Alexa and Carlos PenaVega are one of the most famous couples in the world. From the moment they met, they've spent their relationship in the limelight, and if you thought that might make them jaded, you'd be entirely wrong.
We had the pleasure of talking with the PenaVegas about their upcoming Hallmark Movies & Mysteries movie, Picture Perfect Mysteries: Newlywed & Dead. This movie kicks off a new signature mystery for the network, and the PenaVegas couldn't be more excited.
The couple is warm, and their laughter is plentiful. Get the scoop about how the mystery series evolved, what they think of their characters, and how they're preparing to make their son, Ocean, a big brother very soon!
Congratulations on doing pretty much everything in the world right now.
Alexa: Thank you, thank you. We're just currently waiting it out to give birth, so-
Oh my gosh!
Alexa: We'll see you when this kid comes out.
Oh wow, congratulations on that too.
Alexa: Thank you!
Carlos: Maybe it will be the day that Picture Perfect airs. I mean probably not but, hey, you never know.
Oh, but wouldn't that be picture perfect?
Carlos: That would be picture perfect also for Father's Day. would be a great gift for a father.
Alexa: Really? No more sweets for daddy.
Carlos: We're just being silly over here dreaming about this kid coming out early. It's not going to happen.
I can't even imagine. I mean, you must be over the moon.
Alexa: We are; we are.
What can you tell my readers about Picture Perfect Mysteries: Newlywed and Dead?
Carlos: It's the best. It's the best signature mystery series that Hallmark has ever produced.
Alexa: Okay, Carlos. [they laugh]
Carlos: I may be biased because you know we did produce it, and we're in it, you know and stuff like that, but I do believe we created something really special.
When Hallmark came to us and said, “Hey, let's do some sort of mystery thing,” like immediately Alexa and I... our minds just like went crazy. How do we make this different?
And our number one thing was like the music needs to be its own character, and I think we've really hit the nail on the head. It really feels like an old-school mystery, you know like the ones from the '90s.
Alexa: Pink Panther. No, no. Like, old school Pink Panther kind of vibe.
Carlos: So '80s.
Oh yeah, yeah.
Alexa: It just has this old school mystery feel.
I liked the music. It was very unique; It's not something that has been in any other Hallmark type of movie.
Alexa: Right, and that's kind of what we were going for. We just wanted it to have its own style. And I really feel like that stands out.
And how did you choose that particular type of music, and who's responsible for the music?
Carlos: So you know what, we got blessed with an incredible director, Mr. Ron Oliver. We've been trying to work with him for a while but he's just so busy. He's so popular.
Alexa: Everybody loves Ron.
Carlos: But it is totally warranted because he is, he's an amazing genius. He came into the project, and you know, the Director... we've had directors who come in and just direct and leave, but Ron came in and said we need to...
Alexa: Create a world.
Carlos: Yeah, make a world out of this, and right away Alexa and I are like "Finally, yes, we have somebody who is invested in us." And after our first meeting with him, he said, "I have a phrase for us. Let's put the fun back in murder." And we were just laughing. We were like that sounds...
Alexa: What a creepy thing to say.
Carlos: What a creepy thing to say. But he was like, "No, I want to make this like a whodunit, but a fun one that just feels good." And then we started talking about you know, I always had this dream to have '70s or '80s music in it, but what if we did something like this?
It just started evolving from his genius. I mean, he literally took hold of this and said, "We're going to make it not just your average film." And I give all the credit to him.
And how did the movie come about and with you two starring in it? Is this something that you had been thinking about, did Hallmark approach you directly, and how involved were you with forming your characters? Was there any input in that area?
Alexa: No this was kind of like a long time coming project. I was approached a couple of years ago about doing a mystery project, and I ended up deciding to pass on that one, to find something that would be for both me and Carlos.
We decided that the best thing to do with Hallmark and with us was to start from scratch. Let's develop something. Like, what is it that we really wanted to make? And we thought that witty banter back and forth, characters that maybe don't necessarily get along right away.
People are so used to seeing us falling in love and the characters liking each other. What if these characters are total opposites, and they don't like each other?
In fact, they get really annoyed with one another? So from there it just started all developing together. Hallmark went through a couple of different writers to get the tone exactly right, and I really think that we nailed it on the spot.
Carlos: I mean, to 100% honest, we tried. We tried to get this thing to shoot in Hawaii. We kept saying, "Hallmark, just imagine the backdrop of a mystery in Hawaii." And they're just like "No not going to happen." But, you know what? Never say never. Maybe Sam and Allie...
