EDWARD JAMES OLMOS will receive the Mark Medoff Humanitarian Award at the Las Cruces International Film Festival on Tuesday, February 19, 2019, at the Rio Grande Theatre following a screening of his film, the Ballad of Gregorio Cortez at 7 pm.
While he is reluctant to call himself an activist, he clearly is one. His humanitarian resume speaks for itself: A Goodwill Ambassador for UNICEF, a board member for children’s hospitals in Los Angeles and Miami, a spokesman for the Southwest Voter Registration Project (a non-profit that helps Latinos with voter registration) are just some examples of the causes he has dedicated his time to.
Olmos has achieved extraordinary success as an actor, producer, and humanitarian. The Tony, Emmy, and Academy Award® Nominated actor is probably best known to young audiences for his work on the SYFY tv series “Battlestar Galactica” as Admiral William Adama from 2003 through 2009. In 2007, he directed the HBO movie “Walkout” for which he earned a DGA Nomination in the Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Movies for Television category.
Olmos’ career in entertainment spans over 30 years. In that time, he created a signature style and aesthetic that he applies to every artist endeavor, often grounding his characters in reality and gravitas. His dedication to his craft has brought him attention across the industry, and with audiences worldwide.
Originally a musician, Olmos branched out into acting, appearing in many small theatre productions until portraying the iconic El Pachuco in “Zoot Suit.” The play moved to Broadway and Olmos earned a Tony nomination for the role, which he reprised in the 1981 film version.
Olmos went on to appear in the films Wolfen, Blade Runner, and the Ballad of Gregorio Cortez before starring as Lieutenant Martin Castillo in the iconic 80’s television series “Miami Vice” opposite Don Johnson and Philip Michael Thomas. During his time on the Michael Mann series, Olmos earned two Golden Globe and Emmy Award nominations, resulting in a win from each.
In 1988, the actor was nominated for an Academy Award® and won the Golden Globe for his portrayal of Jaime Escalante in Stand and Deliver. He directed and starred in his first motion picture, American Me, in 1992.
Other credits as an actor include the motion pictures My Family/Mi Familia; Selena, which was a breakout film for Jennifer Lopez; and In the Time of Butterflies, in which he played Dominican Republic dictator Rafael Leonidas Trujillo. In television, he has had a recurring role as U.S. Supreme Court Justice Roberto Mendoza in the NBC drama “The West Wing,” a widowed father in the PBS drama American Family: Journey of Dreams, and Professor James Geller on Showtime’s Dexter. Olmos also directed the YouTube phenomena “The Short Film BP Doesn’t Want You To See,” featured on Larry King/CNN. He just finished shooting Walking With Herb, a Mark Medoff screenplay based on the book by Joe Bullock,
Olmos’ passion for the arts grows every year, but he never forgets to give back to the communities that support him with their dedication and support. Acting, directing and screenwriting are only parts of what he does. He devotes much of his time to causes, particularly those focusing on the needs and rights of children. He makes, on average, some 150 personal appearances a year to places where he can reach kids at risk; juvenile halls, detention centers, boys/girls clubs, schools. Anywhere he can get across his message that “we all have a choice” about where life takes us.
Olmos stresses the importance of education, the risks of gang life and tries to promote the notion of taking responsibility for one’s own actions and one’s own happiness in life. Using his own “disadvantaged background” as an example (he grew up in East Los Angeles, infamous for its gang problems), he tells the kids, “If I can do it, so can you”. And he tries to point them in a positive direction. He has served as an ambassador for UNICEF and has received numerous accolades for his activism. He will long be remembered for getting out in the thick of the Los Angeles Riots of 1992 with his broom: one calm, reasonable presence in the midst of chaos and gunfire.
He is an international advocate, spokesman, and humanitarian working with organizations such as Thank You Ocean, Project Hope Foundation, Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles, The Boy’s and Girl’s Club of America, The River Keepers, and Dr. Andros’ Diabetic Foot Global Conference.
Researching his past, Olmos discovered Jewish roots and that his family, under threat of violent pogroms in Hungary, fled Europe and immigrated to Mexico, before eventually settling in the United States, where Olmos was born. Since verifying that revelation, he has tacked on combating anti-Semitism to the many other causes he fights for on a daily basis. Olmos feels having a rich tapestry of cultural ties only enhances one’s identity and doesn’t detract from it.