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Edward James Olmos. Screenshot: The Academy Awards.
Edward James Olmos. Screenshot: The Academy Awards.

Why young Latino artists should definitely listen to Edward James Olmos

“Success is not money." The Mexican-American actor, producer, and director encouraged emerging Latino artists not to give up on their dreams.

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Edward James Olmos is 74 years old and overflowing with energy, enthusiasm and a desire to change the world. He has a strong commitment to fostering young talent. His Youth Cinema Project settled in Bell Gardens Intermediate School in Southern California demonstrates that. The program teaches teenagers about cinema to explore their creativity, develop new skills, and empower them to tell their own stories in films. 

Meeting them is an opportunity for Olmos to relieve his childhood in a diverse neighbourhood in Los Angeles, among families with different cultures, religions and nationalities. 

In episode two of Seen, an Academy series hosted by Nick Barili, the Mexican-American actor and director reviews the moments in his life when he enjoyed playing baseball, his passion for music, dance, and theatre. This stage marked his professional life, even if he did not get paid for the roles he played for almost 13 years.

“I used to deliver furniture. That’s how I supported myself for a long time. I had a van and I delivered from 2 a.m. to 7 p.m.,” he commented. 

Small productions were followed by other plays until he scored the role of 'El Pachuco' in 1981's Zoot Suit, and it prompted him to take creative control of his characters from then on.

“El Pachuco is one of the most beloved characters to arise on the American stage in the history of American theatre. And that's not me saying it, the American Theater Wing said it," mentioned Olmos. 

"Never stop"

Olmos is the only U.S.-born Latino to be nominated for the 'Best Leading Actor' in the history of the Academy for his performance in 1988's Stand and Deliver. In the film, Olmos portrayed a math teacher whom he previously met. Thirty years after its premiere, Olmos still believes that Stand and Deliver will still be seen and appreciated in the future. 

In addition to acting, Olmos wrote movie scripts and produced things — as he says — that allowed him to stay alive in the industry. That is why he insists to all the young Latino talents and aspiring artists to never give up:

“Don't stop, don't let anything stop you. Die doing it. Success is not money, it is not fame, it is not fortune. Success is having lived your life really doing what you really wanted to do and doing it in the best way possible; even if that means that you will spend thousands of hours doing it throughout your life. Just don't stop, don't let anything stop you,” he said. 

The interview with Olmos is the second episode of Seen, the Academy’s series recently premiered to put a spotlight on Latino and Hispanic talents who preserved their culture and broke barriers in filmmaking. The first episode featured John Leguizamo and the next will feature Eva Longoria.

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