A prolific actress with a career spanning over six decades, Hispanic-American actress Carmen Zapata appeared in over 100 movies and television shows, including the groundbreaking children's show "Villa Alegre" (PBS 1973-1980) and the '90s comedy hits "Sister Act" (1992) and "Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit" (1993). Zapata was born on July 15, 1927 in New York City. She made her Broadway debut in the chorus of "Oklahoma" in 1946, and subsequently spent most of her early career in stock roles in theaters. She also dabbled in stand-up comedy, performing in hotels and clubs across the country as "Marge Cameron" to evade discrimination due to her ethnicity. Zapata's first feature film was "Hail, Hero!" (1969), a generation-gap drama starring a young Michael Douglas. Zapata was a passionate proponent of equality for Hispanic-Americans in Hollywood; her efforts to combat discrimination led her to co-found the Screen Actors Guild Ethnic Minority Committee with fellow actors Ricardo Montalban, Edith Diaz and Henry Darrow in 1972, and The Bilingual Foundation of the Arts in the following year. In 1973, she was cast in the PBS children's program "Villa Alegre," the first bilingual show in American television. Zapata starred as the mayor of the show's eponymous town for nearly seven years. Although she was an incredibly versatile actress, she was often used for token ethnic roles. She finally landed a recurring role on a television series when she was cast as Mrs. Castillo in the popular soap opera "Santa Barbara" (NBC 1984-1993), the first soap to include a Latino family in its main cast. In the '90s, Zapata was seen shaking things up as a musical nun alongside Whoopi Goldberg in the smash comedy hit "Sister Act" and its sequel. In 2002, she appeared in the made-for-TV historical biopic "Fidel," after which she retired from showbiz. A year after her last on-screen appearance, she was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for her contributions to live theater. On January 5, 2014, Zapata passed away from heart failure in her Van Nuys home at the age of 86.
Cast (Feature Film)
Cast (TV Mini-Series)
Made her Broadway debut in the chorus of "Oklahoma"
Feature film debut in "Hail, Hero!"
Starred in the TV series "Villa Alegre" (PBS)
Cast as Mrs. Castillo in "Santa Barbara"
Appeared as the Choir Nun in "Sister Act"
Last credited role in the TV movie "Fidel"
Received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for Live Theater