Edward James Olmos

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Edward James Olmos
Edward James Olmos Sept 06 crop face.jpg
Edward James Olmos in 2006
Born(1947-02-24) February 24, 1947 (age 66)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
OccupationActor, director
Years active1974–present
Spouse(s)Kaija Keel (1971–1992)
Lorraine Bracco (1994–2002)
Lymari Nadal (2002–present)
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Edward James Olmos
Edward James Olmos Sept 06 crop face.jpg
Edward James Olmos in 2006
Born(1947-02-24) February 24, 1947 (age 66)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
OccupationActor, director
Years active1974–present
Spouse(s)Kaija Keel (1971–1992)
Lorraine Bracco (1994–2002)
Lymari Nadal (2002–present)

Edward James Olmos (born February 24, 1947) is a Mexican American[1] actor and director. Among his most memorable roles are William Adama in the re-imagined Battlestar Galactica, Lt. Martin Castillo in Miami Vice, teacher Jaime Escalante in Stand and Deliver, patriarch Abraham Quintanilla in the film Selena, Detective Gaff in Blade Runner, and narrator El Pachuco in both the stage and film versions of Zoot Suit.

In 1988, Olmos was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role for the film Stand and Deliver.

He has also been a longtime pioneer for more diversified roles and images of Hispanics in the U.S. media. His notable direction, production and starring roles for films, made-for-TV movies and TV shows include American Me, The Burning Season, My Family/Mi Familia, 12 Angry Men, The Disappearance of Garcia Lorca, Walkout, The Wonderful Ice Cream Suit and American Family.

Early life[edit]

Olmos was born Edward Olmos[2] in Los Angeles, California, where he was raised, the son of Eleanor (née Huizar) and Pedro Olmos, who was a welder and mail carrier.[3] His father was a Mexican immigrant and his mother was Mexican American.[4] He grew up wanting to be a professional baseball player, and became the Golden State batting champion. In his teen years, he turned to rock and roll, and became the lead singer for a band he named Pacific Ocean, so-called because it was to be "the biggest thing on the West Coast."[5] He graduated from Montebello High School in 1964. While at Montebello High School, he lost a race for Student Body President to future California Democratic Party Chair Art Torres. For several years, Olmos performed at various clubs in and around Los Angeles, and released a record in 1968. At the same time, he attended classes at East Los Angeles College, including courses in acting.[6]


In the late 1960s and the early 1970s, Olmos branched out from music into acting, appearing in many small productions, until his big break portraying the narrator, called "El Pachuco," in the play Zoot Suit, which dramatized the World War II-era rioting in California brought about by the tensions between Mexican-Americans and local police. (See Zoot Suit Riots.) The play moved to Broadway, and Olmos earned a Tony Award nomination. He subsequently took the role to the filmed version in 1981, and appeared in many other films including Wolfen, Blade Runner and The Ballad of Gregorio Cortez.

In 1980, Olmos was cast in the post-apocalyptic science fiction film (now a Japanese cult classic) Virus (復活の日 Fukkatsu no hi), directed by Kinji Fukasaku and based on a novel written by Sakyo Komatsu. His role required him to play a piano while singing a Spanish ballad during the later part of the film. Although not a box office success, Virus was notable for being the most expensive Japanese film ever made at the time.

From 1979 to 1987, Olmos lived in West New York, New Jersey.[7]

From 1984 to 1989, Olmos starred in his biggest role up to that date as the taciturn police Lieutenant Martin Castillo in the television series Miami Vice, opposite Don Johnson and Philip Michael Thomas. He was awarded a Golden Globe and an Emmy in 1985 for his work in the series. At this time, Olmos also starred in a short training video for the United States Postal Service entitled Was it Worth It?, a video about theft in the workplace. He was contacted about playing the captain of the USS Enterprise (NCC-1701-D) on Star Trek: The Next Generation when it was in pre-production in 1986, but he declined.[8]

Returning to film, Olmos became the first American-born Hispanic to receive an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor, in Stand and Deliver, for his portrayal of real-life math teacher, Jaime Escalante. He directed and starred in American Me in 1992, and also starred in My Family/Mi Familia, a multigenerational story of a Chicano family. In 1997, he starred alongside Jennifer Lopez in the film Selena. Olmos played Dominican Republic dictator Rafael Leónidas Trujillo in the 2001 movie In the Time of the Butterflies. He also had a recurring role as U.S. Supreme Court Justice Roberto Mendoza in the NBC drama The West Wing. From 2002 to 2004, he starred as a recently widowed father of a Hispanic L.A.-family in the PBS drama American Family: Journey of Dreams.

