Edward James Olmos: fighting for justice and defying gangsters: on charity boards, UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, Oscar Nominee.

Author:Velazquez, Gabriela
Position:Top Ten Latinos

THE IMAGES of the dark, complex characters Edward James Olmos portrays in many of his dramatic roles--who does not remember tough Lieutenant Martin Castillo from Miami Vice?--do no justice to the warm-hearted man he really is. Not only is he very much admired as an actor, but, also, Latinos have found in Olmos a spokesman, an activist whose energies are devoted to help his community.

Born on February 24, 1945, to an immigrant Mexican father and a Mexican-American mother, he was raised in Boyle Heights, East Los Angeles, in an ethnically diverse neighborhood. Growing up surrounded by poverty and a mixture of cultures fostered tolerance and social awareness in Olmos.

His parents were divorced when he was eight, but first baseball, and then music provided an emotional shelter and a discipline that kept him off the streets. During the 60s he used to sing with a fairly successful rock band, and took his first acting lessons in order to improve his performance on stage. A singing career was cut short, and a great film talent was delivered instead.

Since the beginning of his career, he was attracted by socially conscious films. For his role in the play Zoot Suit (1978) he was awarded a Tony and other recognitions. After this, both television and movie parts came one after another: Wolfen, Blade Runner, Hill Street Blues, Miami Vice, just to mention some. He has earned two Oscar nominations, one for The Ballad of Gregorio Cortez (1982), the other for Stand and Deliver (1986).

For its inspirational content, Stand and Deliver is often shown in schools, hospitals, prisons, any place where people need to know there are choices in life they are entitled to--education and self-respect, for instance. This is exactly the kind of message Olmos...

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