Edward James Olmos

Edward James Olmos

Born Edward Olmos
(1947-02-24) February 24, 1947
Los Angeles, California, United States
Residence Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Nationality American
Occupation Actor, director
Years active 1974–present
Spouse(s) Kaija Keel (m. 1971–92)
Lorraine Bracco (m. 1994–2002)
Lymari Nadal (m. 2002)
Children 6

Edward James Olmos (born Edward Olmos;[1] February 24, 1947) is an American actor and director. Among his most memorable roles are William Adama in the re-imagined Battlestar Galactica, Lieutenant Martin "Marty" Castillo in Miami Vice, teacher Jaime Escalante in Stand and Deliver, patriarch Abraham Quintanilla, Jr. 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

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.[2] His father was a Mexican immigrant and his mother was American.[3] He grew up wanting to be a professional baseball player, and became the Golden State batting champion.

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. 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".[4] For several years, Pacific Ocean performed at various clubs in and around Los Angeles, and released their only record, Purgatory, in 1968. At the same time, he attended classes at East Los Angeles College, including courses in acting.[5]



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.

Film and television

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, he 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, for which he was awarded a Golden Globe and an Emmy in 1985. 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 declined.[6]

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."[7]

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 joined the cast of the television series Dexter for its sixth season, as a "brilliant, charismatic professor of religious studies".[8]

Olmos starred in the second season of Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. as Robert Gonzales, the leader of a rival faction of S.H.I.E.L.D., for five episodes.

Social activism

Olmos in March 2008

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, Olmos went out with a broom[9] and worked to get communities cleaned up and rebuilt.[10][11][12] He also attended an Oprah episode relating to the L.A. riots as an audience member. In 1997, he co-founded the Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival[13] 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[14] 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. In 1999, Olmos was one of the driving forces that created Americanos: Latino Life in the U.S., 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.[15]

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).[16]

He is also a supporter of SENS Research Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to treating and curing diseases of aging by repairing the underlying damage caused by aging. A series of animations explaining the concept of SENS has been narrated by him.[17]

Personal life

From 1979 to 1987, Olmos lived in West New York, New Jersey.[18] In 1971, he married Katija Keel, the daughter of actor Howard Keel. They had two children, Bodie and Mico, before divorcing in 1992. Olmos has four adopted children: Daniela, Michael, Brandon, and Tamiko. He married actress Lorraine Bracco in 1994. She filed for divorce in January 2002 after five years of separation.[4] That 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


Year Title Role Notes
1974 Black Fist Junkie in Bathroom Uncredited
1975 Aloha Bobby and Rose Chicano #1 Credited as Eddie Olmos
1977 Alambrista! Drunk
1979 Fukkatsu no hi Capt. Lopez
1981 Wolfen Eddie Holt
1981 Zoot Suit El Pachuco
1982 Blade Runner Gaff
1983 The Ballad of Gregorio Cortez Gregorio Cortez
1985 Saving Grace Ciolino
1988 Stand and Deliver Jaime Escalante
1989 The Fortunate Pilgrim Frank Corbo
1989 Triumph of the Spirit Gypsy
1991 Talent for the Game Virgil Sweet
1992 American Me Montoya Santana
1993 Roosters Gallo Morales
1994 A Million to Juan Angel
1995 Mirage Matteo Juarez
1995 My Family Paco
1996 Dead Man's Walk Capt. Salazar
1996 Caught Joe
1997 Selena Abraham Quintanilla, Jr.
1997 The Disappearance of Garcia Lorca Roberto Lozano
1997 Hollywood Confidential Stan Navarro, Sr.
1998 The Wonderful Ice Cream Suit Vamanos
2000 The Road to El Dorado Chief Tannabok Voice only
2000 Gossip Detective Curtis
2002 Jack and Marilyn Pasquel
2005 Cerca, La Nino
2005 Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind Mito English dub; Voice only
2006 Splinter Capt. Garcia
2008 Beverly Hills Chihuahua Diablo Voice
2010 I'm Still Here Himself
2011 The Green Hornet Michael Axford
2011 America Mr. Irving
2012 Filly Brown Leandro Producer
2013 Go for Sisters Freddy Suarez
2013 2 Guns Papa Greco
2014 Unity Narrator Documentary
2014 The Book of Life El Chu Voice
2016 El Americano: The Movie[20] Gayo "El Jefe" Voice


