Modern Family actor Elizabeth Pena dies at 55

  • AP, Los Angeles
  • Updated: Oct 16, 2014 14:51 IST

Elizabeth Pena, the versatile actor who shifted between dramatic roles in such films as Lone Star and comic parts in TV shows like Modern Family, has died. She was 55 years old.

Pena's manager, Gina Rugolo, said on Wednesday the Cuban-American actor died on Tuesday in Los Angeles of natural causes after a brief illness. No other details were provided.

Born in New Jersey to Cuban immigrant parents, Pena'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 filmmaker John Sayles' Lone Star, she memorably portrayed a history teacher who rekindles a romance with an old flame, played by Chris Cooper.

Pena 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.

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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. Pena also provided her voice to Disney-Pixar's The Incredibles, the Justice League cartoon series and Seth MacFarlane's American Dad. She 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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