Hallmark Movies & Mysteries’ intrepid picture-perfect crime solvers Alexa and Carlos PenaVega (pictured at top) are back this weekend in the premiere of Picture Perfect Mysteries: Exit Stage Death, the third installment of the couple’s hugely successful franchise. In this one, the stage in Willow Haven is set for murder when the lead of a local play is found dead on opening night. For both stars, the timing in completing the project was perfect. “The very next day after we wrapped, all movies were shut down,” shared Alexa when MediaVillage chatted with the couple exclusively from their home in Hawaii. “We literally just made it.”
With production wrapped, the couple returned home and, like everyone, went into lockdown. Of course, the idyllic location they call home, and being together as family, made quarantine easier. “Hawaii is not a bad place to call home,” Alexa said. “We feel beyond blessed to not be on the mainland. Hawaii has been pretty strict but we can still go to the beach, and thankfully we live on a property. I know some people were locked up in apartments with their kids, and my heart goes out to them! We've been very fortunate to be able to go outside and play in the dirt and boost our immune systems, so it’s been good.”
“I've been learning a lot about being a stay-at-home father,” added Carlos. “I now have mad respect for all the stay-at-home moms, holy moly! But it’s been fun. For the first three months, I was like, ‘This is great! I could do this forever.’ But when that fourth month came around, I was like, ‘Okay, what can we do differently to make sure everyone is happy?”
With three Picture Perfect Mysteries to their credit, the PenaVegas are delighted to be able to further explore and develop the characters of Allie Adams and Det. Sam Acosta, who become even closer in this one. “Now that we've done three, what's really awesome is there's a lot more freedom,” Alexa explained. “I felt there was a level of comfort with everyone. Even though we felt comfortable during the first two, it was just so familiar and we all just felt super-comfortable to really go for it with our characters.
“I think you see that in everyone,” she added. “You see it in Maya (Sunita Prasad, pictured below left), you see it in Noah (Trezzo Mahoro, below center) and even the way Sam and Nick (Paul McGillion) go back and forth at the police station. I think there was just a fun new side this time and a lot of it was ad-libbed.”
“They really allowed us to have a lot of freedom, which is an actor's dream,” Carlos concurred. “Of course, we still have the script, which we stick to pretty strictly, but there's definitely some takes that we just got to have fun [during].”
As executive producers of the franchise, both actors are also proud that their on-screen world is reflective of real-world friendships and relationships. “We've always been super-fortunate to be involved in projects that offer a lot of diversity,” Alexa noted. “Spy Kids, way back in the day, was different because it was such a colorful family. You had a Hispanic dad and a redhead mom with these Spanish kids who are going out and saving the day. We've always been fortunate to find those roles in our careers, and now to have Picture Perfect Mysteries … just look at our teams. You have Allie, Noah and Mya who are all completely different. I think [Hallmark] did a really good job right from the start of creating this city, as this is what the world looks like.”
For Carlos, the only drawback to making these movies is the wardrobe. This time the challenge involved a tie. “You’ve got to put the mic somewhere,” Carlos laughed. “I'm wearing all these layers, it's freezing in Vancouver, so we tried putting the mic in my tie, but you could see it on camera. My least favorite part of the wardrobe is changing. I love putting on a suit because that's the complete opposite of who I am in real life. But we shoot these movies [fast] and I can’t take an hour to change clothes. I kind of made a game of trying to get it done as fast as possible.”
While they await word on another PPM movie, the PenaVegas are gearing up for Christmas. “I'm that weird person who wants to dress our house up like Christmas at Halloween,” Alexa said. “I love it! Carlos has an eye for stylizing things, and he’s taken my love for Christmas decorations to the next level.”
While Carlos considers himself a little “Scroogey” about the season, he believes that every day with his family is Christmas. “I treat every day like it's awesome,” he said. “Being married to Alexa, I've learned to appreciate Christmas, but she’s on another level.”
Needless to say, the couple would love to do a Hallmark Christmas movie -- albeit one with a twist. “I don't know that Hallmark would ever go for this, because they love their snow,” joked Carlos in closing. “But what about a warm Christmas movie? We tell them every year, ‘Come to Hawaii.’ Hopefully one day we can maybe do a Christmas musical in a warm setting.”
Picture Perfect Mysteries: Exit Stage Death will be telecast Sunday, October 11 at 9 p.m. on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries.
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