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 perhaps best known for his roles as Lt. Tony Rodriguez on NYPD Blue and Joseph Adama in the science fiction television series Caprica.
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. Morales began his pursuit of an acting career by attending the School of Performing Arts in Manhattan.
His first professional performances were in theater and television in New York. His first film was Bad Boys (1983), about teenagers in juvenile correction facility. He played the ex-convict and biker half-brother of 1950s rock and roll singer Ritchie Valens in La Bamba (1987). 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). 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).
Morales appeared on television in the mid-1980s on Fame. He co-starred with Burt Lancaster in the NBC-TV 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.
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 was a featured TV actor, seen in a two-part episode of Family Law in 2000. His tenure on NYPD Blue as the head of the 15th precinct detective squad began in mid-season 2001 and continued until 2004, when he decided to cancel his contract.
The film Paid in Full was scheduled for release in October 2002. It marked a return to a criminal character such as those in his previous roles - in this case playing a drug dealer named Lulu. In 2005, he (along with Mercedes Ruehl) received the Rita Moreno HOLA Award for Excellence from the Hispanic Organization of Latin Actors (HOLA). That same year, he contributed his vocal talents to the video game True Crime: New York City, playing Sgt. Victor Navarro.
Morales was cast in the film American Fusion (2005), and on June 19, 2006, he joined the cast of the Fox series Vanished, as FBI agent Michael Tyner alongside actors Gale Harold and Ming-Na. The series was later canceled. In 2007, he completed filming for Kill Kill Faster Faster, a contemporary film noir inspired by the critically acclaimed novel of the same name by Joel Rose. Also 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.
In May 2008, it was announced that Morales would play the role of Joseph Adama in the science fiction television series Caprica – Syfy's prequel to the series Battlestar Galactica. The series premiered on January 22, 2010. In 2009, he served as an official festival judge for the Noor Iranian Film Festival in Los Angeles.
In 2011, Morales starred in the drama film Gun Hill Road, as Enrique, and in the web drama Los Americans airing on PIC.tv. In March 2015 Robert Rodriguez cast him as Lord Amancio Malvado for the horror drama series From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series.
Actor Esai Morales, known for his advocacy work on education and the environment, was selected by the Arpa Foundation to receive the Lifetime Achievement Award because of his impact as an actor and role model. Moreover, his ideals align themselves with those of the Foundation and his exemplary body of work spans over 3 decades.
Morales has described himself as an "actorvist", 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. He is also interested in environmental issues and was a founding board member of E.C.O. (Earth Communications Office).
In the 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, and plays 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.
Morales is a vegetarian. He and girlfriend Elvimar Silva had a daughter, Mariana Oiveira, on September 24, 2010.
Morales's first name is frequently used in crossword puzzles because its rare construction (it is a four-letter word in English that is seventy-five percent vowels, including the first and last letters) makes it a prize for crossword constructors. 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 New York Times, The LA Times, and The Washington Post.
|1983||Bad Boys||Paco Moreno|
|1986||On Wings Of Eagles||Rashid|
|1986||Rainy Day Friends||Neekos Valdez|
|1987||La Bamba||Roberto "Bob" Morales|
|1987||The Principal||Raymi Rojas|
|1989||Bloodhounds of Broadway||Handsome Jack|
|1990||Naked Tango||Zico Borenstein|
|1993||Living and Working in Space: The Countdown Has Begun||Kenny||Direct-to-video|
|1994||Don't Do It||Charles|
|1994||In the Army Now||Sgt. Stern|
