For Hallmark’s A Paris Proposal, Alexa PenaVega returned to the city of lights to film for the first time since she starred in Spy Kids 3.
The movie isn’t filmed in its entirety in Paris, but just enough to lend it the authentic flavor necessary to bring it to life.
Alexa stars as Anna, an advertising executive who travels to Paris with her coworker Sebastian (Nicholas Bishop) to land an important account.
When the client, who owns the famed Durant Diamonds, mistakenly believes they are a happy couple, Anna and Sebastian believe they have no choice but to go along with it to make the deal.
Alexa was thrilled to return to Paris. “It’s amazing. Paris is such a special place. The last time I was there, I was so much younger, and I didn’t really get to appreciate it the way you do when you go back as an adult.
“The architecture is unreal, the food. I understand why it’s the spot that everybody wants to go to for their honeymoon because it is just such a romantic place. Everywhere you turn, it just feels just charming and beautiful.”
Alexa and her husband Carlos recently signed a multi-picture deal with Hallmark Media, but not only didn’t he star with her in A Paris Proposal, the family didn’t make the trip to Paris, either.
She admitted it was rough to be without her family and told Carlos they had a good excuse to return for something more intimate, but she really enjoyed taking a little time to herself personally and professionally.
Her freedom allowed her to connect socially with the cast, and it led to her favorite moment of the visit.
“I actually took a stroll by myself and found this little cafe, and I just sat alone, eating a little sandwich outside under an awning while it sprinkled. And this was at night, and the lights were twinkling. It felt like I was in a movie by myself. It was just glorious.”
That’s a much different experience than she had as a child. “When I was younger, I always loved architecture. So I was at least very aware of and impressed by how gorgeous the architecture and history was of Paris.
“I went to Versailles, and I remember that blew me away, just being so shocked by how incredible Versailles was. Now I didn’t get to go back this time just because of our schedule, which didn’t really allow it. But I do hope to go to Versailles again because I remember as a child that really just was the coolest thing. I mean, it was a castle!”
Navigating a rough filming schedule while also attending to family can be hard, Alexa said, but while she really missed her family, she found the silver lining.
“It was the first time in a very long time that I was able to really focus on my work and not have to come home and then suddenly take care of three kids, and you’re operating on no sleep and going to set the next day and working these long hours and then going back home and repeating until the movie’s over.
“This was just such a special experience because I was able to really sink into that role, and when we were done filming, the cast would all go out to dinner after, and we would actually go over our lines for the next day together.”
Alexa said it was nice to be able to fit into the team even if she did miss her family, the greatest joy in her life.”The longing for your spouse and your children was always there. But the filming was such a fun process.”
A secret to filming A Paris Proposal comes from the fact that most of it was filmed in Bulgaria. She enjoyed the process so much that she thought, “we should shoot every movie in Bulgaria.”
“This was just such a good experience. Truly. The cast came from all over Europe,” she said, complementing the team. Many had come from London, including her costar, Nick, who she said is just “so lovely.”
“Most of them all speak three or four languages, French being one of them, which made me feel super silly. We speak Spanish and English in our household, but my Spanish is not the best anymore.
“I really need to step up my game, and it just cracks me up that these people in these other countries are speaking so many languages. It was very impressive and just such a good group to work with.”
When I asked how she came to be flying solo after the multi-picture deal she and Carlos signed, Alexa said, “I know! That’s just how it worked out because they had these deals in place where each did our solo one, and we got one together.
“So they’re still kind of figuring out what project is next. But we do have a couple more coming, and we will get to see you guys a whole lot more with Hallmark movies.”
They’ve got three pictures with Hallmark, one outside of the network, and Carlos is heading to South America to tour before he begins an American tour. They are very busy but “beyond blessed,” Alexa said.
But don’t worry about the couple finding time for each other or their family. Alexa was knee-deep in the ocean as we chatted on the phone, her family just an arm’s length away.
