Elizabeth Peña (Elizabeth Peña)

Elizabeth Peña

Elizabeth Peña

Elizabeth Peña (September 23, 1959 – October 14, 2014) was an American actress and director.

Early life
Born in 1959 in Elizabeth, New Jersey, Peña was of Cuban descent and spent her early years in Cuba. Her father, Mario Peña, was an actor, writer, and director who co-founded the Latin American Theatre Ensemble; her mother, Estella Margarita (Toirac) Peña, was an arts administrator and producer. The family moved to New York City when Peña was eight.

In 1975, she was a founding member of the Hispanic Organization of Latin Actors. She graduated from New York’s High School of Performing Arts in 1977. Her classmates were Ving Rhames and Esai Morales, whom she would later star with in La Bamba and Resurrection Blvd.

In 1979, Peña appeared in her first film, El Super, described as a “moving and melancholy comedy about a family of lower middle class Cuban refugees attempting to adjust to life in Spanish Harlem”. She worked once again with director Leon Ichaso in his next feature, Crossover Dreams. She has appeared in films such as La Bamba, Down and Out in Beverly Hills, Jacob’s Ladder, Lone Star, *batteries not included, Vibes and Rush Hour. In 2002, she starred in Showtime’s Resurrection Blvd. as Tia Bibi Corrades in the episode “Justicia”, which she also directed. In 2003, she appeared in and directed “It Was Fun While It Lasted”, an episode of The Brothers Garcia.

Peña provided the voice of the character Mirage in Pixar’s animated film The Incredibles. She guest starred in the 18th episode of season 2 of Numb3rs as Sonya Benavides, and in season 4 of Modern Family as Pilar, the Colombian mother of Gloria Pritchett. Although she spoke Spanish, she did not dub her own voice for Spanish releases. Peña was also noted for having starred in I Married Dora, a sitcom in 1987, as Dora Calderon, the title character. Writer-director John Sayles produced the critically acclaimed but short-lived television series Shannon’s Deal (1989–1991), co-starring Peña. In 1996, Sayles wrote and directed the mystery film Lone Star and again cast her in a co-starring role, for which she won the 1996 Independent Spirit Award for Best Supporting Actress and a Bravo Award for Outstanding Actress in a Feature Film from the National Council of La Raza.

Personal life
Peña’s first marriage was to William Stephan Kibler; it ended in divorce. She later married Hans Rolla, with whom she had children Fiona and Kaelan.

Peña died at age 55, on October 14, 2014, at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, California. The cause of death was later reported as cirrhosis of the liver due to alcohol. She reportedly had acute gastrointestinal bleeding hours before her death, which caused cardiac arrest.

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  • September, 23, 1953
  • United States
  • New Jersey


  • October, 14, 2014
  • United States
  • California

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