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Edward James Olmos

Actor, producer, director and community activist Edward James Olmos was born and raised in East Los Angeles and spent many years in theatrical roles until his mesmerizing performance in the 1978 dramatic musical Zoot Suit led to a Tony Award nomination. He recreated his role for film in 1981 and went on that year to star in Wolfen. Quickly following were the acclaimed historical drama The Ballad of Gregorio Cortez and Ridley Scott's landmark Blade Runner. His highly popular role as Lieutenant Martin Castillo for five years on the hit series Miami Vice earned Olmos an Emmy Award and a Golden Globe Award, plus an additional nomination each. He was recently seen as Judge Roberto Mendoza, a Supreme Court hopeful, in episodes of The West Wing.

Olmos has also been lauded with a Los Angeles Drama Circle Award and a Theatre World award for the stage version of Zoot Suit, and received an Academy Award nomination for his portrayal of Jaime Escalante, the dedicated, real-life math teacher of Stand and Deliver. He was recently awarded the PASS Award from the National Council on Crime and Delinquency for producing the domestic-violence documentary It Ain't Love.

In 1992, Olmos made his directorial debut with the powerful feature film American Me, in which he also starred. He was honored with a Golden Globe Award and an Emmy Award nomination for his work in the 1994 HBO production The Burning Season, the story of Brazilian political activist Chico Mendes. Olmos also played Jose Menendez in the CBS miniseries Menendez: A Murder in Beverly Hills that year, and was the executive producer of the award-winning NBC documentary Lives in Hazard.

The following year, he starred with Jimmy Smits and Esai Morales in the landmark Latino-American drama My Family / Mi Familia, directed by acclaimed filmmaker Gregory Nava. Olmos starred in the ABC miniseries Dead Man's Walk, the prequel to Lonesome Dove, and played Abraham Quintanilla, the strong, supportive father of singing star Selena in the hit biographical drama Selena. Olmos physically transformed himself for the role, gaining 60 pounds.

Olmos' recent work includes the title role of the 2002 NBC miniseries Steve Martini's The Judge, for which he earned an Outstanding Actor nomination from the American Latino Media Arts Awards; the PBS series American Family, created by Gregory Nava; the Showtime telefilms Bonanno: A Godfather's Story, The Princess and the Barrio Boy and In the Time of the Butterflies, with Salma Hayek, in which he played Dominican Republic dictator Rafael Trujillo. He provided the voice of the wise Pre-Columbian village chief in DreamWorks' animated The Road to El Dorado. Among his many other films are Triumph of the Spirit, Talent for the Game, Caught and The Wonderful Ice Cream Suit, based on a Ray Bradbury story.

He has hosted or narrated documentaries including Zapatista, The Unfinished Journey (directed by Steven Spielberg), Good Cop, Bad Kid and Father, Son: America's Desperate Passage.

Olmos' other endeavors include:

The Americanos Project, produced in conjunction with the Smithsonian Institution as a national museum tour, a feature documentary on HBO, a book of photographs and text about the Latino community across America, a CD, and a concert extravaganza; and the 2002 Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival, co-produced by Olmos and featuring the work of more than 100 Latino filmmakers representing 13 countries.

Olmos participates in many humanitarian efforts, which include working with the David Rockefeller Foundation in the recruitment of new teachers for U.S. schools. He is the executive director of the Lives in Hazard Educational Project, a national gang-prevention program funded by the U.S. Department of Justice, and a national spokesperson for the Southwest Voter Registration Project, where he helps the Latino community in its pursuit of citizenship and voter registration; the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation; and the AIDS Awareness Foundation. He played an instrumental role in the clean-up efforts after the Los Angeles riots, the 1994 Los Angeles earthquake and Hurricane Andrew in Florida, and Hurricane Mitch in Central America.

Born February 24, 1947, in East Los Angeles, Calif., and raised in the Boyle Heights neighborhood, he played baseball as a way to avoid street gangs and drugs, and became the Golden State batting champion. Turning to rock music in his teens, he became lead singer in a band he named Pacific Ocean (because it was the biggest thing on the West Coast), which released a record in 1968. Around this time he was attending East Los Angeles College and California State University, performing in clubs, and studying acting. He married Kaija Keel, daughter of actor Howard Keel, in 1971; they have two sons, Mico and Bodie, and divorced in 1992. Olmos married actress Lorraine Bracco two years later; they divorced in 2002 after five years of separation.

Note: This profile was written in or before 2006.
Read earlier biographies on this page.

Edward James Olmos Facts

BirthdayFebruary 24, 1947 (74)
BirthplaceLos Angeles, California, USA
Awards1995 Golden Globe Awards: Best Actor in a Supporting Role in a Series, Mini-Series or TV Film (for The Burning Season)
1986 Golden Globe Awards: Best Actor in a Supporting Role in a Series, Mini-Series or TV Film (for Miami Vice)

Selected Filmography

American Me
Battlestar Galactica: The Complete Series
2 Guns
Battlestar Galactica:The Mini-Series
Miami Vice
Road to El Dorado
Stand and Deliver
First Season Episode 6 Father John
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