Edward James Olmos

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Edward James Olmos
Edward James Olmos 2009 Inaugural Ceremony (cropped).JPG
Olmos at the Inaugural Opening Ceremonies on 18 January 2009
BornEdward Olmos
(1947-02-24) February 24, 1947 (age 67)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
OccupationActor, director
Years active1974–present
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Edward James Olmos
Edward James Olmos 2009 Inaugural Ceremony (cropped).JPG
Olmos at the Inaugural Opening Ceremonies on 18 January 2009
BornEdward Olmos
(1947-02-24) February 24, 1947 (age 67)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
OccupationActor, director
Years active1974–present

Edward James Olmos (born Edward Olmos;[1] February 24, 1947) is a Mexican American[2] 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 Wolfen, Triumph of the Spirit, Talent for the Game, American Me, The Burning Season, My Family/Mi Familia, Caught, 12 Angry Men, The Disappearance of Garcia Lorca, Walkout, The Wonderful Ice Cream Suit, American Family, and 2 Guns.

Early life[edit]

Olmos was born 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.

Olmos at the Festival Internacional de Cine en Guadalajara

Film and television[edit]

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 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.[7]

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."[8]

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.

Olmos in March 2008

Olmos joined the cast of the television series Dexter for its 6th season, as a “brilliant, charismatic professor of religious studies”.[9]

Social activism[edit]

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[10] and worked to get communities cleaned up and rebuilt.[11][12][13] 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[14] 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[15] 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.[16]

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).[17]

Personal life[edit]

From 1979 to 1987, Olmos lived in West New York, New Jersey.[18]

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, 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.[19] Asteroid 5608 Olmos is named in his honor.


Olmos in September 2006


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 Escalante
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 Pinheiro
1995MirageMatteo Juarez
1995My FamilyPaco
1996Dead Man's WalkCapt. Salazar
1996The Limbic RegionJon Lucca
199712 Angry MenJuror #11
1997SelenaAbraham Quintanilla, Jr.
1997The Disappearance of Garcia LorcaRoberto Lozano
1997Hollywood ConfidentialStan Navarro, Sr.
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 film
2000The Road to El DoradoChief TannabokVoice only
2000GossipDetective Curtis
2001The JudgeJudge Armando
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
2010I'm Still HereHimself
2011The Green HornetMichael Axford
2011AmericaMr. Irving
2012Filly BrownLeandroProducer
2013Go for SistersFreddy Suarez
20132 GunsPapa Greco
2014The Book of LifeEl ChuVoice
2015El Americano: The Movie[20]GayoVoice


1977Hawaii 5.0DancerReady aim
1977Starsky & HutchJulio GuiterezEpisode: "The Psychic"
1978CHiPsHenryEpisode: "Flashback"
1982Hill Street BluesJoe Bustamonte2 episodes
1984Hill Street BluesJudge CruzEpisode: "Parting Is Such a Sweet Sorrow"
1984–1990Miami ViceLt. Martin Castillo106 episodes
1990The Earth Day SpecialHospital Director
1995The Magic School BusMr. RamonEpisode: "Going Batty"
1999–2000The West WingAssociate Justice Roberto Mendoza2 episodes
2002–2004American FamilyJess Gonzalez17 episodes
2003–2009Battlestar GalacticaWilliam Adama73 episodes
2007George LopezMr. VegaEpisode: "George Decides to Sta-Local Where It's Familia"
2010CSI: NYLuther DevarroEpisode: "Sangre Por Sangre"
2011DexterProfessor Gellar10 episodes
2011EurekaRudyEpisode: "Do You See What I See?"
2012PortlandiaHimselfEpisode: "One Moore Episode"

Awards and nominations[edit]

YearNominated workAwardResults
1985Miami ViceGolden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor - Series, Miniseries or Television FilmWon
1985Miami VicePrimetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama SeriesWon
1986Miami VicePrimetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama SeriesNominated
1988Stand and DeliverIndependent Spirit Award for Best Male LeadWon
1988Stand and DeliverAcademy Award for Best ActorNominated
1988Stand and DeliverGolden Globe Award for Best Actor - Motion Picture DramaNominated
1994The Burning SeasonGolden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor - Series, Miniseries or Television FilmWon
1994The Burning SeasonPrimetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or a MovieNominated
1997SelenaALMA Award for Outstanding Actor in a Feature FilmWon
1997Hollywood ConfidentialALMA Award for Outstanding Actor in a Miniseries or Television FilmNominated
2001The JudgeALMA Award for Outstanding Actor in a Miniseries or Television FilmNominated
2003Battlestar GalacticaALMA Award for Outstanding Actor in a Drama SeriesWon
2005Battlestar GalacticaALMA Award for Outstanding Actor in a Series, Miniseries or Television FilmWon
2006Battlestar GalacticaALMA Award for Outstanding Actor - Television Series, Mini-Series, or TV Movie (tied with Michael Peña)Won
2007Battlestar GalacticaSaturn Award for Best Actor on TelevisionNominated
2008Battlestar GalacticaSaturn Award for Best Actor on TelevisionWon
2009Battlestar GalacticaALMA Award for Best Actor on TelevisionNominated
2011DexterScreen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama SeriesNominated
2011DexterSaturn Award for Best Guest Starring Role on TelevisionNominated


  1. ^ 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
  2. ^ [1]
  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. ^ 'Battlestar's' last roundup - LA Times
  8. ^ Edward James Olmos: So say we all
  9. ^ Edward James Olmos joins "Dexter"
  10. ^ The L.A. Riots at 20: Edward James Olmos Remembers 'All-Out War' in Hollywood
  11. ^ Street Drama : Actor Edward James Olmos Plays Leading Role in Cleanup Effort
  12. ^ Three Calm Voices of the LA Riots: Olmos "Just Started Sweeping"
  13. ^ Edward James Olmos
  14. ^ Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival
  15. ^ Latino Book & Festivals
  16. ^ Edward James Olmos speaking on Vieques on YouTube
  17. ^ Edward Olmos Donations - Huffington Post
  18. ^ 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." 
  19. ^ [2].
  20. ^ Hopewell, John (20 May 2014). "‘El Americano 3D’ Kicks Off Pre-Sales at Cannes (EXCLUSIVE)". Variety (magazine). Retrieved 21 May 2014. 

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