|1996||Livers Ain't Cheap||Collin|
|1996||Death in Granada||Ricardo|
|1996||The Real Thing||Collin|
|1997||The Disappearance of Garcia Lorca||Ricardo||Nominated Alma Award|
|1998||The Wonderful Ice Cream Suit||Dominguez|
|1999||Southern Cross||Philip Solano|
|1999||Live Virgin||Jim the Director|
|2000||American Virgin||Jim the Director|
|2000||Doomsday Man||Mike||second unit director|
|2002||The Adventures of Tom Thumb & Thumbelina||Vergas Mouse (voice)||Direct-to-video|
|2002||Paid in Full||Lulu|
|2005||Once Upon a Wedding||Pineda|
|2005||American Fusion||Jose||VC Film Fest Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival Best Actor Award Winner|
|2006||The Virgin of Juarez||Father Herrera|
|2006||Fast Food Nation||Tony|
|2006||How to Go Out on a Date in Queens||Frankie|
|2008||Kill Kill Faster Faster||Markie|
|2010||King of the Avenue||Natas|
|2011||Gun Hill Road||Enrique||FilmOut San Diego, US Best Actor Award Winner|
|2011||Lives of the Saints||n/a||in production|
|2012||Atlas Shrugged Part 2||Francisco d'Anconia|
|2012||Seattle Superstorm||Tom Reynolds|
|2013||Playing 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||Nego Vega||Direct-to-video|
|1984||ABC Afterschool Special||Miguel Rados||Episode: "The Great Love Experiment"|
|1985||The Equalizer||Officer Miguel Canterra||Episode: "Lady Cop"|
|1985||Fame||George||Episode: "Savage Streets"|
|1985–1987||Miami Vice||Pete Romano/Felipe Cruz||Episodes: |
"The Home Invaders"
|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)||Episodes: |
|1992||Bay City Story||Jim Duran||TV movie|
|1994||The Burning Season||Jair||TV movie|
|1994||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"|
|1997||The Hunger||Tony||Episode: "I'm Dangerous Tonight"|
|1998||Adventures from the Book of Virtues||Guillermo (voice)||Episode: "Charity"|
|1998||Circle of Deceit||Jeff Silva||TV movie|
|1999||L.A. Doctors||Vince Duralde||Episode: "The Life Lost in Living"|
|1999||Atomic Train||Noris MacKenzie||TV movie|
|2000||A Family in Crisis: The Elian Gonzales Story||Juan Miguel Gonzalez||TV movie|
|2000||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 |
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
|2002||George Lopez||Manny Lopez||Episode: "Who's Your Daddy?"|
|2002–2003||Dora the Explorer||Papi||Episodes: |
"El Dia De Las Madres"
"A Present for Santa"
|2005||Heartless||Rick Benes/David Lopez||TV movie|
|2005||Freddie||Carlos||Episode: "The Courtship of Freddie's Father"|
|2005||Behind the Mask of Zorro||Narrator||TV documentary (co-producer)|
|2005||True Crime:New York City||Captain Victor Navarro||Voice video game|
|2006||Company Town||Ray Dupre||TV movie|
|2006||Vanished||Michael Tyner||11 episodes|
|2007||The Cure||Jorge||TV movie|
|2007||24: Day 6 Debrief||Agent Jorge Ramirez||Episodes: |
|2007||Burn Notice||Ernie Paseo||Episode: "Broken Rules"|
|2008||Jericho||Major Edward Beck||7 episodes |
Nominated Alma Award
|2009–2010||Caprica||Joseph Adama||Series regular|
|2010||CSI: Miami||Stephen Madsen||Episode: "All Fall Down"|
|2011||Los Americans||Lee Valenzuela||8 episodes (producer)|
|2011||Fairly Legal||D.A. Aaron Davidson||Episode: "Bo Me Once"|
|2011||Seattle Superstorm||Tom||TV movie|
|2011||17th Precinct||Liam Butterfield||TV movie|
|2011||We Have Your Husband||Eduardo Valseca||TV movie |
Nominated Image Award
|2012||Law & Order: Special Victims Unit||Jimmy Vasquez||Episode: "Home Invasions"|
|2013||Major Crimes||Deputy Diaz||Episode: "Jailbait"|
|2013–present||Criminal Minds||BAU Section Chief Mateo Cruz||Recurring character|
|2013||Magic City||Carlos Ruiz "el tiburon"||Series regular 6 episodes|
|2014||Cleaners||Father Brooks||Series regular 3 episodes|
|2015||The Brink||President Julian Navarro||Series regular|
|2015||From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series||Lord Amancio Malvado||Series regular (Season 2)|
|2015||Mozart in the Jungle||Juan Delgado||Series regular 2 episodes|
|2015-2016||Blue Bloods||Sgt. Trey Delgado||Episodes: |
"For the Community"
|2016||L.A. Series||El Mono||TV Movie|
|2016||Casa Vita||Rodrigo Vita||TV Movie|
|2016||Hit the Floor||Detective||TV Special|
|2016||How To Get Away With Murder||Laurel's father||Episode: "Always Bet Black"|
|2005||True Crime: New York City||Captain Victor Navarro||voice|