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Movies PopWrapped | Movies

Carlos PenaVega: Young Latino Star Rising Higher In Hollywood--And In Love

Tim Estiloz | PopWrapped Author

Tim Estiloz

03/11/2015 11:00 pm
PopWrapped | Movies
There are two things I immediately realized about popular young performer Carlos PenaVega when he started talking to me about his new film, Spare Parts, co-starring George Lopez and PenaVega’s new wife, Alexa PenaVega. First, he’s a young man bursting with vibrant energy and enthusiasm that’s evident in everything he says; not only about the film, but also his life, his religious faith, his career, and of course his beautiful new partner in life, Alexa. Initially, I might have been a bit skeptical of his highly energetic personality. I’ve interviewed more than a few other entertainers who falsely hyped up their delivery, beyond their genuine personalities, just to make their publicists and the reporters happy. However, PenaVega is refreshingly different. Which brings me to the second thing I noticed about this impressive young man. His sincerity. Carlos PenaVega is also a genuinely sincere 25-year-old, not at all jaded or arrogant about his success, most notably as a member of the band Big Time Rush on Nickelodeon, nor his legions of adoring fans. Instead, this young performer and relative newlywed (he married Alexa Vega last January in Mexico and both combined their last names as an expression of their union) is simply an impressive young Latino performer anxious to do his very best as an actor/musician, role model, and new husband. The admirable qualities that define Carlos PenaVega in real life comfortably fit into the character he plays in the current film, Spare Parts. The film is the true life story about four Hispanic high school students who form a robotics club under the leadership of their school’s newest teacher, Fredi, portrayed by George Lopez. With no experience, $800, some salvaged 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, but also lessons in self-esteem and cultural pride, while building a personal bond among them that will last a lifetime. In the film, PenaVega plays Oscar Vazquez, one member of the high school team, who also dreams of joining the U.S. Army and serving his country, but is denied because he’s an undocumented immigrant. I recently spoke with PenaVega via telephone from Miami about his role, his career and much more.

What did you like most about the film Spare Parts and working on it ?

At first, they sent me the script by simply saying it was a film with George Lopez and robots… and I thought, I’m not sure if that kind of film is the big screen departure I was looking for, coming from my work in Big Time Rush. But, then I saw it was a true story and I started reading it and it was so incredible. I was hooked and I Ioved the story. I did all my research, saw the kids online and decided that this is something that I had to do. This is a perfect departure from my work with Big Time Rush, and that people need to see this story because it’s so inspiring and true to life. That’s what sold me on it.

What about the film speaks to young people in terms of reaching for your dreams and not giving up on themselves ?

It speaks to young people, of course; but, I think we all struggle with so many things in life and everyone has some issue that they deal with. I believe that the fact that these boys who had so many obstacles such as family issues, poverty and immigration issues… the fact that these four completely different people could band together with all these [problems] going on and do something that changed their entire community… to me, I feel like that’s inspiring to everyone.

The dream of chasing the American dream is very strong in this film. How important is that theme to you as a young Latino ?

You know, what got me choked up was when I spoke to the real life character that I play in the film and learned that he really wanted to serve his country. He wanted to serve in the army of a country that didn’t necessarily want him [because he was an undocumented immigrant]. I think a lot of kids out there that see this story will be inspired by that determination and that sense of duty and honor.

You’re very busy as a performer and involved with so many projects; acting, writing music, performing on tour with Big Time Rush and more. How do you stay grounded with all this going on around you ?

For my new wife (Alexa PenaVega) and I, our faith is the center of our relationship. I truly thank God for everything that I have. We just try to love everyone. When you read the Bible, you see that Jesus just loved everyone… and He didn’t judge anyone. I believe that belief is what’s helped keep [Alexa and I]  so grounded and centered. I mean, we’re very determined to be successful in what we do; but, having her by my side is such a blessing because we both lift each other up.

You have a Boston connection where you studied music briefly at the Boston Conservatory. What kind of memories do you have from that experience ?

Boston was amazing. I don’t like to regret things but had the opportunity to join Big Time Rush come about three years later, and everything still happen the same way… I would have loved to complete my four years at the Conservatory. Boston has so many colleges and great people and the city is just an incredible place.

You just released your first solo single. How demanding and/or exciting is that experience for you ?

I’ve loved every moment of it. Being in a band for so long with four people vying for one thing… and sometimes you have to compromise as an individual. It’s been so amazing to be able to develop my own style of music. Right now, I’m doing a full “spanglish” style album with a bunch of producers here in Miami and L.A. with some salsa, merengue, hip-hop and a nice mix of everything. I’m very excited about it.

Some young performers like yourself sometimes feel like they’ve reached a point where they’ve outgrown their fans artistically and they have to move on to something else. What are your thoughts on that?

We were so lucky to have the kids start out with us when they were so young. But, over the course of Big Time Rush’s growth, we’ve sort of grown up together. So, I feel this next chapter of my life is important in what music I do and what films I choose… because, it’s my turn to grow with them as they mature. I’m very cautious about the roles that I pick and the music that I put out because I still have some fans who may be 11 or 12 years old who are looking up to me and I have to be a good role model. So, in five years, the fans have grown with me and I’ve grown with them. It’s kind of a never ending process.

You got married last year to young actress Alexa Vega (Spy Kids, Machete 2) and you act together in this film, Spare Parts. What is most important about your relationship to make it work?

We just keep God at the center of our relationship and that helps make it so amazing and powerful. She’s my teammate and we support each other and we’re honest with each other. She knows that there are certain roles that perhaps when she was single, she could have taken that now might make me uncomfortable… but, because we have that understanding, we may [disagree] but at the end of the day, we make sure we go to bed and no one is sleeping on opposite sides of the bed. We’re a team and if she were here, she’d be here talking to you right along with me. Carlos PenaVega

What would be your ultimate goal for your career ?

I just feel this world is lacking a lot of happiness and love. I’d like to spread a lot more of that. So, if I could do that through my work and through my music, that would be amazing.

The theatrical trailer for Carlos PenaVega’s new film, Spare Parts:

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