Stars mourn U.S. actress Elizabeth Pena, dead at 55

Actress Elizabeth Pena gives the peace sign to photographers upon her arrival to the 2003 IFP Independent Spirit Awards in Santa Monica, California, March 22, 2003. REUTERS/Brian Snyder

By Reuters Staff (Reuters) - Television stars and other celebrities mourned U.S. actress Elizabeth Pena, whose career was marked by roles in the films "La Bamba," "Jacob's Ladder" and "Lone Star," and who died earlier this week at age 55. Pena, who more recently appeared on the hit TV show "Modern Family," died on Tuesday at a Los Angeles hospital of natural causes after a short illness, her manager Gina Rugolo said. "Rest in Peace Elizabeth Pena," wrote "Desperate Housewives" star Eva Longoria on Twitter late on Wednesday. "You paved the way for so many of us!!" Zoe Saldana, the actress and dancer, offered prayers to Pena's family. "My heart is broken!!!" she wrote on Twitter. Born in Elizabeth, New Jersey and graduating from New York's High School of Performing Arts in 1977, Pena went on to appear in films including "Down and Out in Beverly Hills," "*batteries not included" and "Rush Hour." She also acted on television, including her role on "Modern Family." She most recently appeared in several episodes of "Matador," a TV drama. Pena also tried her hand at directing, including an episode of Resurrection Boulevard, a TV drama in which she also acted, and became only the fourth Latina to join the Director's Guild of America. Pena is survived by her husband, Hans Rolla, and two children, along with her mother and sister, Rugolo said.