Alexa: Have to go to the Valley for some reason.
Carlos: To solve a mystery.
Alexa: You never know.
Carlos: They're the crime-solving duo of the world, you know.
You guys are hilarious. I think you must have so much fun in your life.
Alexa: You know what? We really do.
Carlos: We try to make it fun.
Alexa: We enjoy.
So your characters, okay one is a detective, there always has to be a detective in these mysteries. And Alexa, your character is a photographer. Have you always wanted to do photography, or how did that happen, and what do you two both think about those career choices?
Alexa: It's funny because Carlos is actually such a good photographer in real life. He just is so naturally gifted with all of that, whereas you have me who is just challenged with technology. So, I'm not great at it.
Sure I might have a little bit of an eye, but I definitely had to do a little bit of research just to know how do the pros even hold the camera. I was holding the camera all weird when I first started. So, I got it, I got a whole bunch of tips and pointers.
But I actually think that I'm very very different than my character, and I think Carlos is as well. But that's why we have so much fun playing these characters because they really are such departures from who we are in real life.
And Allie is, oh man, she's so put together, and you see her outfits which are just super cool and trendy, and she's got this really funky, unique style and color palette.
Even looking at her home, the way she's designed it and put it all together, she's just one of those girls that you aspire to be. That just perfect Pinterest, awesome, awesome lady; and then you have Detective Sam who my husband loves to play.
Carlos: I am super excited to actually be playing a police officer for the first time in my life. They gave me a gun and a badge and a police car that I got to drive around. It was honestly a dream come true.
Ron pulled me aside like a week into the filming and was like, "Hey I want to talk to you about something."
He goes, "I love what you're doing." I'm like, "Thank you so much." He goes, "You also love what you're doing." I was like "Yes, I love this stuff; it's so fun!" And it's so funny because you know, normally I'm the goofy guy always bouncing off the walls and making funny comments, and Sam's so by the book, so just...
Carlos: So serious all the time, and kind of awkward because he doesn't know how to be free. You know, I was kind of nervous at first that I wasn't going to be the funny guy, but after getting into it, and every day putting on those suits; I loved it.
And you know, I think as the series continues, his character, because of Allie, will start to blossom a little.
Alexa: It's a very mature role.
Carlos: Absolutely. Absolutely.
You both have very successful careers outside of your marriage, but this is yet another opportunity, you've done it before, to build on something and grow it successfully on Hallmark. How much are you looking forward to exploring these characters as kind of an offshoot of yourselves but different?
Carlos: You know, Hallmark Channel is so great. We've been very blessed to work with many different companies over the last few years. Hallmark is one of those that you know if they need us for something, I have no hesitation in saying, you know, drop the ball, and "I'm there for you guys."
So for us to now have this signature mystery series with them, I'm just like "This is a dream come true." The family gets to stay together, especially now with another kid on the way, and I get to work with my wife. It really doesn't get any better than that. We're never compromising who we are, you know.
There's never going to be any awkward sexual scenes or cursing or nothing. It's just super clean, family-driven content which is everything that we're about so, for us, there's no better part.
Alexa: And I think it's really exciting to have a project like this because if they do continue to make a whole bunch of them, these are characters you really can get to grow with.
That you can really explore, and they can have the arc, and it doesn't all have to happen in one movie, it can happen over the course of several movies. And I think that's even more interesting for the audience to watch and not an hour and a half or two hours of trying to pack something in.
You really do go on a journey with all of the characters. And it's fun for seeing how they develop.
And do you have plans already for another movie in the series? Do you have ideas for what kind of mysteries you'd like to solve in upcoming installments, or have you not gotten that far yet?
Carlos: Yeah, we have, Hallmark has our writers already working on some ideas for some more, and you know, as soon as Alexa pops this baby out, I think we're going to start talking about when she's going to be ready to go back to work. But we've really had such a good time.
I think Alexa and I can both agree that out of any of our work experiences, and she's been working a lot longer than me, but I think she agrees as well, both of us agree that this was our favorite work experience to date. Those three weeks in Vancouver, the best crew, the coolest vibe and you know, not to mention we aren't just actors.
We have a say in how things go, the music and the different scenes. For us to collaborate like that and to be allowed to collaborate like that, I mean, that's everything.
And so let's just switch gears for a minute. Now you have your second child about to be on the way. First of all, how excited is Ocean to be a big brother?
