Comedy actress Elizabeth Peña has died of natural causes after a brief illness. She was 55.
Known recently for her work playing Sofia Vergara’s mother on Modern Family, Pena also appeared in Matador, Down and Out in Beverly Hills, La Bamba, Jacob’s Ladder, Rush Hour, Lone Star, American Dad and The Incredibles.
The New Jersey native also worked as a director, becoming only the fourth Latina member of the Directors Guild of America. “In the United States, all Spanish-speaking people are lumped into one category,” Peña said in a 1996 interview with the Dallas Morning News. “But we’re all so different.” She also was a founding member of the Hispanic Organization of Latin Actors.
“I am stunned and heartbroken, just found out about the passing of my friend Elizabeth Peña. She was such a Life Force it’s hard to believe,” her La Bamba co-star Lou Diamond Phillips wrote on Twitter.
He continued: “Elizabeth was not only an amazing actress, she was one of the most vibrant, wonderful people I have ever known. My prayers to her family.”
Peña leaves behind her husband, Hans Rolla; her daughter, Fiona; and her son, Kaelan. She is also survived by her mother and sister.
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