*This original story which I wrote in reaction to Elizabeth Peña’s death for Variety Latino has been generously shared online, so I’m posting it here too.
Elizabeth Peña was a rare breed. The kind of actress that didn’t seek or crave the limelight, but rather focused on “the craft.” You’d have to, in order to enjoy the type of career she had.
Prolific is an understatement. Peña amassed around 100 acting credits, starting with her first role in León Ichaso’s “El Super” in 1979. Fittingly, it was the story of Cuban exiles adjusting to their life in Spanish Harlem. When she died, on October 14, 2014, she had wrapped the first season of “Matador” on Robert Rodriguez’s El Rey Network, and had a couple of projects in development.
You interview enough actors in this business and eventually those two words (“the work,” “the craft,” or any variation thereof), start to sound clichéd, and quite honestly, rehearsed. But in Peña’s case, she never, in her almost 40 years of working in showbiz, got to the point of being overexposed, so all you had to go by was “the work.” Continue reading