From Spy Kids to Sleepover, most of Alexa Vegaís movies have been comedies. But sheís getting serious in the Lifetime TV movie Odd Girl Out, in which she plays Vanessa, a teen whose so-called friend and her clique suddenly turn on her. Alexa had a lot to say about this very serious real-life problem.
IML: Odd Girl Out is a big switch from the comedies youíve done.
Alexa: Iíve wanted to play an important role like this for a long time, something besides Spy Kids or typical ďteenĒ things. This is pretty strong stuff. Vanessa has rages and cuts her hair off!
IML: She also faces peer pressure to do things like shoplift. Do you think thatís true to life?
Alexa: I know lots of people whoíve done stuff like that. Iíve never done anything like that myself, but itís kind of scary and bad that the teenage world has become so out of control. You have kids doing drugs, having sexÖthings that were unthinkable ten years ago are now happening like itís nothing.
IML: Vanessaís so-called friends lie to her, break trusts, and tell secrets. They inflict a lot of damage on her.
Alexa: Yes. I think that messes you up more than a physical fight. Girls are very catty at this age and they know how to get to each other. The Internet has become a tool to pick on people and ruin someoneís life. I donít think parents realize whatís going on. Just because youíre not at school doesnít mean kids arenít harassing you on the computer. But thereís a way to trace some of it. Kids have gotten suspended and expelled.
IML: Vanessa stands up to the mean girls in the end. Is that the right way to handle it?
Alexa: I personally would handle it that way, because my mom raised us to be strong. Weíre very open and talk about everything. But if you donít have a relationship with your parents where you can talk to them, it can be a terrible situation. Vanessa had never been in the position where she had to take control. But she ends up taking control of her life, which is the best thing. Kids need to open up to their parents. And parents should realize that when kids are pushing you away, thatís the time to really step in. We hope parents and kids will watch.
IML: How do you think young people can deal with that kind of anger and frustration in a less extreme than Vanessaís?
Alexa: Donít be quiet act and like it doesnít affect you. It wonít go away and your anger will get worse and youíll explode. Vanessa didnít do anything and kept it all inside and thatís not the way to go. If you donít do something early, it will become harder and harder.
IML: Did Vanessaís situation hit home for you?
Alexa: Well, thatís the reason I didnít go back to regular high school. They poured soda and stuff on me. Going in as a freshman, you already have problems. Going in as an actor whoís a freshman is double that. And going in as a ďSpy KidĒ topped it all! I wasnít popular but I wasnít unpopular.
I kind of hung out with everybody as opposed to one little clique, which is a good thing. But still, high school didnít bring me up as a person. It brought me down. There were so many people who were so immature and didnít exactly set the best example. I just think Iím past that, although I still love to do fun things like hanging out with friends, going to the movies. My sister Krizia went through a lot of this stuff. Sheís gorgeous, very mature, artistic, and she looks very grown up. She was very developed already when other kids were just starting to go through puberty. I donít know if people were scared of her or jealous. All the teachers loved her. But all this in combination was weird for the kids at school and they picked on her. She stopped going to regular school and went into independent study, like me. If we need to go to school to take tests, we can. And if we donít understand something, we can go in and talk to the teachers.
IML: Was it tough to work on such an emotion-filled movie?
Alexa: Honestly, I enjoy doing films like this more than comedies, because it pushes me a little further. I get to play characters that kind of shock people and I enjoy doing that. I like characters that have meaning and get people in the heart. I want to be able to get people to cry or make people angry or sad.
IML: Whatís next for you, work-wise?
Alexa: A film for HBO called Walkout. Itís about a young girl who fights for Mexican-American rights at school, and stages a walkout. Itís a true story.
IML: Youíre a junior in high school. Do you plan to go to college?
Alexa: I want to know how to make money and run a business if things go wrong in the entertainment industry or I decide I donít want to do this anymore. Iíd like to go to NYU business school and then go on to film school.
IML: Thatís smart, especially since some child actors have had trouble making the transition to adult roles.
Alexa: Right. Itís a very difficult transition, because everyone still pictures you as a young person. But Jodie Foster and Natalie Portman have done it. Theyíre my two favorite actresses and my role models.
IML: Do you feel that youíve missed out on anything by growing up in show business?
Alexa: I havenít missed anything at allÖat least I donít think I have. If you grow up in the entertainment business, this is your life, and itís normal. My mom sent me to regular high school because she wanted me to have that experience and not say that I missed out, but I didnít like it at all. Iím more comfortable in the world that Iím in, I grew up in it so when I get around normal kids in regular high school I donít know what to do. I feel more secure in an adult environment.
IML: How do you keep up with friends when youíre so busy?
Alexa: Itís hard. I have three friendships that have lasted a long time but everybody else has come and gone. Even if I donít talk to my friend Sabrina for a long time, we know weíre best friends. We still have that sisterly bond. Iím still good friends with Katie, my stunt double from Spy Kids. And Ryan is like the brother we donít have. You know where you have to cater to people when they come over? With Ryan, itís, ĎJust sit down and watch TV with us.Ē
IML: Is it easy for you to have guy friends?
Alexa: Honestly, I usually have way more guy friends than girlfriends. Iíve had some friends who got upset that I had to work so much. I would love to hang out, but this is important to me, and a lot of times the average kid doesnít understand why I canít answer phone calls. But true friends really understand.
IML: Do you do any charity work?
Alexa: Iíve done the Make-a-Wish foundation, and the kids are just amazing! It makes me appreciate so much. Iím looking to do more charity things.
IML: What are you listening to? Whatís on your iPod?
Alexa: I have the Steve Miller Band, Tim McGraw, Santana, Christina Aguilera, Kanye West, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Wilson Phillips and Ewan McGregor from the Moulin Rouge soundtrack.
IML: Are you dating?
Alexa: No, Iím not allowed to have a boyfriend! I have guy friends and crushes on guys, but nothing more. Iím a girl -- I love to have that crush feeling.
IML: Do you think youíll still be doing this in 10 years? Or are there other things you want to do?
Alexa: I definitely want to have a family and an education. As far as the industry goes, I would love to keep doing this.
IML: What advice would you give other young people who want to act?
Alexa: You have to have a lot of patience and someone whoís pushing you in the right direction or a strong family. You need someone who will always be by your side. If you donít have, that youíll end up becoming a typical Hollywood star and it ends up burning you out. You need a really strong head on your shoulders or youíll go crazy. When you have people catering to you non-stop, you lose it. You need someone to kick you in the butt every now and then!
IML: Thanks for talking to us, Alexa!
Alexa: Thanks! Bye!
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