Elizabeth Peña Dead at 55 Hollywood Colleagues Saddened by the News

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Elizabeth Peña a diverse actress who had 100 credits to her name has died at 55, her friends and colleagues in Hollywood have been saddened by the news and many have gone on to social media to express their respect and to bid farewell to a woman who many described as beautiful and talented.

The actress passed away in a Los Angeles Hospital on October 13 from “natural causes,” and she is survived by her two children, husband, mother and sister. Peña’s death was confirmed by her personal manager Gina Rugolo.

On Twitter, many of her peers tweeted their sadness and dismay at the news that a talented friend and actress had died. Stars like Zoe Saldana (Star Trek, The Book of Life), Eva Longoria (Desperate Housewives, Frontera), America Ferrera (Ugly Betty, Cesar Chavez) and Robert Rodriguez were just some of the Hollywood glitterati who took a moment to post their thoughts about Elizabeth’s passing.

The performer was well known recently as Sofia Vergara’s character’s mother in the popular television comedy series Modern Family and she worked in the El Rey network production of Matador, a new U.S. scripted action show whose first episode was directed by Robert Rodriguez, who is also one of many showrunners for the program. Elizabeth was cast as Maritza Sandoval and is listed in seven episodes of the new show which began airing on July 15, 2014.

The news that Elizabeth Peña has died age 55 has surprised and saddened many of her colleagues in the Hollywood community. The actress was born in New Jersey in 1959 and spent a number of her early years living in Cuba. At the age of eight Elizabeth moved to New York with her parents, Mario Peña, who was a Cuban director, writer and actor and Estella Margarita (Toirac) Peña, who was a producer and arts administrator.

Peña’s first film role was that of Aurelita in the 1979 film El Super. She played the 17 year-old daughter of two Cuban refugees struggling to exist in Spanish Harlem in New York. The versatile actress worked steadily in both television and film as well as numerous stage appearances one of which was touring in the role of Juliet in Romeo and Juliet.

The actress was well known for her work in La Bamba, the Richie Valens biopic released in 1987 where she played the singer’s sister-in-law. Elizabeth starred opposite Tim Robbins in the 1990 cult favorite Jacob’s Ladder where she played Jezzie the girlfriend of the main character.

Peña worked steadily and apart from her appearances in film and TV she did a lot of voice work in animated shows like the Justice League, as Para Dul, the Disney Pixar production of The Incredibles, as Mirage and she also did quite a lot of voice over work for the video games industry as well, which included reprising Mirage in the game version of The Incredibles.

The last film that Elizabeth worked on was an untitled project for Ari Gold in a cast that featured Rory Culkin, Robert Sheehan and Mary Beth Peil. Robert Rodriguez and the El Rey Network expressed their sorrow and condolences after the news that Elizabeth Peña died at age 55. Her colleagues from the film and television industry were all saddened by her death. She was an actress who, as Eva Longoria put it, “paved the way for so many.”

By Michael Smith