, as I understand it, is how most…
Final Thoughts From the Killjoys Team [Exclusive]
This is the day of the week I’d normally hit you up with a Killjoys preview, but now that we’ve put the series to bed and released Team Awesome Force into the wild, I have one more treat for you–some final thoughts excerpted from my conversations with the Killjoys folks….
Michelle Lovretta Talks Wrapping Up Killjoys [Exclusive]
[Warning: Spoilers for the series finale.] To quote Miss Jackson, “That’s the end?” Yes, friends, it is. And like I promised you, everything would be, was, and is alright. I went to the Killjoys source, series creator Michelle Lovretta, who wrote the last episode, to break down that delicious finale….
What They Said: Three Revealing Conversations from Survivor’s Remorse “Closure”
WARNING: Spoilers for Survivor’s Remorse “Closure” The latest episode of Starz’s Survivor’s Remorse featured conversations that showed characters really digging deep into their thoughts, emotions and motivations.
Two Takes: The Catch “The Knock-Off”
Who can you trust? If this episode of The Catch was any indication, the answer is just about nobody. Betrayal was running rampant as Felicity (Shivani Ghai) arose from the dead to seduce-con Margot, Gretchen (Maria Thayer, Gotham, The Mindy Project) played gold-hearted Alice 2.0 before swindling Ethan, Tessa jumped…
What They Said: Top 3 Quotable Moments from Preacher “El Valero”
Both Quincannon and Jesse refuse to give up on what they each think is rightfully theirs. While Jesse is struggling to face the consequences of his actions, Quincannon has laid his past demons to rest and is hellbent on moving forward and putting Annville on the map again. Despite a…
What They Said: Favorite Quotes from Supergirl “Worlds Finest”
Oh, Supergirl. That ending was cold. But I can’t hate on you because the latest episode has quickly become one of my favorites.
What They Said: Top 4 Quotable Moments from Black Sails “XXIII”
The dialogue in “XXIII” is phenomenal. It’s always a fun ride when Black Sails carries its viewers along without giving them the chance to catch their breath. When an episode moves at this unforgiving pace, there is no chance for a breather nor is there a respite from the information…
What Lucifer Said: Favorite quotes from Supernatural “O Brother, Where Art Thou?”
Supernatural episodes are almost always funny but thanks to the dialogue and a certain man speaking said dialogue, I laughed a lot during “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” You know, when I wasn’t busy fearing for Sam’s life or wondering what in the world was going on with Dean and…
What They Said: The Flash, “Legends Of Today” and Arrow, “Legends Of Yesterday”
Two nights of Arrow +Â The Flash = what more could we ask for?! I don’t know what it is about blending these shows, but I canâ€™t help but feel that every time they come together, they somehow become greater than the sum of their parts. And thatâ€™s saying a lot…
What they Said: Top 4 Quotable Moments from Graceland “Little Bo Bleep”
Shoot outs. Fake outs. And long-awaited revelations. “Little Bo Bleep” was a jam-packed episode that wrapped up some loose ends and totally frayed others. Â It finally gave us one Sarkissian in jail and pulled back the curtain on Briggs’ master plan, but it also set up Jakes for a world…
What They Said: Favorite Quotes from Poldark “Part 4”
â€œWhat have I told you, I don’t require my wife to crochet and sip tea, but I do require her to remember she’s not a beast of burden.â€ No, Iâ€™m not talking about The Rolling Stones! I have to admit though, just for a second, the lyrics popped into my…
3 Moments of Goodness from Brooklyn Nine-Nine “Johnny and Dora”
The most satisfying part of this season’s finale has to the Jake and Amy kiss. Well, they kiss three times but the last one is the best one — and it means something. The Charles and Rosa dynamic was also great. I love how she’s convinced he doesn’t know anything…