Esai Morales

Esai Manuel Morales Jr. (born October 1, 1962) is an American actor. He played Bob Morales in the 1987 biopic La Bamba. He also appeared in the PBS drama American Family and in the Showtime series Resurrection Blvd. He is best known for his roles as Lt. Tony Rodriguez on NYPD Blue, Joseph Adama in the science fiction television series Caprica, and Camino del Rio in the Netflix original series Ozark.

Esai Morales
Esai Morales.JPG
Morales in 2009
Esai Manuel Morales Jr.

(1962-10-01) October 1, 1962 (age 57)[1]
EducationSchool of Performing Arts
  • Actor
  • producer
  • director
  • musician
Years active1982–present
Spouse(s)Elvimar Silva

Early lifeEdit

Of Puerto Rican descent, Morales was born in Brooklyn, New York, to Esai Morales Sr., a welder, and Iris Margarita (née Declet), a union activist involved with the International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union.[3] Morales began his pursuit of an acting career by attending the School of Performing Arts in Manhattan.[4]


His first professional performances were in theater and television in New York. His first film was Bad Boys (1983), about rival teenagers sentenced to a juvenile correction facility. Morales appeared in a 1985 episode of the TV series Fame. He co-starred with Burt Lancaster in the 1986 NBC miniseries On Wings of Eagles, playing the Iranian Rashid, the hero of a true story about Ross Perot. Morales also appeared in Miami Vice, The Equalizer, and 24.

He played Bob Morales, the real-life ex-convict and biker half-brother of 1950s rock and roll singer Ritchie Valens, in La Bamba (1987). He also played Nicholas Walker in Ultraviolet (1992) Some of his other roles have reflected his socio-political interests, such as The Burning Season in 1994, My Family/Mi Familia in 1995, The Disappearance of Garcia Lorca (1997) and Southern Cross (1999).[5] In the latter three films, as well as in others such as Bloodhounds of Broadway (1989) and Rapa Nui (1994), Morales saw increased amounts of screen time, starting with a role in the Pauly Shore film In The Army Now (1994). He portrayed a police officer in the film Dogwatch (1996) and Father Herrera in The Virgin of Juarez (2006).[6]

In the 1990s, he guest-starred on episodes of The Outer Limits, Tales from the Crypt, and two shorter-lived series, L.A. Doctors and The Hunger. He appeared in a two-part episode of Family Law in 2000. He was part of the main cast of the long-running series NYPD Blue for three and a half seasons, from 2001 to 2004, as the head of the 15th precinct detective squad.

He played a drug dealer named Lulu in the 2002 film Paid in Full. In 2005, he was a voice actor in the video game True Crime: New York City, playing Sgt. Victor Navarro.

Morales (right) with Grace Park (left) and Eric Stoltz (center)

Morales was cast in the film American Fusion (2005),[7] and on June 19, 2006, he joined the cast of the Fox series Vanished, as FBI agent Michael Tyner; the series ran for one season.[8] In 2007, Morales appeared in an episode of the USA Network drama series Burn Notice, as a Cuban shopkeeper being shaken down for "protection" money by local criminals. In early 2008, Morales had a role in the CBS drama Jericho, as Major Edward Beck. He appeared in all seven episodes of the shortened second season That same year, he appeared in Kill Kill Faster Faster, a film noir based on the novel of the same name by Joel Rose.

In May 2008, it was announced that Morales would play the role of Joseph Adama in the science fiction television series CapricaSyfy's prequel to the series Battlestar Galactica.[9][10] The series, though highly anticipated, only ran for one season in 2010. In 2009, he served as an official festival judge for the Noor Iranian Film Festival in Los Angeles.[11]

In 2011, Morales starred in the drama film Gun Hill Road as Enrique,[12] and in the web drama Los Americans airing on[13] and Morales worked with Tony Plana, Yvonne DeLaRosa, Lupe Ontiveros, and JC Gonzalez in Los Americans, an Internet program launched in May 2011. In March 2015, Robert Rodriguez cast him as Lord Amancio Malvado for the horror drama series From Dusk till Dawn: The Series.[14]

In 2017, Morales was cast in the Netflix original series Ozark. He was also cast in How to Get Away with Murder as Jorge Castillo.

