Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Edward James Olmos
Born in East Los Angeles, California, he grew up wanting to be a professional baseball player. In his teen years, he turned to rock and roll, and for several years played various clubs in and around Los Angeles. He branched out into acting, appearing in many small productions, until he finally got his big break by portraying the narrator, called "El Pachuco", in the play Zoot Suit, which dramatized the World War II-era rioting brought about by the tensions between Mexican-Americans and the police in Southern California. (See Zoot Suit Riots.) He took the role to the movies in 1981. Other film appearances followed, including Wolfen, Blade Runner and The Ballad of Gregorio Cortez .
In 1984, Olmos starred as the authoritative police lieutenant in the television series Miami Vice. The role made him well-known. Returning to film, he received an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor for the 1988 movie Stand and Deliver, portraying a real-life mathematics teacher, Jaime Escalante, who turned his students into math whizzes, despite their disadvantaged backgrounds. He directed American Me in 1992, and starred in the multigeneratinal story of a Chicano family in Mi Famila (My Family) in 1995.
Olmos has often become involved in political activism. He makes frequent appearances at juvenile halls and detention centers to speak to teenagers at risk. He has also been an international ambassador for UNICEF. In 2001, he was arrested and spent 20 days in prison for taking part in the Navy-Vieques protests against United States Navy bombings of the island of Vieques, Puerto Rico.
Olmos was married to actress Lorraine Bracco, but she filed for divorce in January 2002. He has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 7021 Hollywood Blvd. In 2003, he starred in the SciFi Channel remake of the series Battlestar Galactica.
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