Writing for the Latino Review, Mario-Francisco Robles is reporting that celebrated actress Elizabeth Peña has died. Peña is best remembered for her critically acclaimed performance in John Sayles’ Lone Star (1996), also starring Chris Cooper, Matthew McConaughey, Miriam Colón, Jesse Borego, Joe Morton, Ron Canada, Tony Plana and Kris Kristofferson. Peña won the Best Supporting Actress award for her role as Pilar in Lone Star at the 1997 Independent Spirit Awards. Robles, who is also Peña’s nephew, writes:
“Born in Elizabeth, New Jersey and raised by her Cuban immigrant parents, Peña was destined for a career in the arts. Her father, Mario, was a playwright, director, actor, and designer in their native Cuba, who opened up the Latin American Theatre Ensemble after establishing a life for he and his family in New York. As a teen, Peña began making a name for herself as a formidable young actress in the New York theatre scene. She attended, and graduated from, the High School of Performing Arts and began her professional film career in 1978 with León Ichaso’s El Super. A few years later, the ambitious Cubana would set off to try her fortunes over on the west coast.”
Peña starred in the ABC prime time series, I Married Dora (1987), which co-starred actress Juliette Lewis. She appeared on numerous television shows including CSI: Miami, The Ghost Whisperer, Without a Trace, L.A. Law, Resurrection Blvd., Boston Public and Modern Family. Peña starred in many films including La Bamba (1987), Blue Steel (1989), Drug Wars: The Camarena Story (1990), Rush Hour (1998), Tortilla Soup (2001) and Transamerica (2005). She also was the voice of Mirage in The Incredibles (2004) and performed voice over work on American Dad and Maya & Miguel.
In 2001 Elizabeth Peña won an ALMA award for outstanding actress in a new series for Resurrection Blvd. In 2002, she won the outstanding actress award in film for Tortilla Soup.
She had recently wrapped work on the first season of the El Rey Network’s action series, Matador, where she played the title character’s mother Maritza.
Peña is survived by her husband, two teenage children, her mother and her sister. She died at Cedars-Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles. No cause of death has been officially released. She was 55.
Read Robles’ obituary in its entirety at The Latino Review.