This spring, Carlos Pena Jr., cast member of Nickelodeon’s hit musical sitcom “Big Time Rush” and singer in the eponymous real-life pop/rock group, sent the Twitter-verse, well, a-twitter when he hinted that the show wouldn’t be returning for a fifth season.
Nickelodeon hasn’t commented, and more than a month later, Pena, who grew up in Weston in Broward County, swears he still doesn’t know for sure. But if the show does return after the band finishes its current tour, someone from the prop department better call him about his character’s signature hockey helmet.
“Here’s what I know,” says Pena, 23. “When I left the set I took the early flight, and took my hockey helmet with me. If we come back, they’ll have to send a truck to my house to get it.”
Whether or not he and bandmates Kendall Schmidt, James Maslow and Logan Henderson are headed back to the set, where they play former Minnesota hockey players turned Hollywood-based heartthrobs, they are at least headed to Cruzan Amphitheatre tonight. And for Pena, it’s almost a homecoming.
“Most of my friends and family will come up and see me, and there’s a show in Orlando, so most of them will come up again,” he says. “They come to me! So that’s kind of nice.”
On tour, the guys are hanging out with opening act, fellow Nickelodeon star and Broward-bred Victoria Justice, who “has been a friend of ours for a while. She did a guest spot on our show, and it happened to be the episode I was directing. It was a lot of fun,” he says. “I think (the) tour’s gonna be fun. The tough part will be that we’re 22 and 23, and we kind of cruise at our own pace. She has her mother with her, so we may have to show her the ropes, play the teenagers again and sneak out behind her mom’s back.”
For a guy who says he’s not sure about the future of his show, Pena seems pretty reflective about his time playing Carlos Garcia (If this is confusing — They all play guys with their own real-life first names, but not their last names, because this is not an documentary. They are not former hockey players. Weston is not in Minnesota. You’re welcome.)
“This has been so incredible, meeting so many amazing people. The show’s been a great thing for all of us, to come out to L.A. It’s been a nice way for us to be out here. These boys are my brothers,” he says. “It would definitely be weird (if it were over) because it’s been about five years of my life. But I’m so thankful for it. I think that it’s been a great stepping stone for us. Whenever it’s over, whenever that may be, I think we have a bright future, whether it’s acting or in music, or directing. Who knows?”
Pena, who before his big time break with Big Time Rush had guests spots on “ER,” “Summerland” and “Judging Amy,” laughs when he’s asked about considering playing a character who had a different name.
“It first that seemed like such a great idea!” he says. “It’s still cool, although I wish I’d had a little more distance between the character and myself. It can get confusing, but the fans love it. It’s so much easier for them. It’s been a blessing, and a curse.”
Whatever his fans call him, Pena says he’s excited about them, a group whose demographics “are all spread out. A lot of them are Bieber fans, kind of between 16-20. In that group, they might think it’s not cool to like us, but when they get to know us, they realize that we’re older than Bieber, they’re like ‘Ah, I get it!’ At the same time, on this cruise I just went on, we met this couple that were really sweet. They were older than us, about 26 or 28. The last time, they came up to me at the casino and said ‘Are you on a show called ‘Big Time Rush? I thought so!’”
Whenever his time in Big Time Rush is over — and he swears he doesn’t know when that is for sure — Pena, who is of Spanish, Dominican and Venezuelan decent, has a lot of ideas, like directing TV and film, or doing a solo music gig in South America, which is “where I’m leaning towards. I’m in talks with my peeps. We have a lot of great fans. Mexico’s been amazing to us. We’ve been to Brazil, and Buenos Aires. My father always told me to stay close to my Latin roots, so I might be singing in Spanish.”
In the meantime, he’s still in Big Time Rush. Really.
“No one has said anything otherwise,” he says. “And like I said, if they want their helmet back, they can send a truck.”
IF YOU GO
BIG TIME RUSH
with Victoria Justice, tonight, Cruzan Amphitheatre, West Palm Beach. Information: livenation.com