Alexa: You know what, he's so stinking cute, he's finally at that place where he really does realize that there's a baby coming. And you know, in the beginning, it was kind of, "how do you explain to your two-year old that there's a baby in mommy's belly, and he's going to be a big brother?"
But we just kept going. We just kept talking about it, and then I had friends who recently gave birth, and now he goes up to my tummy all the time, and he gives it kisses, and he looks at it and he's like "Baby. Mama, baby!" I'm like, "Yeah, there is a baby," and he'll say "Bro-bro Kingston" because that's his little name.
So he knows that something's happening, but I still think that it will probably be an adjustment for everybody. I think, even me, I have this little bit of weird mom guilt because Ocean is my baby, and I take such good care of him, and I'm always there for him when he needs me.
And now that we have another one coming I just go "Okay, how am I going to really split my time?" so Ocean doesn't feel neglected at all and so that he still feels super loved but that this other baby also gets all the love. Just all these crazy things that you have to think about as a mom, the dynamic just changes so much.
Oh they're going to be close in age so that'll be really fun for you guys as they grow up too.
Alexa: Oh, heck yeah. It is great because Ocean is old enough to listen and understand things so he can communicate with us, and I think that helps a lot because if he were younger, it might have been a little bit overwhelming. Just for us.
We have friends who've had kids back-to-back and we're like, "How do you do it?" But It's a perfect age gap for us.
And did I understand that you're having another boy?
Carlos: Yes, this will be boy number two.
And you're naming him Kingston?
Okay, why? What's the significance of King? Because Ocean's middle name is King, right?
Alexa: Yeah, we go with what we love.
Carlos: You know, first of all, we can't name our kids Andrew. I was like, "It needs to be something cool," you know, something different and unique. And Alexa came up with Kingston one day, and I don't think to was anything like Oh, you know it goes well with Ocean or anything.
I think it was just, it really just fit, I mean Ocean, it gives him that kind of edginess. We were like "Okay, he lives on an island, he can be a surfer, he can be anything. It just kind of fits. And his middle name is James which a whole side of Alexa's family, their last names are all James.
So she really wanted to just kind of pay tribute to them, and I really wanted a cool nickname, so K.J. Sounded really cool, so there was really no science to picking them.
Alexa: And also the Book of James in the Bible is a really good one.
Alexa: But yeah as far as the King theme I don't think we were intentionally really trying to go with a King theme, it just worked out that way, and we really loved it.
Oh I think it's beautiful. I'm sure your fans are going to be over the moon.
Alexa: Thank you. You know what, we really, we like the name. We really like the name, and if we end up with a girl one day we'll have to, I don't know, is she going to be like Queen something or...[laughs]
Carlos: Our friends threw us, well threw Alexa a baby shower yesterday, and we show up, and I even had no idea, and there were all these things and boy signs everywhere, and I was like "I hate to break it to you guys, it's actually a girl."
At first, they were like "What?" And then our pastor was like "We'll just change it to Queenston." I was like no, no that doesn't work.
Alexa: I don't think so! [laughing]
So before I go, what was you favorite from the wedding shower?
Alexa: That's actually a really good question. There's a woman who makes these beautiful bamboo wraps, and she is on Island, and it's all locally made, and they gave me a couple of beautiful wraps and little burping rags.
But they're gorgeous, and they're so soft because the're made from bamboo. And the fact that it was local made, that was really special.
How about you, husband?
Carlos: This is more of an Alexa evening, but what I did do last night, which I am very proud of, my pastor and I had a Rubik's Cube battle. And he told me that if I beat his record that I could preach on Sunday.
And I beat his record; I solved it in a minute and sixteen seconds. And then I watched him freak out a little bit, and he ended up beating that record like 20 mins later at a minute six. So if anything, if I got anything last night, I can do the Rubik's Cube in a minute and sixteen seconds. That was my gift.
And is there anything else you want to share with our readers?
Alexa: No. I just hope that people really appreciate the unique quality of Picture Perfect Mysteries, and I hope that we can do a whole bunch more.
Picture Perfect Mysteries: Newlywed and Dead premieres on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries Sunday, June 16 at 9/8c.
Carissa Pavlica is the managing editor and a staff writer for TV Fanatic. She's a member of the Critic's Choice Association, enjoys mentoring writers, cats, and passionately discussing the nuances of television and film. Follow her on Twitter and email her here at TV Fanatic.