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Naomi Watts

Elizabeth Pena Biography


Home > Actresses > P > Pena, Elizabeth > Biography


Birth Name: Elizabeth Pena
Born: 09/23/1959
Birth Place: Elizabeth, New Jersey, USA


Pena's film career started slowly, with small roles in the Cuban/US production "El Super" (1979) and the American features "Times Square" (1980), "They All Laughed" (1981) and "Crossover Dreams" (1985). The spitfire role in "Down and Out in Beverly Hills" finally gained her attention from public and industry alike. Pena went on to play the battered wife of Ritchie Valens' half-brother in "La Bamba" (1987), the doomed friend of policewoman Jamie Lee Curtis in Kathryn Bigelow's "Blue Steel" and Tim Robbins' temperamental lover in Adrian Lyne's "Jacob's Ladder" (both 1990). Her subsequent screen credits have included a supporting role in "The Waterdance" (1992) and playing the girlfriend of a suddenly-dead man in "Dead Funny" (1995). She won particular acclaim for her 1996 turn as a schoolteacher and former lover of the town sheriff (Chris Cooper) in John Sayles' acclaimed mystery "Lone Star" (1996).

Pena is also known for her TV work, beginning with a supporting role in the police sitcom "Tough Cookies" (CBS, 1986). She had the title role in the short-lived "I Married Dora" (ABC, 1988), which became briefly notorious for its tasteless and politically incorrect premise (a widower marries his housekeeper to prevent her deportation). Pena also played the regular role of an aggressive secretary on the John Sayles-created legal drama "Shannon's Deal" (NBC, 1990-91).

Pena has also turned in strong performances in nearly a dozen TV-movies, miniseries and anthologies, starting with the 1989 pilot for "Shannon's Deal" (NBC). She was also the widow of a DEA agent in the award-winning "Drug Wars: The Camarena Story" (NBC, 1990), turned up in the AIDS drama "Roommates" (NBC, 1994) and was featured in the HBO TV-movie, "The Second Civil War" (1997).

As Pena continued to rack up supporting film credits--including the hit buddy comedy "Rush Hour" (1998) and rocker Dee Snyder's bizarro horror film "Strangeland" (1998)--and telepic turns--such as playing the wife of a notorious real life spy in "Aldrich Ames: Traitor Within" (1998)--she also became a television series regular when she starred as Beatriz "Bibi" Corrales in the Showtime drama "Resurrection Blvd." (2000-2002).

Always an extremely in-demand actress, Pena would regularly strike a balance between appearing in Latina-specific roles, such as her turn opposite Hector Elizondo in "Tortilla Soup" (2001)--a Latin interpretation of China's "Eat, Drink, Man, Woman"--and non-ethnic parts, such as her warm, wise portrayal of a pre-operative transexual's therapist opposite Felicity Huffman in "Transamerica" (2005).

Pena also had a side career as a voice actor, lending her distinctive vocals to such animated projects as "Justice League," ""Maya & Miguel" and, most notably, as the bad-girl-gone-good Mirage in Disney/Pixar's CGI-animated mega-hit "The Incredibles" (2004).




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