There are some movies that I want everyone to see. SPARE PARTS is one of them. Why? Because it’s a moving underdog story about Latino high school students who win a robotics competition – almost by accident. I will have a full review for you on opening day – January 16th. Today, I’m sharing an interview with actress Alexa PenaVega who plays Karla in the movie. And, of course, queridos, I have tickets to giveaway to the San Antonio screening on Thursday, January 15th.
Synopsis: SPARE PARTS is a true life story about four Hispanic high school students who form a robotics club under the leadership of their school’s newest teacher, Fredi (GEORGE LOPEZ). With no experience, 800 bucks, used car parts and a dream, this rag tag team goes up against the country’s reigning robotics champion, MIT. On their journey, they learn not only how to build a robot- they learn to build a bond that will last a lifetime.
SPARE PARTS, stars George Lopez, Jamie Lee Curtis, Carlos PenaVega, Esai Morales, Jose Julian, David Del Rio, Oscar Gutierrez, Alexa PenaVega, Alessandra Rosaldo and Marisa Tomei.
INTERVIEW WITH ALEXA PENAVEGA
In SPARE PARTS, Alexa PenaVega plays Karla, the outgoing girlfriend to Oscar Vasquez (Carlos PenaVega, her real life husband). She’s just who he needs to nudge him along his way. Below is my phone interview with Alexa who shares why she needed to be a part of this story, thoughts on Latinos in Hollywood, what family means to her and working with her husband.
Melanie QMW: Why was it important for you to be a part of this story?
Alexa Pena-Vega: I didn’t ever hear anything about this story prior to the film. Once my husband received the script, he actually jumped on and signed on to the film before I did. And then months later, I signed on to the film. Just doing all the research about these kids and Freddie and Alan – the two teachers that were so impactful in these students lives. It made me realize just how much of a stigma there was for Latin kids. Listening to the four of these students overcome their obstacles whether it was immigration problems, family life problems poverty problems. All of that and they were overcome that and create something so incredible and motivating, not just for themselves but for other students, I felt this story had to be told. Had it been told back then, I know the article came out but Had they made a film back then, I don’t think it would have been as impactful as it is now. With everyting that is going on with immigration reform and just the opportunities that Latinos have across America right now, I think this is a time that kids – not just kids but adults, parents, abuelitos, everybody – This is the time when they need to be motivated to be the best they can be. Right now, we need to prove ourselves.
Melanie QMW: Would you say, um, that in the same sense for Latinos in Hollywood?
Oh! 100%. When I say that there has been a major change it’s not just our regular community, it’s all through Hollywood as well. Look at the actors that are coming up now, look at the shows that are on tv. There so much more multicultural. Not just for Hispanic but, you know, when Scandal first came out, it was so different because you had Kerry Washington doing a show with a female black woman being tghe lead and upfront on a major television show. We are breaking molds and stigmas that were once there. I think it’s the beginning. it’s going to become so much more of a melting pot – so much more different cultures. I really feel like this movie is going to be super powerful and inspirational and a help for a lot of people.
Melanie QMW: It definitely hit home for me. One of my favorite parts was when Karla was talking to – I forget the character’s name …
Alexa: Oh. Oscar.
Melanie QMW: Yes! When he shares why they’re at McDonald’s …
(In the movie, Oscar takes Karla on a date to McDonald’s but it has a very special meaning to him.)
Alexa: Oh yeah!
Melanie QMW: That was sooo … I think that will resonate with a lot of people and I think particularly your line “Thanks for understanding that I would be the girl who could get that.”
Melanie QMW: How did you relate to Karla? How did you relate to your character?
Alexa: I feel like I’m a real outgoing person. I remember when I called the real Karla before shooting this role. I wanted to get to know her more and get to know her personality. Oscar was such a straight-laced guy. Very serious. Very stoic kind of feel to him. She said that she is full of life. She is spunky and fun. She is not afraid to speak her mind. That’s the kind of girl Oscar needed. She pushed him. She made him step out of his shell a little bit and I love that about her. And I feel like, you know, while she is really spunky and fun, she is also very, like, when she said that line “Thank you for knowing that I’m the kind of girl who gets that.” She’s smart. The girl is real. She appreciates, you know, a really good moment. She appreciates people wanting to know her on a deeper level and she had that great connection with Oscar.
Melanie QMW: Tell me what was it like – I don’t know if you had ever worked with strong powerful women like Marissa Tomei and Jamie Lee Curtis. What was it like working with those two?
Alexa: You know, it was such a bummer because I didn’t really have to work with them but I did spend time on set with them because my husband was there for the full 8 weeks so I spent more time there than I was supposed to be. [Laughter] but you know what, it’s so funny because we had such a caliber cast. For this little movie that’s now extended into something really wonderful. The cast that we got is incredible. I mean, Marissa is such a quality actress. I mean, and we have George who is known as a comedian but just goes out there and gives such a stellar performance on a serious level that we hadn’t really seen him play. And then you have the incredible Jamie Lee Curtis who is so humble, so sweet and just such a gem to work with. she knew everybody’s name on set, every time she’d come one or just hang out for the day, she was so loving and sweet. You don’t get that from many actors especially not with the crew and she was wonderful with the crew.
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Melanie QMW: Speaking of working with other actors, what was it like working on this film with your husband?
