Distinguished Latina actress Elizabeth Peña has died.
Actress Elizabeth Peña has died at 55. The actress and mother of two passed away Tuesday, October 14 at Cedars Sinai in Los Angeles. While a cause of death is unknown at this time, Peña’s manager confirmed that the actress had been briefly suffering from an undisclosed illness.
Peña is widely known for her roles in films including La Bamba, Lone Star, and The Incredibles. Besides her most notable cinematic works, she also had recurring roles on the television shows including 1980’s I Married Dora, in which she played an American housekeeper and as Sofia Vergara’s Colombian mother Pilar on the Emmy-winning show, Modern Family. Matador, a current crime television drama is her most recent work. Peña is a regular on the series featured on the El Rey network.
Peña was born in Elizabethtown, New Jersey and spent a portion of her childhood in Cuba with her parents. Her father Mario was an actor, writer and director while her mother Estella Margarita was a producer and arts administrator. Peña graduated from New York’s High School of Performing Art and was a founding member of the Hispanic Organization of Latin Actors.
Peña was known as a dedicated hard-working actress and took her roles seriously. When filming Lone Star in 1996, she revealed the obstacles of overcoming cultural differences when portraying her schoolteacher character.
"In the United States, all Spanish-speaking people are lumped into one category. But we’re all so different. Argentinians are completely different from Mexicans. Mexicans are completely different from Cubans. Cubans are completely different from people from Paraguay and Uruguay."
Peña’s nephew Mario-Francisco Robles, a critic for Latino-Review, confirmed the death of his aunt along with a warm tribute to an actress who paved the way for Latina actresses in Hollywood.
"She did it all, and she made it look fun. She made it look easy. But I know it wasn’t. I know she had a drive like no other and that she was a force to be reckoned with when she decided it was time to make it big or… well, nothing."
Stars have been mourning the loss of Peña across social media.
My heart is broken!!! My prayers are with you and your family. We will miss you #ElizabethPena –ZS— Zoe Saldana (@zoesaldana) October 16, 2014
The entire cast and crew are very sad to say goodbye to one of our Modern Family members. RIP to the beautiful & talented #ElizabethPena.— Jesse Tyler Ferguson (@jessetyler) October 16, 2014
Rest in Peace Elizabeth Pena...you paved the way for so many of us!! http://t.co/IiGf6JuxGf— Eva Longoria (@EvaLongoria) October 16, 2014
Elizabeth Peña was wonderful in everything she did. She shone so bright. An incredibly gifted actress. I loved her. Rest in Peace.— Martha Plimpton (@MarthaPlimpton) October 16, 2014
Heartbroken to hear the news of Elizabeth Peña's death. She was such a light. So glad I knew her. So sad she's gone. pic.twitter.com/4YFOl2d1a3— America Ferrera (@AmericaFerrera) October 16, 2014
So devastated to hear about the passing of Elizabeth Pena. A lovely friend and wonderful actress. She will be truly missed.— Robert Rodriguez (@Rodriguez) October 16, 2014
Elizabeth Pena , May your beautiful soul " Rest in Peace " with love and respect— George Lopez (@georgelopez) October 16, 2014
Elizabeth Pena...a ferociously funny, fierce and singular actress. A beautiful woman who has gone way too soon... I miss you already - RIP— Debra Messing (@DebraMessing) October 16, 2014