393186 14: Actress Elizabeth Pena attends the premiere of the film "Tortilla Soup" August 14, 2001 in Los Angeles, CA. (Photo by Vince Bucci/Getty Images) By Vince Bucci
SANTA MONICA, CA - MARCH 22: Actress Elizabeth Pena attends the 2003 IFP Independent Spirit Awards on March 22, 2003 in Santa Monica, California. (Photo by Jon Kopaloff/Getty Images) By Jon Kopaloff
Elizabeth Pena at "The 2002 ALMA Awards" at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles, Ca. Saturday, May 18, 2002. Photo by Kevin Winter/ABC/ImageDirect. By Kevin Winter
LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Elizabeth Pena, 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.
Pena’s manager, Gina Rugolo, said Wednesday the Cuban-American actress died Tuesday in Los Angeles of natural causes after a brief illness. No other details were provided.
Born in Elizabeth, 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.
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.”
Pena 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.