From 2003 to 2009, he starred as Commander (later Admiral) William Adama in the Sci-Fi Channel's reimagined Battlestar Galactica miniseries, and in the television series that followed. He directed four episodes of the show, Tigh Me Up, Tigh Me Down (1.9), Taking a Break from All Your Worries (3.13), Escape Velocity (4.4) and Islanded in a Stream of Stars (4.18). He also directed a television movie based upon the show, The Plan. Regarding his work on the show, he told CraveOnline, "I'm very grateful for the work that I've been able to do in my life, but I can honestly tell you, this is the best usage of television I've ever been a part of to date."[9]

In 2006, he co-produced, directed, and played the bit part of Julian Nava in the HBO movie about the 1968 Chicano Blowouts, Walkout. He also appeared in Snoop Dogg's music video "Vato", featuring B-Real from Cypress Hill. In the series finale of the ABC sitcom George Lopez, titled "George Decides to Sta-Local Where It's Familia"; he guest-starred as the plant's new multi-millionaire owner. More recently, he has been a spokesperson for Farmers Insurance Group, starring in their Spanish language commercials.

Edward Olmos has often been involved in social activism, especially that affecting the U.S. Hispanic community. During the 1992 Rodney King Riots in Los Angeles, when many people left the city,[citation needed] Olmos went out with a broom[citation needed] and worked to get communities cleaned up and rebuilt.[citation needed] He also attended an Oprah episode relating to the L.A. riots as an audience member. In 1997, Olmos co-founded the Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival[10] with Marlene Dermer, George Hernandez and Kirk Whisler. That same year, he co-founded with Kirk Whisler the non-profit organization, Latino Literacy Now, that has produced Latino Book & Festivals[11] around the USA, attended by over 700,000 people.

In 1998, he founded Latino Public Broadcasting and currently serves as its chairman. Latino Public Broadcasting funds public television programming that focuses on issues affecting Hispanics and advocates for diverse perspectives in public television. That same year, he starred in The Wonderful Ice Cream Suit, a comedy that sought to break Hispanic stereotypes and transcend the normal stigmas of most Hispanic-oriented movies.[citation needed] In 1999, Olmos was one of the driving forces that created Americanos: Latino Life in the U.S.1, a book project featuring over 30 award winning photographers, later turned into a Smithsonian traveling exhibition, music CD and HBO special.

He also makes frequent appearances at juvenile halls and detention centers to speak to at-risk teenagers. He has also been an international ambassador for UNICEF. In 2001, he was arrested and spent 20 days in jail for taking part in the Navy-Vieques protests against United States Navy target practice bombings of the island of Vieques, Puerto Rico. On January 5, 2007, he appeared on Puerto Rican television to blame the Puerto Rican and United States governments for not cleaning Vieques after the U.S. Navy stopped using the island for bombing practice.[12]

Edward James Olmos narrated the 1999 film Zapatista, a documentary in support of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation, a revolutionary group that has abstained from using their weapons since 1994. He also gave $2,300 to New Mexico governor Bill Richardson for his presidential campaign (the maximum amount for the primaries).[13]

Olmos joined the cast of the television series Dexter for its 6th season, as a “brilliant, charismatic professor of religious studies.”[14]

Personal life[edit]

In 1971, Olmos married Katija Keel, the daughter of actor Howard Keel. They had two children, Bodie and Mico, before divorcing in 1992. Olmos also has four adopted children: Daniela, Michael D., Brandon and Tamiko. He married actress Lorraine Bracco in 1994, but she filed for divorce in January 2002 after five years of separation.[5] In the same year, he married Puerto Rican actress Lymari Nadal. In 1996, he was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts from California State University, Fresno. In 2007, after a seven-year process, he obtained Mexican nationality.[15]

Asteroid 5608 Olmos is named in his honor.



1975Aloha Bobby and RoseChicano #1
1978Evening in ByzantiumAngelo
1979Fukkatsu no hiCapt. Lopez
1981Three Hundred Miles for StephanieArt Vela
1981WolfenEddie Holt
1981Zoot SuitEl Pachuco
1982Blade RunnerGaff
1983The Ballad of Gregorio CortezGregorio Cortez
1985Saving GraceCiolino
1988Stand and DeliverJaime EscalanteIndependent Spirit Award for Best Male Lead
Nominated—Academy Award for Best Actor
Nominated—Golden Globe Award for Best Actor - Motion Picture Drama
1989The Fortunate PilgrimFrank Corbo
1989Triumph of the SpiritGypsy
1991Talent for the GameVirgil Sweet
1992American MeMontoya Santana
1993RoostersGallo Morales
1994Menendez: A Killing in Beverly HillsJose Menendez
1994A Million to JuanAngel
1994The Burning SeasonWilson PinheiroGolden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor - Series, Miniseries or Television Film
Nominated—Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie
1995MirageMatteo Juarez
1995My FamilyPaco
1996Dead Man's WalkCapt. Salazar
1996The Limbic RegionJon Lucca
199712 Angry MenJuror #11
1997SelenaAbraham Quintanilla, Jr.ALMA Award for Outstanding Actor in a Feature Film
1997The Disappearance of Garcia LorcaRoberto Lozano
1997Hollywood ConfidentialStan Navarro, Sr.Nominated—ALMA Award for Outstanding Actor in a Miniseries or Television Film
1998The Wonderful Ice Cream SuitVamanos
1998The Taking of Pelham One Two ThreeDet. Anthony Piscotti
1999Bonanno: A Godfather's StorySalvatore Maranzano
2000The Princess & the Barrio BoyNestor GarciaTelevision movie
2000The Road to El DoradoChief TannabokVoice only
2000GossipDetective Curtis
2001The JudgeJudge ArmandoNominated—ALMA Award for Outstanding Actor in a Miniseries or Television Film
2001In the Time of the ButterfliesRafael Trujillo
2002Jack and MarilynPasquel
2005Cerca, LaNino
2005Nausicaä of the Valley of the WindMito
2006SplinterCapt. Garcia
2006WalkoutJulian Nava
2008Beverly Hills ChihuahuaDiabloVoice only
2010I'm Still HereHimself
2011The Green HornetMichael Axford
2011AmericaMr. Irving
20132 GunsPapa Greco
2013Filly BrownLeandro
2014El Americano[16][17]GayoVoice only
Also producer


