Actor, Activist, Director, Producer...
Edward James Olmos is not only a talented actor, activist, director and producer, he also is a son, husband, father and grandfather with a passion for music and acting, and an unwavering commitment to activism.
Find out more about EJO by reading the bio below:
On February 24, 1947, Edward James Olmos was born in Los Angeles, California, to Mexican-American Eleanor (nee Huizar) and Pedro Olmos, a Mexican immigrant.
EJO was raised in Los Angeles' Boyle Heights neighborhood, an area Mr. Olmos has often called a "salad bowl" instead of a melting pot, with the varying ethnicities retaining their cultural identity despite the blended demographic.
"The onion stayed the onion, the tomato stayed the tomato, the lettuce stayed the lettuce, with maybe a little Russian or Italian dressing. And it tasted real good. No one lost their identity, and I thought that was what life was like," Mr. Olmos told the Los Angeles Times in 1992.
The second oldest of six children, EJO's first love was baseball. He was Golden State Batting Champion in 1958-59 and considered a career in the sport until music stole his heart as a teen.
In 1961, roughly three years before graduating from Montebello High School, he helped form the band Pacific Ocean. As lead singer and keyboardist, EJO and the Pacific Ocean played some of the hottest spots on L.A.'s legendary Sunset Strip in the late '60s and early '70s. In 1968, the band cut their one and only album, Purgatory, a psychedelic rock LP that has been compared to the sounds of Iggy Pop.
Marriage came calling for EJO in 1971, when he wed Kaija Keel, daughter of the Hollywood musical legend Howard Keel. EJO and Kaija welcomed their sons Mico and Bodie into the world in 1972 and 1975, respectively.
Music remains an important part of EJO's life, but his career took a different track in the late '70s, moving from the music stage to the acting one.
Early roles came in both television and film productions. His TV debut came in 1974 with a small part in an episode of William Conrad's "Cannon", and he made his bow on the big screen with a bit part in the opening of Aloha, Bobby and Rose.
More parts came his way on stage and screen, but it was the 1978 stage production of Luis Valdez' Zoot Suit that vaulted him to acclaim. EJO's iconic performance as "El Pachuco" took the production from Los Angeles to Broadway in 1979 for 41 performances and ultimately a Tony Award nomination for Best Featured Actor in a Play. He was also honored with a Theater World Award.
EJO took Zoot Suit from the stage to the screen in 1981, immortalizing "El Pachuco" on film, and followed up with his first major film role (Wolfen), and a brilliant turn as a cop of the future in Ridley Scott's sci-fi masterpiece Blade Runner. To cap off the year, EJO also produced his first film, "The Ballad of Gregorio Cortez".
The '80s were good to EJO. After a memorable performance in a two-episode story arc on "Hill Street Blues", he was offered a recurring part on the series. He declined due to strict contract terms, but would later go on to star in another NBC cop drama, one that would revolutionize the genre and television itself, "Miami Vice".
Over the course of five years (1984-1990), EJO brought his special brand of quiet intensity and authority to the role of Lt. Martin Castillo. His consistent performance was critically praised and earned him a Golden Globe and Emmy. The director's chair called during his years on the show and he took the opportunity to expand his knowledge of the industry and craft.
The hard work paid off when in 1988, after five years in the making, Stand and Deliver debuted to rave reviews and an Academy Award Best Actor nomination for EJO for his performance as real-life teacher Jaime Escalante.
In 1992, EJO made his feature film directorial debut with American Me, a work that takes an unflinching look at the brutality of gang life, and that netted him death threats from gangland's Mexican Mafia.
That same year, EJO and his wife Kaija Keel parted ways and he was honored for his role in trying to stem violence during the Los Angeles Riots that were sparked by the verdict in the Rodney King trial. EJO received the John Anson Ford Award, was nominated to the Los Angeles Human Relations Commission, and the NAACP paid tribute to him for his leadership toward racial unity.
Another acting honor came EJO's way in 1994, a Golden Globe for his work in the HBO production The Burning Season. He also remarried, tying the knot with Talent for the Game co-star Lorraine Bracco.
The mid- and late-1990s EJO kept busy with Francis Ford Coppola's My Family (Mi Familia), the suspense thriller Mirage with Blade Runner co-star Sean Young, and the TV biblical miniseries "Slave of Dreams". He served as one of the narrators of Kevin Costner's "500 Nations", a 1995 multi-part TV documentary on Native Americans, and played a Mexican army officer in the Lonesome Dove installment "Dead Man's Walk" (1996). In 1997, he stepped up to the plate in The Disappearance of Garcia Lorca, the biopic Selena, "Hollywood Confidential", and a television production of "12 Angry Men", which also starred Jack Lemmon and George C. Scott.
That would be enough to keep any person busy, but between all his work on screen and film, EJO also engaged in activism and community service, particularly for Latino causes and pride, and remains a passionate proponent of Latino heritage and is a constant voice for racial unity and equality.
To encourage and support other Latinos, he co-founded the Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival (1996), the Latino Book and Family Festival (1997), and Latino Public Broadcasting (1998). He also was the driving force behind the Smithsonian Institution-backed multi-media project Americanos: Latino Life in the U.S.
For his efforts, which continue to this day, EJO was inducted into the Latino Walk of Fame in 2001. That same year, he spent 20 days in jail for protesting the U.S. Navy's practice bombings on the Puerto Rican island of Vieques. He was arrested along with Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and nearly 180 others during the protest.
2002 brought a unique career opportunity to EJO -- the PBS Latino family drama "American Family" -- but also saw the end of his relationship with Bracco and the beginning of his third marriage when he wedded American Gangster actress Lymari Nadal.
Then came the role that would become his most defining to date.
In 2003, EJO made the day of former "Star Trek" scribe Ronald D. Moore and his partner David Eick by signing on to play Commander William Adama in their reboot of the 1970s Glenn Larson series "Battlestar Galactica".
The pair had envisioned EJO as they crafted the role. It was one he almost passed on but after reading the script, he ultimately took the role.
Over the course of five years, EJO portrayed the intense and patriarchal Adama opposite Mary McDonnell's singularly focused President Laura Roslin. The two titans shouldered a series that would make history by earning a Peabody award and see both actors on the floor of the U.N. discussing the series' relevancy in the world.
A tireless activist, EJO currently resides in Los Angeles and spends much of his time between on-screen roles traveling the country speaking to audiences of all ages encouraging unity, peace, tolerance, and equality. He also takes time out for his fans, though, attending science fiction and comic conventions when he can.
Some facts about EJO
- Parents divorced in 1955, when he was 8
- Has six siblings -- 3 brothers and 3 sisters. He is the second oldest.
- Has six children
- Attended Montebello High School
- Has Associate's Degree in Sociology from East Los Angeles College
- Studied psychology and criminology at California State University (Los Angeles)
- Was Golden State Batting Champion at 14; was being groomed for Majors
- Holds honorary degrees from University of Colorado, Whittier College, California State University (Fresno), Occidental College, American Film Institute (Hollywood), Harvard University, and Rollins College (Florida)
- Before finding fame was employed as an antique furniture deliveryman