Alexa is excited for people to see A Paris Proposal because it’s a fresh take on the traditional rom-com. Instead of American actors, she’s surrounded by European talent, for example.
“The cast that we had for this film was incredible, I mean, highly trained actors, the kindest people. Just had so much fun with them. And I think it’ll be fun [for fans] too because, for Hallmark, it gives it a very different look.
“I know they’re used to seeing familiar faces, which we love so much because I believe in working with the same people over and over again because it creates a really nice family dynamic.
“But what I did like about this was there are some new faces that you’ve never seen on Hallmark before, and it’s going to give it a very cool look and feel. Overall, the quality is just fantastic because they really brought their A-game.”
There is something about fresh faces in a movie that adds unexpected layers to the story, Alexa and I agreed.
She said, “Here’s what made it great, and this is why I really appreciated it. When we’re working, especially when I’m working with Carlos, a lot of times, I know what he’s capable of. I know how far I can push him.
“So when a scene is over, we keep playing. We don’t stop. We keep running our lines. We keep ad-libbing and saying more things. A lot of times, those are the picks that we use because it just keeps it really real and fun.
“When I work with other co-stars, I don’t always get to do that because they’re like, ‘Wait, this isn’t a script. What are you doing?’ And you don’t really get to play that much. Whereas here on this set, I was shocked.
“Everybody was down and willing to play, to ad-lib, to kind of give it more than what was just on paper. And I think that’s where a lot of the moments that really shine came in. Because for instance, there was just one scene that we were filming where I leave, but I’m wearing this very pink outfit.
“And as I walk off the scene, my costar yelled out, ‘By the way, I loved you in Legally Blonde,’ as a dig. And it was hilarious. And they kept it because it was just so funny. It was such a ridiculous line that he just randomly threw it out there.
“And that’s the gem, that’s the gold that you get when you get to film with actors who are comfortable to play and explore.”
As I was prepping for the interview, I saw how many people in the world feel they can weigh in on her life, and I asked her: What’s your favorite thing about living in the public eye, and what’s your least favorite thing? Alexa didn’t hesitate before answering.
“My favorite thing would be that you are given a platform to really be just love and light in this world, which we need so badly, especially with everything that just goes on.
“It is dark and heavy at times, and I love that I get to make movies that entertain people and that bring them a lot of joy and keep them entertained regardless of what’s going on in their life.
“They’re able to escape for an hour and a half to two hours. But then, on top of that, having a platform to be able to love people and be a light to people. And I guess to be somewhat of a role model, if that makes sense.
“So what I don’t like, and I have to learn to not care about it, but I guess there’s going to be a lot of criticism.
“But ultimately, what I’ve learned over these years, especially as I’ve gotten older, is you’re never going to be able to make everybody happy, no matter how hard you try. And if you live your life as a people pleaser, you’re never going to find joy. So I had to learn to be really confident.
“I had to learn to be really confident and comfortable in who I am, what I believe in, and things that I want to take a stand for.
“The second I found that — it sounds crazy, but you almost feel invincible because it’s your superpower. People can say whatever they want, but you know who you are. And when you know who you are, it doesn’t matter.”
Growing up in the entertainment business doesn’t always lead to happiness and success, but Alexa has found both.
For now, she’s eager for you to see A Paris Proposal, and she’s got a pitch for your viewership.
“There are some fantastic, funny moments. And then there are some deep, very real moments that I think can hit home with a lot of people, especially needing validation from your parents and really wanting to feel accepted by your family.
“I really think that this movie has a lot of heart and has some depth, that Hallmark is allowing us to go deeper in these storylines. And it’s really just wonderful.”
A Paris Proposal premieres tonight at 8/7c on Hallmark Channel.
Carissa Pavlica is the managing editor and a staff writer and critic for TV Fanatic. She’s a member of the Critic’s Choice Association, enjoys mentoring writers, conversing with cats, and passionately discussing the nuances of television and film with anyone who will listen. Follow her on Twitter and email her here at TV Fanatic.