Elizabeth Pena, the versatile actress who shifted between dramatic roles in such films as Lone Star and La Bamba and comedic parts like Down and Out in Beverly Hills and Rush Hour, has died. She was 55.
Pena's manager, Gina Rugolo, said Wednesday the Cuban-American actress died Tuesday in Los Angeles of natural causes after a brief illness. No other details were provided.
Born in Elizabeth, New Jersey, Pena's Hollywood career spanned four decades and included roles in such movies as Times Square, Blue Steel, The Waterdance and Jacob's Ladder. In filmmaker John Sayles's Lone Star, she memorably portrayed a history teacher who rekindles a romance with an old flame, played by Chris Cooper.
Pena appeared on such TV shows as Hill Street Blues, L.A. Law, Dream On, Resurrection Blvd. and Modern Family, where she played the mother of Sofia Vergara's character, Gloria.
She starred in the 1980s sitcom I Married Dora in the titular role as a housekeeper from El Salvador who weds her employer to avoid deportation.
Pena also provided her voice to Disney-Pixar's The Incredibles, the Justice League cartoon series and Seth MacFarlane's American Dad.
Pena most recently appeared on the El Rey Network drama Matador.
"She was a role model, a truly extraordinary performer and an inspiration in every sense of the word," the network said in a statement. "Our thoughts are with Elizabeth's family and friends during this difficult time. She ?will be deeply missed."
She is survived by her husband, two children, mother and sister.
I am stunned and heartbroken, just found out about the passing of my friend Elizabeth Pena. She was such a Life Force it's hard to believe.— Lou Diamond Phillips (@LouDPhillips) October 16, 2014
The entire cast and crew are very sad to say goodbye to one of our Modern Family members. RIP to the beautiful & talented #ElizabethPena.— Jesse Tyler Ferguson (@jessetyler) October 16, 2014
Heartbroken to hear the news of Elizabeth Peña's death. She was such a light. So glad I knew her. So sad she's gone. pic.twitter.com/4YFOl2d1a3— America Ferrera (@AmericaFerrera) October 16, 2014