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Edward James Olmos: 1947—: Actor

From American Me To American Family

Following Stand and Deliver Olmos appeared in numerous films, often in conjunction with director Robert M. Young, with whom he had formed the production company, YOY Productions. He played Gypsy in Triumph of the Spirit (1989) and a baseball talent scout in Talent for the Game (1991). In 1992 he delved into directing as he coproduced, directed, and starred in American Me, a graphic and realistic story of crime and violence in the United States as it moves from the streets into the prisons. Olmos portrayed a character named Santana, a gang member who lands in Folsom State Prison but continues to run his Mexican Mafia from his jail cell, operating drugs, gambling, prostitution, and extortion rings. Intense and accurate, the film served as a message of the dangerous, and often tragic, nature of gang and prison life.

Once again with something important to say, Olmos traveled the country promoting the film and attending special screenings for youth organizations and communities. "This film is not for one race, one subculture, one age range," Olmos explained to Newsweek's Jack Kroll. "Gangs teach a distorted discipline, a distorted familial bonding, a distorted sense of pride and power. I made this movie to allow all society to take a journey into an uncharted land that they would never have the opportunity to go into." Olmos also took part in the production of Lives in the Hazard. Released in 1994 as a follow-up, the film was a documentary that revisited some of the real-life gang members that served as extras in American Me. For his involvement with American Me Olmos received death threats from the actual Mexican Mafia and for a time feared for life. In the same year Olmos married Lorraine Bracco, an actress and ex-wife of actor Harvey Keitel. In January of 2002 Bracco filed for divorce from Olmos.

Also notable on the list of Olmos's film work were his roles in My Family/Mi Familia (1995), a film in which he served as the narrator of a multigenerational Mexican-American family saga, and Selena, (1997) the story of the life and murder of Tejano music star Selena Quintanilla. Along with his film career, Olmos regularly appeared in television movies, series, and specials. He starred Home Box Office's film The Burning Season (1994), a film about the life of Brazilian activist Chico Mendes, for which Olmos received a Golden Globe Award and an Emmy Award nomination. Olmos also worked on Dead Man's Walk (1996), the prequel to the popular miniseries Lonesome Dove, and 12 Angry Men (1997). In 2001 Olmos appeared in Steve Martini's The Judge and Showtime's production of In the Time of the Butterflies, a fictionalized account of three Dominican women martyred in 1960 during the last days of Dominican dictator Trujillo's rule. He has also narrated and contributed to numerous documentaries.

In 2002 Olmos joined the cast of a new television series, American Family, which airs on PBS. The episodes evolve around the lives of a Hispanic-American family in Los Angeles. Olmos plays Jess Gonzales, the conservative and old-fashioned father, something of a Latino Archie Bunker, who attempts with moderate success to deal with and understand his five grown children. It is the first Hispanic-dominated series to ever air on television.

Additional topics

Brief BiographiesBiographies: Grace Napolitano: 1936—: Politician to Richard (Wayne) Peck (1934-) Biography - CareerEdward James Olmos: 1947—: Actor Biography - Grew Up In The Barrio, Zoot Suit, Stand And Deliver, From American Me To American Family