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Alexa PenaVega and Carlos PenaVega star in Hallmark’s Love in the Limelight. Pic credit: Hallmark

When it comes to courtship, music, and the magic of romance, there is no better way to spend your time than to make a movie with your soul mate, according to busy actress, author, and mom Alexa PenaVega.

Alexa and Carlos PenaVega, her actor-musician husband of eight years, recently teamed up to make Love in the Limelight, a new Hallmark movie making its debut on Hallmark Channel on Saturday, August 6.

The original movie is part of the network’s annual Fall into Love programming event and features six original songs – with a rich, Latin sound, written by Carlos, who portrays the character of Nick. 

This latest storyline is a case of art imitating life. As a young girl, Alexa’s character, Summer, writes to Nick, her favorite boy-band member and this starts a lifelong pen pal relationship that keeps them in good stead.

As adults, they get a chance to meet when he comes to her hometown of Salt Lake City to play a solo gig — his first in many years — and despite some obstacles from her family, sparks begin to fly and set the stage for a budding romance. 

Read on for how life imitates art for Alexa PenaVega and her musician-husband, Carolos, in their new Hallmark movie, Love in the Limelight.

Monsters and Critics: How did this movie come to you and Carlos?

Alexa PenaVega:  We actually heard about this movie and we were hoping to make it a few years ago, but we didn’t get the opportunity back then. We ended up circling back to it this last year. The timing was perfect because Big Time Rush, Carlos’ band, had just gotten back together. So, he was kind of living in that pop star world again. This role was right on track with everything that he was doing. 

M&C: How much does music play a part in your real lives? 

Alexa PenaVega:  Major. I’m literally on a tour bus right now because my husband is on his 28th or 29th stop of a summer tour. 

M&C: Are there diehard fans like Summer is in Love in the Limelight?

Alexa PenaVega:  Well, he has fans who have been following him for the last 15 years. They bring pictures to the shows of them when they were eight or nine and take new photos. It’s incredible to see this fan base.  Honestly, it’s so funny because it really does mimic the story in our movie.

M&C: Is Carlos romantic in real life?  Are there date nights? Are there things that he does to keep wooing you after so many years?

Alexa PenaVega:  My gosh, he is going to kick my butt when I say this, but he is not romantic at all. He’s a sweetie pie, he keeps me laughing and we have so much fun together. But romance is more my category. I have to be the one that’s like, “All right, we’re going to have a date night.”

M&C: Talk about your character Summer a little bit in this and how you saw her.  She starts out being so timid and worried about her coworkers, her job, and her father’s approval but eventually comes into her own. 

Alexa PenaVega:  I think originally, she was actually going to be a very confident person. You can see the confidence underlying her work. She always talks about being a private person. I don’t think that that’s who she is at heart, but there was some bullying when she was a kid that she went through that she decided, “If I keep myself a private person and I don’t put myself out there then I can’t get hurt.”  

It’s a bit sad but I also feel like it’s relatable. I think a lot of people do that, they’re afraid of getting hurt so they really retreat and that’s not who they really are. It’s great because as she gets to know Nick, she becomes a little more fearless, she comes out of her shell more and by the end of the movie we’ll see what happens, but I just love how sometimes you just need somebody to give you a little nudge in your life.

Alexa PenaVega in the Hallmark original movie, Love in the Limelight
Alexa PenaVega in the Hallmark original movie, Love in the Limelight. Pic credit: Hallmark

M&C: How do you juggle Hallmark, this tour, the kids and have a minute to yourself to do anything?

Alexa PenaVega:  It’s definitely been a learning curve, but I feel like we all had a wonderful and very long break due to COVID. I think for us as a family we were eager to travel again and eager to work again. We’re giving each other such fun adventures and new things that it actually wasn’t even that hard to juggle at all. It’s just kind of really peaceful and it’s all kind of working itself out.

