Veteran actress Elizabeth Pena, known for her performances in films such as Jacob’s Ladder and Rush Hour, has died at age 55. The actress completed work on the El Rey Network series “Matador” recently and appeared on ABC’s “Modern Family” as the mother of Sofia Vergara’s character.
Pena rose to fame in the late 1980s, playing memorable characters like Richie Valens’ long-suffering sister-in-law Rosie in the biopic La Bamba, Carmen, the sexy maid of an uptight wealthy white family in the hit comedy Down and Out In Beverly Hills and as the title character in the short-lived NBC sitcom “I Married Dora,” which aired alongside hit shows such as “Golden Girls” and “Amen” for one season. She also earned strong reviews for her memorable performance as Jezzie in the critically-acclaimed surreal horror film Jacob’s Ladder in 1990.
Born in Elizabeth, New Jersey, Pena was the daughter of Mario Peña, the Cuban-born actor, writer, and director who co-founded the Latin American Theatre Ensemble. She herself co-founded the Hispanic Organization of Latin Actors.
Later in her career, Pena appeared in hits such as Rush Hour and The Incredibles; indie films like Tortilla Soup while also remaining a consistent fixture on television shows like “CSI: Miami” and “Boston Public.” She also directed episodes of the series “Resurrection Blvd” and “The Brothers Garcia.”
Pena died at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, CA. Her nephew, film reviewer Mario-Francisco Robles, confirmed her death in an article in Latino-Review the following day.
Her cause of death has not been revealed.