In 2019, Morales starred in the comedy-drama The Wall of Mexico[15] and was cast in the DC Universe superhero series Titans as Slade Wilson / Deathstroke[16]

On May 21, 2020, Morales was officially confirmed to be starring in Mission: Impossible 7 (2021) as the film's villain replacing the original actor, Nicholas Hoult, who left due to scheduling conflicts.[17][18]

Awards and honorsEdit

In 2005, Morales (along with Mercedes Ruehl) received the Rita Moreno HOLA Award for Excellence from the Hispanic Organization of Latin Actors (HOLA).

He received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Arpa Foundation for his impact as an actor and role model.


Morales has described himself as an "actorvist",[19] primarily as one of the founders of the National Hispanic Foundation for the Arts, taking inspiration from his mother, who was an organizer for the International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union.[20] He is also interested in environmental issues and was a founding board member of E.C.O. (Earth Communications Office).[21]

In a February 28, 2007, all-star benefit reading of The Gift of Peace at UCLA's Freud Playhouse, he portrayed a hopeful member of a struggling immigrant family, performing alongside actors Ed Asner, Barbara Bain, Amy Brenneman, George Coe, Wendie Malick, and James Pickens, Jr.. The play was an open appeal and fundraiser for passage of U.S. House Resolution 808, which sought to establish a Cabinet-level "Department of Peace" in the U.S. government, to be funded by a two percent diversion of the Pentagon's annual budget.[22]

Personal lifeEdit

Morales is a vegetarian.[23] His daughter Mariana Oliveira was born on September 24, 2010.[24]

Morales' first name is frequently used in crossword puzzles, because its rare construction makes it a prize for crossword constructors (it is a four-letter word in English that is 75 percent vowels, including the first and last letters). One crossword clue website estimated that between 1994 and 2016, "ESAI" had been used as a crossword answer over 100 times in American papers such as The Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, and The Washington Post.[25]



Year Title Role Notes
1982 Forty Deuce Mitchell
1983 Bad Boys Paco Moreno
1986 On Wings Of Eagles Rashid
Rainy Day Friends Neekos Valdez
1987 La Bamba Roberto "Bob" Morales
The Principal Raymi Rojas
1989 Bloodhounds of Broadway Handsome Jack
1990 Naked Tango Zico Borenstein
Amazon Jack Uncredited
1992 Ultraviolet Nicholas Walker
Freejack Ripper
1993 The Waiter Julius
Living and Working in Space: The Countdown Has Begun Kenny Direct-to-video
1994 Rapa Nui Make
Don't Do It Charles
In the Army Now Sgt. Stern
1995 My Family Chucho
1996 Livers Ain't Cheap Collin
Death in Granada Ricardo
The Real Thing Collin
Dog Watch Murrow Direct-to-video
Scorpion Spring Astor
1997 The Disappearance of Garcia Lorca Ricardo Nominated Alma Award
1998 The Wonderful Ice Cream Suit Dominguez
1999 Southern Cross Philip Solano
2000 American Virgin Jim the Director
Spin Cycle Nickens
Doomsday Man Mike Also Second unit director
2002 The Adventures of Tom Thumb & Thumbelina Vergas Mouse (voice) Direct-to-video
Paid in Full Lulu
2005 Once Upon a Wedding Pineda
American Fusion Jose VC Film Fest Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival Best Actor Award Winner
2006 The Virgin of Juarez Father Herrera
Fast Food Nation Tony
How to Go Out on a Date in Queens Frankie
2008 Kill Kill Faster Faster Markie
La Linea Pelon
2010 Cherry Wes
King of the Avenue Natas
The Town FBI Taskfore Agent Marcus
2011 Gun Hill Road Enrique FilmOut San Diego, US Best Actor Award Winner
2012 Atlas Shrugged: Part II Francisco d'Anconia
Seattle Superstorm Tom Reynolds
2013 Playin' for Love Principle Jose Martin
2014 Jarhead 2: Field of Fire Captain Jones Direct-to-video
2015 Spare Parts Mr. Santillan Nominated Imagen Foundation Award Best Supporting Actor
2016 Never Back Down: No Surrender Hugo Vega Direct-to-video
2018 Superfly Adalberto Gonzalez
Imprisoned Governor Mandera
2019 The Wall of Mexico Henry Arista
2020 The Latin from Manhattan Papi filming
2021 Option C TBA pre-production
Mission: Impossible 7 TBA filming


