Esai Morales

Handsome, charismatic and intense, actor Esai Morales' film debut as a brutal youth offender in "Bad Boys" (1983) was so chillingly convincing that he struggled against being confined to similar roles throughout the remainder of his career. After his near battle to the death against Sean Penn in "Bad Boys," Morales landed what would be his biggest cinematic success with the role of Richie Valens' mercurial older brother in the rock-n-roll box office hit "La Bamba" (1987). He stretched himself as an actor with admirable turns in films such as "Rapa-Nui" (1994), before finding his comfort zone as a member of generational ensemble pieces like the drama "Mi Familia" ("My Family") (1995), co-starring Edward James Olmos and Jimmy Smits. Morales helped break new ground with the Latino-centric series "Resurrection Blvd" (Showtime, 2000-03) and "American Family" (PBS, 2001-04), in addition to gaining wider visibility as a cast member on "NYPD Blue" (ABC, 1993-2005) during the same period. His opportunity to lead a high-profile series failed to take off, however, when the science-fiction soap opera "Caprica" (SyFy, 2009-2010) lasted for less than a season. Despite the challenges of finding work in projects that allowed him to break free of preconceived notions and ethnic stereotypes, Morales continued to work steadily in film and on television in roles both familiar and surprising.