November 10th, 2011
09:00 AM ET

Red Chair interview: Edward James Olmos

Ask Edward James Olmos who he is, and he will say that he's a storyteller.

An actor, director, activist, yes. But the story of how he became those things starts when he was 5 or 6 years old, back when he fell in love with baseball. He couldn't throw. He couldn't hit. He didn't even really understand what a baseball was.  But it was the thing he most wanted to understand.

He took a balled-up sock, and tossed it around. It didn't go well.

Eventually, someone gave him a tennis ball. That went worse.

But then, he put the tennis ball in the sock; he tossed it around, and kept at it, now that it couldn't roll away. He threw it against the brick wall of his house in California, and learned how to catch it. Eventually, the Japanese-American kids next door taught him how to hit. For a decade, baseball was his neighborhood recreation, his seven-day-per-week passion, his discipline.

"You are everything that you possibly could be, as long as you have that kind of discipline," he told CNN during a Red Chair interview.

By then, it was the 1950s. Rock 'n' roll was raging and Olmos was in love again. Olmos wasn't much of a singer, but he had style, he said. That, plus discipline that baseball taught him, brought him to theater. Theater brought him to TV, then motion pictures. Now, he directs, writes and acts.

His chances of making it to this place? "A billion to one," he said.

"Culturally, the art form really doesn’t lend itself to having stories told of different culture," he said. "It’s just recently, in the last maybe 30 years,  that we’ve started to see a maybe a culture dynamic arise through the African American experience."

Even fewer mainstream stories stem from Latino culture, he said. To keep going, even when things aren't going well - that is discipline.

"It’s really still very, very small, and with every year that goes by, there are more people of that ethnicity, but we have the same amount or less telling the stories of Latin descent," he said. "I was very fortunate that I got an opportunity to become a part of this craft."

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Filed under: Age • Latino in America • Pop culture
soundoff (26 Responses)
  1. Carlos

    Total gentleman any and everyone he speak to he does it with respect. Met Hm a few times amazing he remembered my full name when we met again 2 years later

    November 14, 2011 at 3:21 am | Report abuse |
  2. Carlos

    I've had the privilege of meeting him several times..a total gentleman and class act he always spoke 2 me with such respect. Amazed at his memory. It was 2 yrs. Later .2nd or 3rd time I met him he tapped me on the shoulder from behind, called by my fullname and in such formal Spanish asked me how was doing?

    November 14, 2011 at 3:16 am | Report abuse |
  3. vernelle

    Great man and actor good to know hes still acting

    November 13, 2011 at 9:39 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Carmen

    He finds any excuse to ask for donations for proyects that do not happen. We latins are not an uniform group or a race, I have as much in common with him as with an Esquimo.
    Our values, cultures are all very diferent. Mexican Americans need to assimilate.

    November 11, 2011 at 6:45 am | Report abuse |
    • Sunny

      Carmen, learn how to spell; 'proyect' is not a word. As a professional Mexican American, I have little in common with an uneducated Latin like yourself. Learn how to spell, then pass judgement

      November 13, 2011 at 4:43 pm | Report abuse |
  5. d.willSD

    This guy's range is insane. It was a pleasant surprise to see him grace the scenes in this season's Dexter. Bladerunner to American me, EJO is a true presenter of the arts.

    November 10, 2011 at 7:29 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Adama

    Sometimes you have the roll a hard six...

    November 10, 2011 at 1:53 pm | Report abuse |
  7. ChrisM

    So say we all!!!

    November 10, 2011 at 1:50 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Albert

    Eddie!!! Orale! I just realized the flying car in Blade Runner is a lowrider, makes sense why it is so cool. Keep up the good work.

    November 10, 2011 at 1:47 pm | Report abuse |
  9. DB

    LOVED HIM in Miami Vice – wicked cool, stoned faced, strong.

    November 10, 2011 at 1:22 pm | Report abuse |
  10. tbridgman

    Blade Runner (awesome all around) and American Me (awesome acting, decent movie).

    November 10, 2011 at 1:13 pm | Report abuse |
  11. wes

    So Gellar isn't imaginary?

    November 10, 2011 at 1:12 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Louis

    He is in the Showtime series Dexter and plays a religious fanatic serial killer–a chilling role by a terrific actor.

    November 10, 2011 at 1:11 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Deborah

    I first saw him in Zoot Suit .... if you have not seen the movie, it is a must ... I'm sure you can get it on Netflix

    November 10, 2011 at 12:43 pm | Report abuse |
  14. slewatha

    I just recently got Netfix and the first movie I watched was 'American Me'. A true master piece in my opinion.

    November 10, 2011 at 11:32 am | Report abuse |
  15. Leaf on the Wind

    Before MV, and long before BSG, EJO played a small but key role in a little movie called "Blade Runner." He was then, and still is, a class act. I was fortunate enough to meet him at Comic-Con in 2010, and he was sincerely friendly and unassuming, and very appreciative of his fans. Eddie, you rock!

    November 10, 2011 at 11:22 am | Report abuse |
  16. Jim

    What an incredible actor. From Stand and Deliver, to Selena, to Battlestar Galactica and so many other amazing works, this man is a true talent.

    November 10, 2011 at 11:11 am | Report abuse |
  17. James

    So say we all!

    November 10, 2011 at 11:11 am | Report abuse |
  18. tommas


    November 10, 2011 at 10:45 am | Report abuse |
  19. rustyh

    red chair interview!!!! well said EJO ty for bringing so much heart to film.

    November 10, 2011 at 10:40 am | Report abuse |
  20. EricLr

    He should have won several Emmys for his performance on Battlestar Galactica alone. Just goes to show how shallow the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences is and how deep an actor Olmos really is. The guy has more range than 99% of the other actors out there.

    November 10, 2011 at 10:37 am | Report abuse |
    • JayMe

      So say we all!!!

      November 10, 2011 at 10:45 am | Report abuse |
  21. RichP

    You have done good Ed though it was touch and go there for a while when I first saw your character in MV. Keep going.

    November 10, 2011 at 10:20 am | Report abuse |
    • Guille66

      Well said friend, well said! A great actor and an awesome human being. Viva Mr. Olmos!

      November 10, 2011 at 2:12 pm | Report abuse |