Year Title Role Notes
1984 ABC Afterschool Special Miguel Rados Episode: "The Great Love Experiment"
1985 The Equalizer Officer Miguel Canterra Episode: "Lady Cop"
Fame George Episode: "Savage Streets"
1985–1987 Miami Vice Pete Romano / Felipe Cruz 2 episodes
1986 On Wings of Eagles Rashid TV mini-series
1989 The Twilight Zone Jesse Cardiff Episode: "A Game of Pool"
1991–1992 The Legend of Prince Valiant n/a (voice) 2 episodes
1992 Bay City Story Jim Duran TV movie
1994 The Burning Season Jair TV movie
Tales from the Crypt Puck Episode: "The Bribe"
1995 Deadlocked: Escape from Zone 14 Tony Archer TV movie
1996 Dying to Be Perfect: The Ellen Hart Pena Story Federico Peña TV movie
1997 The Outer Limits Frank Kelton Episode: "Heart's Desire"
The Hunger Tony Episode: "I'm Dangerous Tonight"
1998 Adventures from the Book of Virtues Guillermo (voice) Episode: "Charity"
Circle of Deceit Jeff Silva TV movie
1999 L.A. Doctors Vince Duralde Episode: "The Life Lost in Living"
Atomic Train Noris MacKenzie TV movie
2000 A Family in Crisis: The Elian Gonzales Story Juan Miguel Gonzalez TV movie
Family Law Mr. Santiago Episode: "Telling Lies, Conclusion"
2000–2002 Resurrection Blvd. Paco Corrales 7 episodes
2001–2004 NYPD Blue Lt. Tony Rodriguez Series regular; 66 episodes

Outstanding Actor in a Television Series Alma Award Winner

2002 American Family Esteban Gonzalez 8 episodes

Nominated Prism Award

Nominated Imagen Foundation Award Best Actor in a supporting role

George Lopez Manny Lopez Episode: "Who's Your Daddy?"
2002–2003 Dora the Explorer Papi (voice) 5 episodes
2004 Sudbury n/a TV movie
2005 Heartless Rick Benes/David Lopez TV movie
Freddie Carlos Episode: "The Courtship of Freddie's Father"
Behind the Mask of Zorro Narrator TV documentary (co-producer)
2006 Company Town Ray Dupre TV movie
Vanished Michael Tyner 11 episodes
Jurukan Guest 1 episode
2007 The Cure Jorge TV movie
24: Day 6 Debrief Agent Jorge Ramirez 5 episodes
Burn Notice Ernie Paseo Episode: "Broken Rules"
2008 Jericho Major Edward Beck 7 episodes

