“I want to represent God in everything I do,” PenaVega candidly proclaims.
Since her first run-away success Spy Kids hit theaters nearly 15 years ago, a lot has changed in the actress’s life. Going from a child star to a respected name in Hollywood, Alexa landed leading roles in TV and film hits among the Millennial generation, ranging from top CW show The Tomorrow People to The Remaining based on the Book of Revelations.
PenaVega quickly became a passionate witness in entertainment after discovering the love of Christ. Her latest project Do You Believe?, sequel to blockbuster film God’s Not Dead. Riding on the wave of the faith film Renaissance, already it’s grossed an estimated $5.5 million in box office sales – but it was never about the money for Alexa. At the end of the day, it always comes back to faith for this brilliant actress.
SCH Contributor Andy Sharp caught up with Alexa PenaVega recently to chat about her role in Do You Believe?, as well as her impact as a Christian in Hollywood.
SCH: Alexa, it’s been quite a whirlwind year for you between getting married and being cast in so many exciting projects! How does it feel to be on such an exciting journey?
APV: I feel like a few years ago I was really just trying to find my footing, who I was and and what I wanted to be in this industry. It really took a while to get into my foundation and be firm in it. I think that finding our foundation is something we struggle with in our twenties anyway. It was kind of frustrating because I grew up in a christian home. I wouldn’t say I got lost, but I had a misunderstanding.
I kind of fell out of my foundation and the second I got firm in it again, honestly, is when things kind of started taking off again. It just goes to show the importance of staying in your faith and not caving to be what Hollywood wants of you. Since then it has been so awesome. I have been filming Nashville which has been fun and crazy and now we have Do You Believe and I’ll even be doing a film with my husband, Spare Parts. It’s been one wonderful thing after another and we’ve been able to grow and learn so much from all of it.
SCH: How do you balance career and married life?
APV: Well, for us, our married life comes way before our careers. We try not to work at the same time because we like being together as much as we can. And you can’t control all of the schedules. We actually manage it really well when we do have to be away from each other, thank god for FaceTime, because literally we leave it on all night. We sleep next to each other, on FaceTime, so we kind of don’t feel like we’ve left each other. We still pray together before we go to sleep, and for us that keeps us really in sync and connected. I think our faith has really given us that foundation.
SCH: You recently worked with your husband on the film Spare Parts – what was it like working together on a film?
APV: it’s so funny because we are such a team so when we are on set, well… here’s the thing, we love the director sean. Sean is amazing. But if you think about how many things a director has to do, he has to deal with lighting, he has to make sure the whole shot list is great, and he has to deal with five other actors. Having someone there that you know can watch your back completely and watch you in scene and let you know, “hey I know you can do this better.” Having Carlos onset is like having the ultimate teammate. We’ve both looked out for each other, and being on set together is fun and exciting. Honestly, our ideal situation would be to have a show like I Love Lucy so we could work together forever.
SCH: A scene in God’s Not Dead presents the idea that love is the most overused word in the English language. What do you think love means and why?
APV: For me love is something that has to be unconditional, regardless of how other feel about you. Regardless of how others treat you, love is almost. Obviously we love people differently.I love my husband in a way that I don’t love my neighbor. Love is the ultimate understanding. It’s something that brings us all together. And I feel like it’s very easy, especially in today’s society, to get caught up in an ego and pride and to feel like we have to condemn people. If you just approach every situation in a loving way, you can’t really go wrong. For me, love is peace, love is happiness, love is almost. I think you can just leave it as love is.
SCH: God’s Not Dead was one of the most successful faith-based films in Hollywood. Can you tell us what it meant to you to be cast in the sequel Do You Believe?
APV: I never actually saw God’s Not Dead. The people loved it, and have said wonderful things, but for me I don’t like looking at a film and thinking, “I’m going to be in a film because the first one was successful.” Or that, “I’m going to be in a film based on this or that.” You have to look at every film for what it is. Regardless of if it is a sequel or it’s own entity. I feel like especially with this film, it hits a special place in my heart because your’e dealing with faith. Faith is the most important thing in my life. I like being a part of this film because we are able to make a faith based film that’s not a typical cookie cutter film.
