LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — Actress Elizabeth Pena, known for playing funny and often spunky women, has died at the age of 55, according to her nephew.
Pena’s nephew, writer Mario-Francisco Robles, announced his aunt’s death on the Latino-Review website.
Pena died Tuesday at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center of undisclosed causes.
The actress first rose to prominence in the 1986 movie “Down and Out in Beverly Hills,” playing the sexy and political maid. She followed that up with another prominent role in the Richie Valens bio-pic “La Bamba” playing Valens’ stepsister-in-law.
Most recently, Pena played Pilar, Sofia Vergara’s mother on the sitcom “Modern Family.”
“Tonight, my family is heartbroken,” Robles wrote. “There’s now a void that will never be filled. All we can do now is remember your sharp sense of humor, your endless hunger for life and your never-ending pursuit of happiness.”
Her nephew said funeral services were pending. He wrote, “My Nana is gone. She was an inspiration. A role model. A pillar. And a pisser.”
The actress’ date of birth is Sept. 23, 1961 according to her IMDB.com bio, which would make her 53. Her family said she was born in 1959.
In addition to her aforementioned movie and TV credits, Pena was also known for roles in TV’s “LA Law” and movies “Lone Star,” “Jacob’s Ladder,” “Free Willy 2,” “Blue Steel,” “The Incredibles” and “Rush Hour.”
Pena also starred as Dora in the ABC series “I Married Dora” in 1987-88. She recently wrapped the El Rey Network’s series “Matador” playing the title character’s mother.
Her Cuban immigrant parents opened off-Broadway’s Latin American Theater Ensemble and encouraged the New Jersey-born Pena to pursue an acting career from an early age.
The actress is survived by her husband, two children, mother and sister.