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Interviews

Alexa and Carlos PenaVega Talk Picture Perfect Mysteries [Exclusive] 

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.

Picture Perfect Mysteries Exit Stage Death

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.”

Picture Perfect Mysteries Exit Stage Death

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.”

Picture Perfect Mysteries Exit Stage Death

“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.”

Picture Perfect Mysteries Exit Stage Death

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.”

Picture Perfect Mysteries Exit Stage Death

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

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.

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