Actress Lupe Ontiveros, who received an Emmy nomination for her role as a nosy mother-in-law on “Desperate Housewives,” died Thursday night of liver cancer in a hospital in Whittier, said her agent, Michael Greenwald. She was 69.
Ontiveros, a longtime resident of Pico Rivera, was surrounded by friends and family, including actors Esai Morales and Edward James Olmos.
Though Ontiveros was seen most frequently in maid roles in everything from “The Goonies"to the sitcom “Reba,” her most prominent role was in the 1997 movie “Selena,” in which she played Yolanda Saldivar, the president of Selena’s fan club who was obsessed with the singing sensation to the point of murder. More recently, she had a recurring role on the ABC hit series “Desperate Housewives,” playing the mother-in-law of Eva Longoria’s character.
Ontiveros once estimated she had played maids or domestics over 300 times in films, TV and theater. She told an NPR interviewer in 2009 that the maid roles had helped raise her level of fame beyond what any character actor would expect.
“You’ve got maids, and you’ve got maids,” she said. “You got maids that have longevity beyond what you ever conceived of in your wildest dreams.”
Born in 1942 in El Paso, Texas, Ontiveros studied social work and psychology at Texas Woman’s University, then moved to Los Angeles, where she got a job as a social worker. She held that position for 17 years before being laid off. She told the magazine Latino Leaders that one day, while looking for a job, she saw an ad looking for movie extras and her career path changed.
She made her Hollywood debut in a 1976 episode of "Charlie’s Angels" playing a maid.
Ontiveros received an Emmy nomination for her role on “Desperate Housewives,” and an Independent Spirit Award nomination for playing a tough theater director in the Mike White comedy “Chuck & Buck.”
She is survived by her husband, Elias, and their three children.