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Elizabeth Pe±a

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Also Known As: Elizabeth Pena Died:
Born: September 23, 1959 Cause of Death:
Birth Place: Elizabeth, New Jersey, USA Profession: actor

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

This striking, stage-trained Latina first gained recognition as the maid-turned-revolutionary in Paul Mazursky's "Down and Out in Beverly Hills" (1986). Born in the US, Pena was raised in Cuba and moved back to Manhattan at the age of eight. She was acting professionally two years later and subsequently attended the famed High School of Performing Arts. Pena went on to appear in more than 20 off-Broadway shows and toured for two years as Shakespeare's Juliet. She has worked with such renowned theater companies as Joseph Papp's Public Theater, La Mama, and San Francisco's American Conservatory Theater.Pena's film career started slowly, with small roles in the Cuban/US production "El Super" (1979) and the American features "Times Square" (1980), "They All Laughed" (1981) and "Crossover Dreams" (1985). The spitfire role in "Down and Out in Beverly Hills" finally gained her attention from public and industry alike. Pena went on to play the battered wife of Ritchie Valens' half-brother in "La Bamba" (1987), the doomed friend of policewoman Jamie Lee Curtis in Kathryn Bigelow's "Blue Steel" and Tim Robbins' temperamental lover in Adrian Lyne's "Jacob's Ladder" (both 1990). Her subsequent screen credits...

This striking, stage-trained Latina first gained recognition as the maid-turned-revolutionary in Paul Mazursky's "Down and Out in Beverly Hills" (1986). Born in the US, Pena was raised in Cuba and moved back to Manhattan at the age of eight. She was acting professionally two years later and subsequently attended the famed High School of Performing Arts. Pena went on to appear in more than 20 off-Broadway shows and toured for two years as Shakespeare's Juliet. She has worked with such renowned theater companies as Joseph Papp's Public Theater, La Mama, and San Francisco's American Conservatory Theater.

Pena's film career started slowly, with small roles in the Cuban/US production "El Super" (1979) and the American features "Times Square" (1980), "They All Laughed" (1981) and "Crossover Dreams" (1985). The spitfire role in "Down and Out in Beverly Hills" finally gained her attention from public and industry alike. Pena went on to play the battered wife of Ritchie Valens' half-brother in "La Bamba" (1987), the doomed friend of policewoman Jamie Lee Curtis in Kathryn Bigelow's "Blue Steel" and Tim Robbins' temperamental lover in Adrian Lyne's "Jacob's Ladder" (both 1990). Her subsequent screen credits have included a supporting role in "The Waterdance" (1992) and playing the girlfriend of a suddenly-dead man in "Dead Funny" (1995). She won particular acclaim for her 1996 turn as a schoolteacher and former lover of the town sheriff (Chris Cooper) in John Sayles' acclaimed mystery "Lone Star" (1996).

Pena is also known for her TV work, beginning with a supporting role in the police sitcom "Tough Cookies" (CBS, 1986). She had the title role in the short-lived "I Married Dora" (ABC, 1988), which became briefly notorious for its tasteless and politically incorrect premise (a widower marries his housekeeper to prevent her deportation). Pena also played the regular role of an aggressive secretary on the John Sayles-created legal drama "Shannon's Deal" (NBC, 1990-91).

Pena has also turned in strong performances in nearly a dozen TV-movies, miniseries and anthologies, starting with the 1989 pilot for "Shannon's Deal" (NBC). She was also the widow of a DEA agent in the award-winning "Drug Wars: The Camarena Story" (NBC, 1990), turned up in the AIDS drama "Roommates" (NBC, 1994) and was featured in the HBO TV-movie, "The Second Civil War" (1997).

As Pena continued to rack up supporting film credits--including the hit buddy comedy "Rush Hour" (1998) and rocker Dee Snyder's bizarro horror film "Strangeland" (1998)--and telepic turns--such as playing the wife of a notorious real life spy in "Aldrich Ames: Traitor Within" (1998)--she also became a television series regular when she starred as Beatriz "Bibi" Corrales in the Showtime drama "Resurrection Blvd." (2000-2002).

Always an extremely in-demand actress, Pena would regularly strike a balance between appearing in Latina-specific roles, such as her turn opposite Hector Elizondo in "Tortilla Soup" (2001)--a Latin interpretation of China's "Eat, Drink, Man, Woman"--and non-ethnic parts, such as her warm, wise portrayal of a pre-operative transexual's therapist opposite Felicity Huffman in "Transamerica" (2005).

Pena also had a side career as a voice actor, lending her distinctive vocals to such animated projects as "Justice League," ""Maya & Miguel" and, most notably, as the bad-girl-gone-good Mirage in Disney/Pixar's CGI-animated mega-hit "The Incredibles" (2004).

VIEW THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Filmographyclose complete filmography

CAST: (feature film)

1.
 In the Dark (2013)
2.
 Blaze You Out (2012)
3.
4.
 Mother and Child (2009)
5.
 Down for Life (2009)
6.
 Racing For Time (2008)
8.
9.
 Dragon Wars (2007)
10.
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

1969:
First lead role in a play at age ten
1979:
Debut feature, "El Super"
1980:
First US film role, "Times Square"
1985:
Made TV debut in an episode of "Cagney and Lacey" (CBS)
1986:
Breakthrough film role, "Down and Out in Beverly Hills"
1986:
TV series debut, "Tough Cookies"
1987:
Played title character in the short-lived ABC sitcom, "I Married Dora"
1989:
TV-movie debut, featured in two-hour pilot for "Shannon's Deal" (NBC)
1990:
First starring role in a feature, "Jacob's Ladder"
:
Cast as a regular on John Sayles' quirky legal drama "Shannon's Deal" (NBC)
1996:
Delivered a superb performance in John Sayles' "Lone Star"
1997:
Appeared in the HBO movie "The Second Civil War"
1998:
Co-starred in the Showtime original "Aldrich Ames: Traitor Within"
1998:
Had featured role in the box-office hit "Rush Hour"
1999:
Was one of the titular "Seven Girlfriends"
2000:
Co-starred in the Showtime series "Resurrection Blvd."
2001:
Portrayed the oldest daughter the ensemble feature, "Tortilla Soup"
2001:
Had featured role as a doctor in the sci-fi film "Impostor"
2004:
Voiced Mirage in the animated feature "The Incredibles"
2005:
Starred opposite Felicity Huffman in the indie-drama "TransAmerica"
2006:
Cast in Andy Garcia's feature directorial debut "The Lost City"
2007:
Cast in the Korean dragon fantasy feature, "Dragon Wars"
2008:
Cast in the indie feature, "How the Garcia Girls Spent Their Summer" (filmed in 2003)
VIEW ALL MILESTONES

Education

The High School of Performing Arts: New York , New York - 1977

Notes

"I'm not getting hired, man, that's the fact. I could tell you a fancy, sweet story, but the roles I could have easily played and been absolutely right for--like 'The Perez Family'--they're giving it to other actresses not remotely close to being Latina. . . When they write a Latina role, in general they don't have a relationship in real life--unless it's maybe a housekeeper." --Elizabeth Pena, quoted in DAILY NEWS, June 21, 1996

Companions close complete companion listing

companion:
Steve Kibler. Teacher. Former talent agent; 20 years older than Pena.
husband:
Hans. Carpenter. Married in 1994; father of Pena's children.

Family close complete family listing

mother:
Margarita Pena. Arts administrator. Worked with the Latin American Theatre Ensemble.
father:
Mario Pena. Actor, writer, director.
sister:
Tania Pena. Younger.

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