Edward James Olmos began his decades-long career with one foot in rock ’n’ roll and one foot in live theater. He combined those loves for his breakout role as the wily, Spanglish-spouting El Pachuco in Luis Valdez’s 1979 play Zoot Suit. That performance led to roles in Wolfen and Blade Runner, as well as the film adaptation of Zoot Suit. As Olmos’ onscreen presence grew, so did his ability to shape his characters—so much so that everyone from Ridley Scott, to Michael Mann, to Gregory Nava trusted the Miami Vice and Selena star to tailor his roles. (And, in the case of the Dexter producers, Olmos was even entrusted with season six’s biggest twist before anyone else.)
With leading roles in everything from Stand And Deliver, American Me, and the Battlestar Galactica reboot, Olmos is one of the prominent Mexican American actors; he was the first Mexican American to be nominated for a Best Actor Oscar. His dedication to his craft is only matched by his dedication to his community, as Olmos continues to highlight Mexican and Mexican American history and culture in his work. His performance as the soulful Felipe Reyes in FX’s Mayans M.C. brings his efforts full circle; like Zoot Suit and American Me, the series, from Elgin James and Kurt Sutter, explores a subculture made up of disparate cultures.
With season three of Mayans M.C. completed, Olmos has been enjoying a few binge watches (The Crown, The Queen’s Gambit, and watching Battlestar Galactica from beginning to end for the first time). The A.V. Club spoke with Olmos about flawed characters, his famous Blade Runner ad lib, what was so difficult about making Selena, and how a motorcycle club became his family.