Alexa: I loved it. I loved it. You know why? My hubby and I try to spend as much time together as we can because you never know when we are going to be called away and sometimes it doesn’t work in our schedules to we can be in the same place, at the same time. So, we have to be apart for like a month at a time and that gets really hard. Honestly, if I could do every movie with him, I would. He’s my other half, my team-mate. So when we film these movies together because I did a couple of other movies like Big Time Rush with him and now this movie. It’s just so comfortable. I love having someone there that I can trust and I know that if I wasn’t necessarily on my A-game, he could tell. He’s very honest. We lean on each other an awful lot.
Melanie QMW: That’s awesome. So moving on to family, Alexa. You’re a rock star in your own right. What does your family say or how has your family supported you along your career?
Alexa: You know, um, my family has given up so much for me to be where I am right now. I’m the oldest of six kids and I started acting when I was four, so, it’s such a sacrifice for everybody whenever I had to go out-of-town and do movies because my mom believed that a lot of actors in Hollywood that go down the wrong path – the reason for it was because they weren’t surrounded by their core, their family. And with my mom, she traveled with every single one of my sisters and the whole family together. We would go on location to where I was filming. So, she never separated us. But that meant my sisters had to give up their normal childhood like going to school and being with friends. They were with me all the time. But I really appreciated that because it’s kept me grounded and level-headed. So, I would say that they gave up so much and were so beyond supportive and I am forever thankful for that.
Melanie QMW: What would you say … I think that family was a strong tie in this movie … um, what would you say that you would want … well, parents, students, educators to take away from the messages in SPARE PARTS?
Alexa: You know, it’s really interesting. I love that you brought this question up because one of my frustrations, especially in older generations, you don’t see it as much anymore but it’s still happening where these students – some of their obstacles wasn’t just the society. It was their own parents not being able to support them out of fear. Like, fear of them not succeeding, fear of something happening. It broke my heart that you know, that the parents were almost what were holding these kids back. So, for me, I just want everybody to know sometimes it only takes one person to believe in you, to make you not afraid anymore, to make you motivated to want to go out there and make a difference. You can be that somebody’s one person. And I think if we all start living with that mindset, it’s going to be a domino effect on everybody.
Melanie QMW: So those who are working whether it’s students like in the movie or actresses like yourself, what advice or what do you say to people who come up to you and say Karla, I mean sorry, “Alexa, I want to be successful the way you are.”
Alexa: My biggest thing is I would say be patient. Times aren’t always going to be easy. I’m so thankful for the path that I’ve had. It hasn’t necessarily always been the easiest but it totally strengthened me. I’m a huge believer in my faith and in my foundation. I believe God has given us all incredible, special gifts to work with and it’s about finding your gift and really trusting that opportunities are going to open up for you as long as you work hard, have the right mind-set and believe in yourself.
Melanie QMW: Awesome. One last thing … I was just listening to one of the videos from the writer who wrote the original piece in WIRED, Joshua Davis. I was so taken by something he said which was “If no one tells the stories of the real people trying to do amazing things and actually succeeding, then the stereotypes persist.”
Which, um, stories do you think we’ve not told – not just from the Latino community – but that and beyond that we need to NOT have persist?
Alexa: I think this is just the first of many. Like, we deal with it all the time – whether it’s kids dealing with bullying at school and how they overcome it … whether it’s dealing with broken homes … abusive spouses. There’s so many other things that we haven’t really touched on yet in this industry in Hollywood. Here’s what I love – you don’t have to be ever stuck in one place. You know, movies area great way to reach people. They are a great way to get a message out there and that’s one reason Carlos and I love doing motivating projects and projects that are really positive and have messages to send out to people because at the end of the day the content that your children are watching or your brothers and sisters are watching – I would rather it be impactful and kind of waste of their time.
Does that make sense?
Melanie QMW: Yes, it totally does! So what’s next for you? Where will we see Alexa next?
Alexa: So, I’ve been filming Nashville, so you guys can continue to see me on Nashville. It’s been really fun. And Carlos has been recording his album and he is kicking butt! He sounds so good. I cannot wait for people to hear him!
Melanie QMW: That’s exciting! I didn’t realize that he’s recording an album.
Alexa: He hasn’t been talking about it too much. Honestly, this is so funny because they’ve been asking us ‘so what projects do you guys have coming up?’
And I’m like ‘why don’t you talk about it?’
He’s like, ‘I just forget.’
I’m like ‘You’ve been recording like everyday. You fly to Miami all the time!’
He’s like, ‘I know. I just don’t feel like it’s real.’
So, he’s been recording and getting everything together. I think you guys are going to see a really different side of Mr. Pena-Vega.
Melanie QMW: What kind of music will it be?
Alexa: He’s doing Spanglish. So a lot of Spanish. Yeah, it’s gonna be great!
Melanie QMW: Alexa, thank you so much!
Alexa: Thank you.
UPDATE 1/15/2015: GIVEAWAY FOR RESERVED AND GEN ADMISSION ENDED
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SPARE PARTS MOVIE TICKET GIVEAWAY
The San Antonio Screening for SPARE PARTS is Thursday, January 15th, 7:30 pm at Santikos Palladium. Enter the giveaway for a chance to win one Family-Four Pack in Reserved Seating. Scroll down for general admission tickets.
GENERAL ADMISSION TICKETS
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