Elizabeth Peña, ‘La Bamba’ Actress, Dead at 55

Other notable credits include playing Sofia Vergara’s mother on “Modern Family” and films such as “Jacob’s Ladder” and “Rush Hour”

Last Updated: October 16, 2014 @ 7:10 AM

Prolific actress Elizabeth Peña, whose acting career spanned nearly 40 years, has died at age 55.

Peña died Tuesday at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, her nephew Mario-Francisco Robles told the Latino Review. Her cause of death was not immediately available.

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Peña was raised by Cuban immigrant parents in her hometown of Elizabeth, New Jersey. She started in theater and debuted in her first film in 1978  — director León Ichaso’s “El Super.” Most recently, she wrapped up filming seven episodes of El Rey Network’s “Matador.”

“We are deeply saddened by the passing of our friend and colleague, Elizabeth Peña,” the El Rey Network said in a statement Wednesday. “She was a role model, a truly extraordinary performer and an inspiration in every sense of the word. Our thoughts are with Elizabeth’s family and friends during this difficult time. She ‎will be deeply missed.”

“Today is the saddest of days, as we heard of the passing of our beloved Elizabeth Pena,” actor Andy Garcia said. “Elizabeth was a force of nature. An extraordinary artist. Always daring and free. So beautiful and full of life and art. A true friend. So passionate in her work, always truthful and sublime. We will miss her deeply. Our deepest sympathies to her family. Elizabeth your artistry and soul will live in all of us forever.”

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The actress really hit her stride in the 1980s, with roles in “La Bamba,” “Down and Out in Beverly Hills” and “Blue Steel.”

Peña also had prominent and memorable roles in “Jacob’s Ladder” opposite Tim Robbins, John Sayles‘ “Lone Star,” and most recently on “Modern Family” as Pilar, the mother of Sofia Vergara‘s character.

She is survived by husband Hans Rolla, two teenage children, her mother and sister.