Elizabeth Peña of 'Modern Family,' 'La Bamba' dies

Peña recently appeared in such films as 'The Incredibles" and 'Plush' as well as TV programs including 'Modern Family' and 'American Dad.'

Mark J. Terrill/AP
Elizabeth Peña arrives for the Los Angeles premiere of 'Nothing Like the Holidays.'

Elizabeth Peña, the versatile actress who shifted between dramatic roles in such films as "Lone Star" and comedic parts in TV shows like "Modern Family," has died. She was 55.

Peña's manager, Gina Rugolo, said Wednesday the Cuban-American actress died Tuesday in Los Angeles.

Born in Elizabeth, New Jersey, to Cuban immigrant parents, Peña's Hollywood career spanned four decades and included roles in such movies as "La Bamba," ''Down and Out in Beverly Hills," ''Jacob's Ladder," and "Rush Hour." In his review, Monitor film critic David Sterritt wrote that Peña provides “solid support” to the lead actors in “La Bamba.” In filmmaker John Sayles' "Lone Star," she memorably portrayed a history teacher who rekindles a romance with an old flame, played by Chris Cooper. She also starred in such films as the 2005 movie “How the Garcia Girls Spent Their Summer,” the 2005 film “Transamerica,” the 2008 movie “Nothing Like the Holidays,” and the 2011 film “The Perfect Family.”

Peña appeared on such TV shows as "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.

Peña also provided her voice to Disney-Pixar's "The Incredibles" as mysterious villainess Mirage, the "Justice League" cartoon series as Paran Dul, and Seth MacFarlane's "American Dad."

Peña 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.

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