In America

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."