Actress Elizabeth Peña, who recently completed work as a regular on El Rey Network series Matador and also appeared on ABC's Modern Family, has died at age 55 of undisclosed natural causes after a brief illness, according to obituaries. Her death was reported by her nephew, Mario Francisco-Robles, in an obituary and tribute on Wednesday.
In Matador, she played the mother of lead character Tony Bravo (Gabriel Luna). El Rey Network said in a statement, “We are deeply saddened by the passing of our friend and colleague, Elizabeth Peña. 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.”
Her career (IMDB) was well chronicled in Francisco-Robles's Latino-Review.com article and in outlets including THR.com, which noted her memorable roles in John Sayles film Lone Star, for which she won an Independent Spirit Award, La Bamba and Down and Out In Beverly Hills. On Modern Family, she played the mother of Sofia Vergara's character. She also starred in the 1980s ABC sitcom I Married Dora, about a green-card marriage, and was a series regular in (and directed an episode of) Showtime's Resurrection Blvd.
Actor Lou Diamond Phillips, who starred alongside her in La Bamba (1987), said on Twitter: "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. 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."