This is a faith based film that is hitting a lot of issues. It’s actually people going through things. It’s not all happy moments and I think that we are playing it more raw and real. It’s relatable so that people who are struggling with their faith, who have faith can totally say, “Gosh I was totally there at one point and god still loves me. Oh this gives me so much more hope.” A lot of times some of these faith based films make people think that they have to be 100 percent perfect or god’s not going to love them and it’s the total opposite. God loves you no matter what. Come as you are! God loves you and he accepts you. I love what the film stands for and the people in it are just phenomenal and the people are really going to be able to relate to it.
SCH: Did you experience any spiritual warfare during the making of this film? Were there any specific miracles on the set that you can share?
APV: Every day their are so many little miracles, considering we had no time to shoot this movie, we had to get it done as quickly as possible. I was literally in the middle of shooting Nashville at the same time. I was literally flying back and forth, doing night shoots for Do You Believe and doing day shoots on Nashville. I honestly think it was a miracle in itself that we were able to get it done, that the timing really worked out, and that God graced me the energy to keep going.
I feel like this was a film that was just supposed to be made. We had a good time doing it, even during the times that it could be so treacherous.There were some really difficult scenes to shoot and all of our time schedules were all over the place, but we were all really happy to be there because we knew we were making something that we believed in. That something made it special and I think God’s grace is all over it.
SCH: It’s so refreshing to see how open and passionate you are about your faith. How do you use your influence in Hollywood to make an impact for Christ?
APV: It took me a few years to figure this one out. If you look at three years ago, for instance, the type of films I was doing then vs the type of films that I am filming now. I know Sin City only came out last year, but we shot that three years ago. I would never do a film like that now days. It’s not about trying to make anybody feel bad, but I’m not in that place. I have grown so much in my faith that I don’t want to be represented in that way.
I want to represent God in everything I do. Not in just who I am as a person but my career as well. That doesn’t mean I’m only going to take characters who are perfect, because that’s not reality right? I love a good redemption story or sometimes even playing a character who has an incredible drug problem. Now, there has to be some sort of outcome, the character is redeemed in the end or the character learns some incredibly valuable lesson by the end.Other than that I feel like it’s kind of a waste. I feel like were given such a valuable platform to make a difference and to do something that can be inspiring to people. If we’re not, then what’s the point of having that platform?
SCH: You have such a great relationship with your fans on Twitter and Instagram – what is your personal philosophy on how you like to stay connected to your fans?
APV: I think there is a really important balance between both of those. On one hand you have to make sure that you keep a lot of stuff personal or else it’s easy to get lost in that whole world, but at the same time, you want to give back to the people who are supporting you. You want to love on them and let them know you appreciate them and that you are thankful. I just want to love them and I feel like a big way to do that is by making videos and asking, “What do you guys want to know about?”
It’s simple things, like making a video saying thank you or I love you guys. I couldn’t be here, truly, without you guys supporting me. I think it’s so important being able to give back and give thanks. Carlos and I are finding more ways to get involved and I’ve been talking about wanting to do a blog. So many young girls want to know what to do for your skin or what to use for their hair. These are such typical questions we all ask anyway. Even just blogging videos saying, “Girls! Hey, this is what we can do.” I think little things like that can be fun and interactive for everybody.
SCH: What are some of your dreams for the future?
APV: My husband and I teach a bible study on Monday nights at our house. Ideally we want that to be something huge. We want it to still be called a bible study so it’s a very conversational type of atmosphere as opposed to the atmosphere of a sermon. Ideally we want that on a bigger scale. My husband and I lead it. Sometimes our friends will teach it with us. Literally, we can get three chairs, instead of the normal pulpit on stage and lead a bible study.
We have people come in and listen to the conversations about god, about jesus, about the holy spirit. I feel that this is so interesting because I feel like everyone can relate to that. We want to do that on a large scale. So for us to have a bible study that is really growing is a big goal and then we just want to be as impactful with our walk as possible.
SCH: Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers about the real Alexa PenaVega?
APV: What do I want to share? Gosh, you know what? Be yourself. If you’re super dorky, which I am, embrace it! I don’t try to be cool, I don’t try to be anything, because the second I am, my dorky-ness comes out anyway! Just be confident in who you are and what you stand for. Who you are will always come out, whether you want it to, or not. People will respect you more for standing up for yourself than just becoming what the world wants of you.
Don’t miss Alexa‘s performance in Do You Believe, available on DVD August 4th. To learn more about the amazing people making this film visit: DoYouBelieve.com