Nominated Alma Award

2009–2010 Caprica Joseph Adama Series regular; 18 episodes
2010 CSI: Miami Stephen Madsen Episode: "All Fall Down"
2011 Los Americans Leandro "Lee" Valenzuela 8 episodes, also producer
Fairly Legal D.A. Aaron Davidson Episode: "Bo Me Once"
Seattle Superstorm Tom TV movie
17th Precinct Liam Butterfield TV movie
We Have Your Husband Eduardo Valseca TV movie
Nominated - Image Award
2012 Law & Order: Special Victims Unit Jimmy Vasquez Episode: "Home Invasions"
Hola Guest 1 episode
2013 Major Crimes Deputy Diaz Episode: "Jailbait"
2013–2015 Criminal Minds[26] Section Chief Mateo "Matt" Cruz 6 episodes
2013 Teachers Manny TV movie
Magic City Carlos "El Tiburon" Ruiz 6 episodes
2014 Cleaners Father Brooks 3 episodes
2015 The Brink President Julian Navarro Series regular; 10 episodes
From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series Lord Amancio Malvado Series regular; 8 episodes
Mozart in the Jungle Juan Delgado 2 episodes
2015–2016 Blue Bloods Sgt. Trey Delgado 2 episodes
2016 L.A. Series El Mono TV movie
Casa Vita Rodrigo Vita TV movie
Hit the Floor Detective TV Special
Adam Ruins Everything Alfonso Episode: "Adam Ruins Immigration"
2016–2020 How To Get Away With Murder Jorge Castillo 8 episodes
2017 Chicago P.D. Police Chief Lugo 6 episodes
Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders Section Chief Mateo "Matt" Cruz Episode: "La Huesuda"
Ozark Camino Del Rio 4 episodes
2018–present NCIS: Los Angeles Deputy Director Louis Ochoa Recurring Season 10
Mars Roland St. John
2019 Titans Slade Wilson / Deathstroke Main role; 10 episodes
2020 Curb Your Enthusiasm Francisco Episode:"#10.3"

Video gamesEdit

Year Title Voice role Notes
2005 True Crime: New York City Captain Victor Navarro


  1. ^ Esai Morales Biography
  2. ^ Esai Morales Biography
  3. ^ Gliatto, Tom (2002-03-25). "Esai Does It". People. Retrieved 2017-04-18.
  4. ^ Esai Morales Biography
  5. ^ "Southern Cross (1999)". Blockbuster. Archived from the original on 2012-10-18.
  6. ^ "The Virgin Of Juarez". StarPulse.
  7. ^ "Cast".
  8. ^ "Vanished: Watch the Last Episode of the Cancelled TV Show".
  9. ^ "Esai Morales Cast on Caprica — as Adama's Father". TVGuide.
  10. ^ "Caprica star Esai Morales sees parallels with these great stories". Blastr.
  11. ^ Festival, Noor Iranian Film. "2009 Festival Overview". Noor Iranian Film Festival. Retrieved 2019-02-18.
  12. ^ "Gun Hill Road". Archived from the original on 2011-08-05.
  13. ^ "Interview with Esai Morales". Archived from the original on 2011-02-13.
  14. ^ ""From Dusk Till Dawn" Casts Its 'Lord Amancio Malvado'". Bloody Disgusting.
  15. ^ The Wall of Mexico (2019) - IMDb, retrieved 2020-02-10
  16. ^ "'Titans': Esai Morales Joins DC Universe As Deathstroke". Deadline. 2019-03-13. Retrieved 2019-03-13.
  17. ^
  18. ^
  19. ^ Introducing the actors who bring American Family to life
  20. ^ ASHA and Film/TV Star Esai Morales Collaborate on Safe Listening Public Service Announcement
  21. ^ Esai Morales Award-Winning Actor & Activist, archived from the original on 2011-09-24
  22. ^ The Gift of Peace
  23. ^ "Famous Vegetarians - Esai Morales".
  24. ^ "Esai Morales Welcomes Daughter Mariana Oliveira". People. October 1, 2010.
  25. ^ "Clue: Actor Morales".
  26. ^ "Exclusive: Esai Morales Joins Criminal Minds as New Section Chief". Retrieved July 26, 2013.

External linksEdit