Elizabeth Peña - Rotten Tomatoes

Elizabeth Peña



For some performers, the art of entertainment is discovered early on and tirelessly studied in an endless quest for perfection, and for others, a career on the stage and screen is a birthright that they are seemingly destined to fulfill. This isn't to say that they don't work just as hard to become the best they can be at their craft, but simply that actors such as the lovely and talented Elizabeth Peña had a distinct advantage in coming from a long line of talented entertainers. The daughter of a well-known Cuban-American writer/actor/director who founded the off-Broadway Latin American Theater Ensemble, Peña was born in New Jersey and raised in New York. By the tender age of eight, young Peña -- having been reared in a household of creativity and parental encouragement -- had realized without question that she wanted to dedicate her life to a career in the entertainment industry. Peña's education at New York's High School of the Performing Arts was complimented by a series of simultaneous roles in repertory theater and a handful of commercial appearances. At the age of 17, the rising starlet gained positive notice for her film debut as a rebellious teen in the award-winning independent movie El Súper. Subsequent roles in Times Square (1980), They All Laughed (1981) and Crossover Dreams (1985) may have done little to expose audiences to Peña's true dramatic abilities as an actress, but it was only a matter of time before a move Los Angeles found her star beginning to burn brighter than ever. Determined to make an impression in her new surroundings, Peña placed her demo tape and future fate as an actress in the hands of a security guard at a major studio -- and the gamble paid off more than she might have ever imagined. Not only did the guard stay true to his word and deliver the tape to the studio's casting director, but it was only 45 minutes until Peña received a phone call requesting that she return to the lot to meet director Paul Mazursky -- who was preparing to cast the role of lusty maid Carmen in the upcoming comedyDown and Out in Beverly Hills. Peña landed the part, and the rest is history.



In the years that followed, Peña made quite an impression with parts in such high-profile features as La Bamba (1987) and Blue Steel (1990), and her role as the mysterious girlfriend of a haunted Vietnam veteran in Jacob's Ladder proved that Peña could skillfully alternate between tender and menacing within a single scene. Peña dabbled in television work with roles in I Married Dora and Shannon's Deal, and would continue to alternate between the large and small screens in the years that followed. As the 1990s rolled on, Peña landed an Independent Spirit Award for her role in John Sayles' Lone Star, cracked skulls opposite action superstar Jackie Chan in Rush Hour, and earned positive critical nods for her supporting performance in the Latino-themed television series Resurrection Blvd. In 2001, Peña charmed audiences as never before with her role as a well-fed daughter hungering for fulfillment in the romantic comedy drama Tortilla Soup. If roles in such big-budget movies as Imposter (2002) offered Peña the sort of exposure that independent films such as ZigZag (also 2002) and Sueño (2004) could not, those smaller, more dramatic efforts offered her a chance to truly shine as an actress.



She continued to work as a prolific actress, voicing the character Mirage in The Incredibles (2004), guest-starring on a number of television shows like Numb3rs and the Ghost Whisperer and taking supporting roles in films like Transamerica (2005). She booked a recurring gig playing Gloria's (Sofia Vergara) mother on Modern Family, and appeared in the first season of Matador, which was produced by Robert Rodriguez. The fact that she was working so frequently made her death in 2014 at age 55 following a short illness all the more shocking.

