family and friends, says he’s able to accomplish so much because he works hard and he
works every day. “I’m 55, and I’m just coming into my own and finding out what I can
do,” he tells The Connection.
Edward James By Stephanie E. Ponder
Each September, Costco hosts a
breakfast in support of a scholarship
fund for qualified minority students
from across the nation. Here we
revisit comments from past keynote
speakers. The Olmos and Glover
pieces are from the September,
2002 issue; the Dr. Elders piece is
from the September, 2003 issue.
Olmos, the keynote speaker for the third
annual Costco Scholarship Fund Breakfast at
Seattle University on September 19, has been
doing more than his fair share. He is the
father of five children—two from his first
marriage and three he adopted before his second marriage. He also commits to an average
of 150 speaking engagements a year to help
show disadvantaged youths that they can
affect their future and make the decision to
stay away from gangs and drugs. Add to that
acting, organizing the film festival and working with a long list of organizations—many
of which benefit children—and Olmos has
little spare time.
He explains his boundless energy by
admitting his passion for the various projects.
“The work that you do, you have to really
appreciate and like or else you’ll find yourself
burning out,” he says.
From an early age, Olmos exhibited the
work ethic that would take him to where he is
today. Born in 1947 in the Boyle Heights
neighborhood of East Los Angeles, he was
the second child for his parents, Pedro and
Eleanor Huizar Olmos.
When he was 7 years old he got a horri-
ble shock: His parents were getting a divorce.
To deal with his pain, Olmos turned to base-
ball. He wasn’t naturally the best player, but
through determination, persistence and
Olmos embodies the arly Monday morning and it’s busi- patience, by the time he was 14 people said
ness as usual for Latino actor, director that he would be a professional player.
and producer Edward James Olmos. Instead, Olmos answered the call of rock-
strong characters E Today he’s at work at his office in and-roll. He left the ball field to sing with a
Burbank, California, by 9 a.m. and band throughout high school and college. “I
heplays on screen spends the first hour taking care of phone was a very bad singer who ended up doing it
calls and working on the computer. for so long that I actually created a style of
Filming of the first season of the PBS my own,” he laughs.
series American Family, in which he stars, Despite teasing from band mates, he
ended barely a month ago, but that doesn’t brought his textbooks to gigs so he could
mean Olmos is sitting back and taking a sum- study between sets.
mer vacation. Although Olmos earned his degree in
As one of the co-founders of the Los sociology from Los Angeles Community
Angeles Latino Film Festival, now in its sixth College, he enrolled in a drama class his first
year, Olmos tends to last-minute details but semester and has been acting ever since. His
still makes time to chat with his children. The big break came in 1978, when he landed the
salt-and-pepper-haired actor, called Eddie by lead in the musical drama Zoot Suit. Set in the