1977Starsky & HutchJulio Guiterez(TV series, 1 episode: "The Physic")
1978CHiPsHenry(TV series, 1 episode: "Flashback")
1982Hill Street BluesJoe Bustamonte(TV series, 2 episodes)
1984Hill Street BluesJudge Cruz(TV series, 1 episode: "Parting Is Such a Sweet Sorrow")
1984–1990Miami ViceLt. Martin Castillo(TV series, 106 episodes)
Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor - Series, Miniseries or Television Film
Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series
1995The Magic School BusMr. Ramon (Carlos' father)(TV series, 1 episode: "Going Batty")
1999–2000The West WingAssociate Justice Roberto Mendoza(TV series, 2 episodes)
2002–2004American FamilyJess Gonzalez(TV series, 17 episodes)
2003–2009Battlestar GalacticaWilliam Adama(TV series, 73 episodes)
Saturn Award for Best Actor on Television
ALMA Award for Outstanding Actor in a Series, Miniseries or Television Film
ALMA Award for Outstanding Actor in a Drama Series
Nominated-ALMA Award for Best Actor on Television
Nominated-Saturn Award for Best Actor on Television (2007, 2008)
2007George LopezMr. Vega(TV series, 1 episode: "George Decides to Sta-Local Where It's Familia")
2010CSI: NYLuther Devarro(TV series, 1 episode: "Sangre Por Sangre)
2011DexterProfessor Gellar(TV series, 10 episodes)
Nominated-Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series
Nominated-Saturn Award for Best Guest Starring Role on Television
2011EurekaRudy(TV series, 1 episode: "DO You See What I See")"
2012PortlandiaHimself(TV series, 1 episode: "One Moore Episode")


  1. ^ [1]
  2. ^ According to the State of California. California Birth Index, 1905–1995. Center for Health Statistics, California Department of Health Services, Sacramento, California. Searchable at http://www.familytreelegends.com/records/39461
  3. ^ "Edward James Olmos Biography (1946–2010)" filmreference.com, accessed 19 October 2009
  4. ^ Velazquez, Gabriela (1 December 2003) "Edward James Olmos: fighting for justice and defying gangsters: on charity boards, UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, Oscar Nominee" Latino Leaders, accessed 19 October 2009
  5. ^ a b Cast:William Adama, scifi.com, accessed 2 December 2006
  6. ^ Bethel, Kari Francisco (2002) "Edward James Olmos" pp. 155-159 In Henderson, Ashyia N. (editor) (2002) Contemporary Hispanic Biography, Volume 1 Gale, Detroit, page 156, ISBN 0-7876-6538-X
  7. ^ Cerbo, Toni-Ann (December 1, 2010). "Edward James Olmos has fond memories of living in West New York while he built stage career". The Jersey Journal. Retrieved June 12, 2012. "Before Edward James Olmos was an award-winning actor, producer and social activist, he was a West New York resident. From 1979 to 1987, Olmos rented an apartment on Boulevard East after departing East L.A., he said." 
  8. ^ 'Battlestar's' last roundup - LA Times
  9. ^ Edward James Olmos: So say we all
  10. ^ Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival
  11. ^ Latino Book & Festivals
  12. ^ YouTube:Edward James Olmos speaking on Vieques
  13. ^ Edward Olmos Donations - Huffington Post
  14. ^ Edward James Olmos joins "Dexter"
  15. ^ [2].
  16. ^ "Check Out ‘El Americano: The Movie’ First Animated 3D Film Made by Latinos". Hispanically Speaking NEws. 19 May 2012. Retrieved 15 November 2013. 
  17. ^ Presentan “El Americano: The Movie”, coproducción México-EUA - Yahoo TV. Yahoo! TV. September 26, 2013

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