I think because Hallmark has always been so great with keeping our family nearby and allowing us to have our family on set or just really catering to families. That was really important to us. I think we’ve just been able to juggle because we’ve had awesome teams around us to lend support.

M&C: So many fans say that Hallmark is their ‘Happy Place.’ You have made many Hallmark movies, what is the attraction for you?

Alexa PenaVega:  I love that. Hallmark feels like family. This is my tenth movie for Hallmark. Carlos and I have known them for so many years. Many of the people there have been there since we’ve been there and I think that’s very comforting when you’re able to work with the same people again. You know what you’re getting, you trust they’re going to bring forth a great project.  We all work together, which is really, really fun.  They allow us to have input on the projects.

Carlos wrote a lot of the music for this movie and that was really special.  They’ve really given us an opportunity to play and I think something like that it takes years of trust to earn stuff like that. I just really feel like we have this beautiful relationship that just makes sense and Hallmark has just been very good to our family.

M&C: You’ve been married since 2014. Do you have any secrets to a successful marriage?

Alexa PenaVega:  Laughter, for sure. The biggest thing and everybody always says it but seriously you need to take it seriously, communication.  Communication is so important. You don’t want to try to make a mind reader out of somebody.  Just communicate your needs, your wants, the things that you love, and the things that you don’t love. 

It’s so important to be in that communication with your spouse.  You have a better marriage for it.  When you guys have a better marriage, you are better parents and you’re better for your kids.  I always tell people you teach kids how to treat people by how they see their parents treat one another.  That is super, super important.

M&C: Are there any other life lessons that you want your three young children to learn as they get older?

Alexa PenaVega:  I think we’ve already instilled a sense of adventure in them.  With as much as we travel and we’re all over the place. I hope that they get to see what they do and they learn from us. I feel like that’s just the best thing you can do as a parent.

M&C: Are there any more actors in the family going forward?

Alexa PenaVega:  I have a feeling that Kingston, my middle child, will be in the entertainment world somehow because he dances and sings and every night, he asks Daddy if he’s coming up on stage with him to perform.

M&C: What kind of mom are you?

Alexa PenaVega:  Ooh, I think that’s a big question. I think we’re adventurous and peaceful. I don’t know, I take my cues as much as I can – listen, nobody’s perfect, we all have our ups and downs Trust me, when you are watching three kids on a tour bus with 1,000 things happening at once it can get exhausting and what not. That’s where my faith really comes into play as a mom, just really praying through some of the harder days.  It’s great because the kids get to see me do it so they understand that prayer is such a part of my life. 

Sometimes in the middle of the chaos, they just see me and hear me just praying. It’s been awesome because they take that into their lives.  Whenever they’re scared or I remember the other day I stubbed my toe and my oldest, Ocean, runs over and he’s like, “Don’t worry, Mom, I’ll pray for you.”  He just starts praying over my foot. It’s just stuff like that that just makes me go oh my gosh, yes.  It’s encouraging because I feel like I’m doing it right, I’m instilling the values that I want in my kids that they’re able to see it just by how I’m living. I would hope for peace and loving and caring. 

Nick (Carlos PenaVega) plays guitar for the Rivera family after Summer (Alexa PenaVega)
Nick (Carlos PenaVega) plays guitar for the Rivera family after Summer (Alexa PenaVega) brings him home to get to know them. Pic credit: Hallmark.

M&C: The last time we talked I think we were talking about Spy Kids. Are you still getting fans from that?  What are they saying? 

Alexa PenaVega:  Oh my gosh, yes. For whatever reason, Spy Kids has been able to withstand the test of time.  There are so many kids who come up to me who still watch Spy Kids and it’s beautiful and exciting. My kids have just discovered it.  I tried getting them to watch it a couple of years back, but they were still too young. On this bus, they started watching it and it makes me so excited because we are literally going to go visit the old Spy Kids set in Austin, Texas. They have a whole bunch of fun gadgets and cars and whatnot tucked away so they’re going to pull them out so the kids can see them.

