One of the more endearing moments in the new Spy Kids adventure, Island of Lost Dreams, is at the end when 14-year old Alexa Vega does a ‘Britney Spears’ and performs on stage. Jokingly asked if she will be the next ‘Britney Lopez’ because of her Hispanic heritage, the actress, who did her own singing for that sequence, just laughs hysterically.
It’s clear that the young actress, who shot to fame in the first Spy Kids, is having a blast. Even during press junkets. “I just love meeting new people and talking about myself.” It’s not feigned, as Vega remains an unpretentious teenager through and through, verbally bulldozing her way through questions. Back to her singing, it was a fantasy-come-through for Alexa to bounce about on a stage, with headset, singing enthusiastically to thousands of screaming extras. “When I was younger I used to sing a lot and I think that’s what I really wanted to do,” she hurriedly explains. Then once the Florida native moved to California, “I fell into acting, which was a good thing”, adding that she feels “blessed that it happened because so many people try to get an agent and everything, and it was easy for me.”
Born on August 27, 1988 in Miami, Vega spent her early years living on a nearby Florida farm. Vega says that she was inspired to want to act early on because “my mom was a model and we also had some friends who were going to move out to California, and it just kind of picked up from there.” Vega was four when her family relocated to California. Once there, her mother got a job with a talent agency. Inspired by Vega’s precocity, her mother brought her to an audition for Burt Reynolds’ TV series Evening Shade – she landed the two-year stint on her first try.
Vega worked continuously ever since, landing guest starring roles on ER and Chicago Hope, and appearing in Little Giants (1994) and Nine Months (1995). After portraying a young Helen Hunt in Twister (1996), she played Steven Segal’s daughter in The Glimmer Man (1996), Alec Baldwin’s daughter in Ghosts of Mississippi (1996), and Michelle Pfeiffer’s daughter in The Deep End of the Ocean (1999). Vega returned to series television as Alfred Molina’s daughter in CBS’ short lived sitcom Ladies Man, before taking centre stage in Spy Kids. Written and directed by Robert Rodriguez, the film followed two preadolescents who must save their secret agent parents from the grips of a madman bent on destroying the world.
It took seven auditions before getting the female lead in the first Spy Kids. “That was because I was considered too old for the part. They didn’t want some girl who was going to go through puberty after the second Spy Kids and then deal with her growing up.” But she so impressed Rodriguez that Vega won the day and the role. Along with co-star Daryl Sabara, Vega also insisted on doing the majority of her own stunts, instantly becoming a hero to kids everywhere. The movie, which also featured Antonio Banderas, Carla Gugino, Alan Cumming, and Tony Shaloub, was a box office smash.
Vega is now back for the film’s highly-anticipated sequel, Spy Kids 2: The Island of Lost Dreams which has the kids travelling to a lost island in an effort to thwart the evil plans of a mad scientist. Shooting the sequel, Vega says, was like a family reunion, “because we got to see all the crew as well as the added cast. It’s like a big family”. The family included its patriarch, director Rodriguez. “Robert treated me as his daughter,” says Vega who has nothing but praise for her multi-tasking director. “What makes the movie so great is Robert’s imagination; the man’s a genius.”
At a mature 14, Vega is now something of a pro in the effects-laden fantasy franchise, agreeing that shooting the first movie was more challenging than its sequel, “because we were so new then. We didn’t know the crew and we had to prepare to be in all the harnesses and the green screen. The second one was so easy because we knew what we were doing and went right in there,” she adds enthusiastically. “We also got to show the new kids around and tell them what it was like to be on set, so THEIR idea of the second one was our idea of the first one.”
Working with the green screen effects, meant that Vega had to wait, like the rest of us, to see the end result. “Oh my gosh, that was AMAZING”, she girlishly gushes with increasing enthusiasm. “To see the movie with all those monsters all over the place is just so cool.” Vega says that thank goodness, like most kids, she has a big imagination, and “which was the best part of making this movie, because kids have an incredible imagination that goes far beyond any other.” No wonder that making a Spy Kids movie continues to bring out her childhood fantasies. “A lot of people ask me if I feel like I’m missing out on my childhood. With acting, I feel like I’m playing dress up every day, get to travel and learn things that you’d NEVER learn if you were just a normal kid.” Normalcy? Who needs it, when you get to play spy kid? Vega can hardly wait for Spy Kids 3 to begin