Year Series Role Episode
1977 Hawaii Five-O Dancer Ready aim
1977 Starsky & Hutch Julio Guiterez Episode: "The Psychic"
1978 CHiPs Henry Episode: "Flashback"
1978 Evening in Byzantium Angelo Television film
1981 Three Hundred Miles for Stephanie Art Vela Television film
1982 Hill Street Blues Joe Bustamonte 2 episodes
1984 Hill Street Blues Judge Cruz Episode: "Parting Is Such a Sweet Sorrow"
1984–1990 Miami Vice Lt. Martin Castillo 106 episodes
1988 The Fortunate Pilgrim Frank Corbo
1990 The Earth Day Special Hospital Director
1994 Menendez: A Killing in Beverly Hills Jose Menendez Television film
1994 The Burning Season Wilson Pinheiro Television film
1995 The Magic School Bus Mr. Ramon Episode: "Going Batty"
1996 The Limbic Region Jon Lucca Television film
1996 Dead Man's Walk Captain Salazar Television miniseries
1997 12 Angry Men Juror #11 Television film
1998 Touched By An Angel Col. Victor Walls Episode: "God and Country"
1998 The Taking of Pelham One Two Three Det. Anthony Piscotti Television film
1999 Bonanno: A Godfather's Story Salvatore Maranzano Television film
1999–2000 The West Wing Associate Justice Roberto Mendoza 2 episodes
2000 The Princess & the Barrio Boy Nestor Garcia Television film
2001 The Judge Judge Armando Television film
2001 In the Time of the Butterflies Rafael Trujillo Television film
2002–2004 American Family Jess Gonzalez 17 episodes
2003–2009 Battlestar Galactica William Adama 73 episodes
2006 Walkout Julian Nava Television film; also director
2007 George Lopez Mr. Vega Episode: "George Decides to Sta-Local Where It's Familia"
2010 CSI: NY Luther Devarro Episode: "Sangre Por Sangre"
2011 Dexter Professor Gellar 10 episodes
2011 Eureka Rudy Episode: "Do You See What I See?"
2012 Portlandia Himself Episode: "One Moore Episode"
2015 Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Robert Gonzales 5 episodes
2015 The Simpsons Pit Master Voice; Episode: "Cue Detective"
2016 Urban Cowboy Al Robles Series regular

Awards and nominations

Year Nominated work Award Results
1985 Miami Vice Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor - Series, Miniseries or Television Film Won
1985 Miami Vice Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series Won
1986 Miami Vice Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series Nominated
1988 Stand and Deliver Independent Spirit Award for Best Male Lead Won
1988 Stand and Deliver Academy Award for Best Actor Nominated
1988 Stand and Deliver Golden Globe Award for Best Actor - Motion Picture Drama Nominated
1994 The Burning Season Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor - Series, Miniseries or Television Film Won
1994 The Burning Season Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie Nominated
1997 Selena ALMA Award for Outstanding Actor in a Feature Film Won
1997 Hollywood Confidential ALMA Award for Outstanding Actor in a Miniseries or Television Film Nominated
2001 The Judge ALMA Award for Outstanding Actor in a Miniseries or Television Film Nominated
2003 Battlestar Galactica ALMA Award for Outstanding Actor in a Drama Series Won
2005 Battlestar Galactica ALMA Award for Outstanding Actor in a Series, Miniseries or Television Film Won
2006 Battlestar Galactica ALMA Award for Outstanding Actor - Television Series, Mini-Series, or TV Movie (tied with Michael Peña) Won
2007 Battlestar Galactica Saturn Award for Best Actor on Television Nominated
2008 Battlestar Galactica Saturn Award for Best Actor on Television Won
2009 Battlestar Galactica ALMA Award for Best Actor on Television Nominated
2011 Dexter Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series Nominated
2011 Dexter Saturn Award for Best Guest Starring Role on Television Nominated


  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. "Edward James Olmos Biography (1946–2010)" filmreference.com, accessed 19 October 2009
  3. 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
  4. 1 2 Cast:William Adama, scifi.com, accessed 2 December 2006
  5. 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
  6. 'Battlestar's' last roundup - LA Times
  7. Edward James Olmos: So say we all
  8. Edward James Olmos joins "Dexter"
  9. The L.A. Riots at 20: Edward James Olmos Remembers 'All-Out War' in Hollywood
  10. Street Drama : Actor Edward James Olmos Plays Leading Role in Cleanup Effort
  11. Three Calm Voices of the LA Riots: Olmos "Just Started Sweeping"
  12. Edward James Olmos
  13. Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival
  14. Latino Book & Festivals
  15. Edward James Olmos speaking on Vieques on YouTube
  16. Edward Olmos Donations - Huffington Post
  17. http://www.sens.org/outreach
  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. .
  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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