M&C: Tell me about your YouTube channel, why you started it, who’s watching it, and what it means to you.

Alexa PenaVega:  We started it a while back. Again, we kind of wanted to show what it looked like to be a family in today’s world. Also, in the middle of America people are having kids young, but in California and New York, the bigger cities, a lot of people wait to have kids until they’re much older. We kind of did the not norm. 

We’re in this industry but we got married young, and we had kids somewhat young I guess by industry standards. We just wanted to show what that looked like and to kind of give people a glimpse into what we do and why we do it.

As of recently, we have not been as active, just because my husband is the one who edits everything.  I know we are on the search for an editor, but that’s kind of just been in and out. Hopefully, we will pick it back up again because I really do love those vlogs. We have so many unedited videos that need to go up. So hopefully we will get around to that soon.

M&C: Tell me about the date nights that you plan.

Alexa PenaVega:  Usually, it’s after we get the kids in bed we do a Mommy-Daddy movie night, which is really, really fun. We’ll just kind of put together a little cheese plate or some cheese and fruit and we just sit down and we watch a movie together. We’ve had a couple of daytime dates where we have a babysitter come and then we’ll go out to lunch right by the beach. 

Because we live in Hawaii, we will go right on the water and enjoy each other, kind of regroup, and talk about goals and things that we want for our family. It’s just such a nice time to enjoy each other, but also to kind of reflect on how’s it going, how’s your heart, are there things that I could be doing better, are there things that we could be doing better as a family. It’s just kind of a nice little reset.

Ivonne Coll as Grandma Rivera and Carlos PenaVega as musician Nick in the original movie, Love in the Limelight
Ivonne Coll as Grandma Rivera and Carlos PenaVega as musician Nick in the original movie, Love in the Limelight. Pic credit: Hallmark

M&C: The scenes with Summer’s grandmother (Ivonne Coll) were hysterical. 

Alexa PenaVega:  Oh, she is hilarious. Oh my gosh, I was cracking up watching her.

M&C: If she really did have a dancing Abuelita social media page I bet it would get millions of views. It was adorable.

Alexa PenaVega:  I agree, 100 percent. We should probably look it up.  I bet you there’s some out there.

M&C This movie feels like a real-life fairy tale. How did you look at it?

Alexa PenaVega:  I always laugh because I feel like our life is a real-life fairy tale. Just how we met, the timing of everything, the life that we get to live.  It really is a dream come true for us in real life.  So then when you get to have movies that just kind of put your heart in that place, as well.  I’m kind of going all over the place, but this is what I love about Hallmark and what they allowed us to do with this project. 

This project is so special; it’s very current. It feels so good. I laugh because while it has a very current feel you also get that nostalgia of those old rom-com movies that we used to love like ten years ago, 15 years ago. I really feel like they brought that back with this movie. There’s just a perfect twist of romance and comedy and it feels like it’s literally taking place today. It’s literally set in Utah so there are locations that you recognize, they’re not trying to fake it for somewhere else. I just feel like a lot of people are going to relate and I think it’s going to be a big competitor for a lot of the romantic comedies that are out there right now.

M&C: What’s going on after the tour?  Do you have your next project or do you know what you want to do?

Alexa PenaVega:  Yes, we have a children’s book coming out in October called Ocean’s World. We released our memoir, What if Love is the Point, about a month ago and that’s been going well. 

M&C: Why do you urge my readers to watch Love in the Limelight?

Alexa PenaVega:  I think this movie has so much. It has fantastic music. It also really showcases Hispanic culture. The music is doing in Spanglish, we get to speak Spanish and English in this movie.  It’s very current and it’s a story that’ll make you laugh, cry and fall in love.

Love in the Limelight premieres on Hallmark Channel on Saturday, August 6 (8 p.m. ET/PT).

For more romance check out Hallmark’s Lacey Chabert finds laughter and tears in Sweet Carolina

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