Photos

Filmography

MOVIES

RATING TITLE CREDIT YEAR
92% Grandma
  • Carla
2015
43% Ana Maria in Novela Land
  • Senora Soto
2015
No Score Yet In the Dark
  • Dr. Weinette
2013
No Score Yet Blaze You Out
  • Actor
2013
48% The Perfect Family
  • Christina Reyes
2012
No Score Yet Down For Life
  • Mrs. Castro
2011
79% Mother and Child
  • Amanda
2010
No Score Yet Becoming Eduardo
  • Leticia Corazon
2009
52% Nothing Like the Holidays
  • Anna
2008
71% Love Comes Lately
  • Esperanza
2008
79% How the Garcia Girls Spent Their Summer
  • Lolita Garcia
2008
No Score Yet Racing for Time
  • Actor
2008
No Score Yet Racing for Time
  • Superintendent Pamela Flores
2008
44% Adrift in Manhattan
  • Isabel Parades
2007
29% Dragon Wars
  • Agent Linda Perez
2007
39% Goal II: Living the Dream
  • Actor
2007
52% Down in the Valley
  • Gale
2006
76% Transamerica
  • Margaret
2006
43% Sueno
  • Mirabella
2005
25% The Lost City
  • Miliciana Munoz
2005
No Score Yet Keep Your Distance
  • Holly
2005
No Score Yet Maya & Miguel - Funny Fix-Ups
  • Actor
2005
No Score Yet Maya & Miguel - Twice the Fun
  • Actor
2005
97% The Incredibles
  • Mirage
2004
No Score Yet Suburban Madness
  • Clara Harris
2004
No Score Yet The Hollywood Mom's Mystery
  • Det. Terry Shoe
2004
No Score Yet Ten Tiny Love Stories
  • Actor
2002
44% Zigzag
  • Ms. Tate
2002
22% Impostor
  • Midwife
2002
74% Tortilla Soup
  • Leticia Naranjo
2001
No Score Yet On the Borderline
  • Connie
2001
100% Things Behind the Sun
  • Carmen
2001
50% Seven Girlfriends
  • Martha
1999
6% Strangeland
  • Toni Gage
1998
60% Rush Hour
  • Tania Johnson
1998
No Score Yet Aldrich Ames: Traitor Within
  • Rosario Ames
1998
No Score Yet The Pass
  • Zeena
1998
No Score Yet The Second Civil War
  • Christina Fernandez
1997
88% Gridlock'd
  • Admissions Person
1997
No Score Yet Contagious (Virus)
  • Lou
1997
No Score Yet Pass
  • Actor
1997
93% Lone Star
  • Pilar
1996
No Score Yet It Came from Outer Space II
  • Ellen Fields
1996
13% Fair Game
  • Actor
1995
36% Free Willy 2: The Adventure Home
  • Dr. Kate Haley
1995
No Score Yet Dead Funny
  • Vivian
1995
No Score Yet The Invaders
  • Actor
1995
No Score Yet Across the Moon
  • Carmen
1994
No Score Yet Fugitive Among Us
  • Actor
1993
93% The Waterdance
  • Rosa
1992
69% Jacob's Ladder
  • Jezzie
1990
71% Blue Steel
  • Tracy Perez
1990
6% Vibes
  • Consuela
1988
64% *batteries not included
  • Marisa Esteval
1987
96% La Bamba
  • Rosie Morales
1987
84% Down and Out in Beverly Hills
  • Carmen
1986
No Score Yet Crossover Dreams
  • Liz
1985
33% They All Laughed
  • Rita
1981
96% Thief
  • Actor
1981
57% Times Square
  • Disco Hostess
1980
No Score Yet El Super
  • Aurelita
1979

TV

RATING TITLE CREDIT
0% Charlie's Angels
2011
  • Warden Gloria Galvez
48% Common Law
2012
  • Actor
6% Outlaw
2010
  • Actor
No Score Yet NCIS
2003
  • Lina Reyes
67% Matador
2014
  • Maritza Sandoval
18% Off the Map
2011
  • Inez
No Score Yet Ghost Whisperer
2005-2010
  • Marla
No Score Yet Without a Trace
2002-2009
  • Rosie Diaz
No Score Yet American Dad (target for inaccurate feed data)
2005
  • Voice
89% FlashForward
2009-2010
  • Sally
No Score Yet Numb3rs
2005-2010
  • Sonya Benavides
85% Modern Family
2009
  • Pilar

Quotes from Elizabeth Peña's Characters