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Edward James Olmos: 1947—: Actor

Actor As Activist

Olmos is not only an actor, but also a tireless activist. Although sometimes the two roles blend together, as they did in his projects The Ballad of Gregorio Cortez, Stand and Deliver, and American Me, Olmos has spent a vast majority of his time over the course of his career simply working to make life better for others. By his own count, he spends 94 percent of his time working for free. Looking at his long resume of good deed doing, the number doesn't seem unrealistic. Besides his continually packed schedule on the speaker's circuit, Olmos offers his support to a wide range of social programs.

By living his life giving as much as possible and expecting little in return, Olmos hopes to leave a worthy legacy. As he told Hispanic's Katherine Diaz, "I would hate to look back on my life and only see myself as a person who made lots of money and was a star and made Rambo and Terminator movies. I have made my body of work something that I am proud of and that in 100 years my great-great-grandchildren will go and see my work and say, 'Well, grandpa really did some extraordinarily different kinds of work.'"

Selected Films

Zoot Suit, 1981.

Wolfen, 1981.

Blade Runner, 1982.

The Ballad of Gregorio Cortez, 1983.

Miami Vice (television series), 1984—1989.

Saving Grace, 1986.

Stand and Deliver, 1987.

Triumph of the Spirit, 1989.

Talent for the Game, 1991.

American Me, 1992.

Roosters (television), 1993.

Menendez: A Killing in Beverly Hills (television miniseries), 1994.

The Burning Season—The Chico Mendes Story (television movie), 1994

A Million to Juan, 1994.

Mirage, 1995

My Family/Mia Familia, 1995.

Dead Man's Walk (television movie), 1996

Caught, 1996.

The Wonderful Ice Cream Suit, 1997.

The Disappearance of Garcia Lorca, 1997.

12 Angry Men (television movie), 1997.

Hollywood Confidential, 1997.

The Limbic Region, 1997.

Selena, 1997.

The Wall (television documentary), 1998.

Bonanno: A Godfather's Story, 1999.

The Princess and the Barrio Boy, 2000.

The Road to El Dorado, 2000.

In the Time of the Butterflies (television movie), 2001.

The Judge (television movie), 2001.

American Family (television series), 2002.



Dictionary of Hispanic Biography. Farmington Hills, MI: Gale Research, 1996.

International Dictionary of Films and Filmmakers, Volume 3: Actors and Actresses. New York: St. James Press, 1996.

Newsmakers. Issue 1. Farmington Hills, MI: Gale Research, 1990.

Rooney, Terrie M., ed. Contemporary Heroes and Heroines, Book III. Farmington Hills: Gale Research, 1998.


Hispanic, December 2000.

Instyle, February 2002.

Los Angeles Magazine, April 1993.

The Los Angeles Times, May 10, 1992.

Newsweek, March 30, 1992.

People Weekly, January 21, 2002.

Star Tribune (Minneapolis, MN), January 30, 2002.

Time, April 4, 1988; July 11, 1988.

The Toronto Sun, January 24, 2002.

The Washington Times, January 21, 2002.


Behind the Scenes, Public Broadcasting System, www.pbs.org/americanfamily/

Sony Classics, www.sonyclassics.com/caught/crew/olmos.html

—Kari Bethel

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