Esai Morales

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

(1962-10-01) October 1, 1962 (age 58) [1]
Education School of Performing Arts
  • Actor
  • producer
  • director
  • musician
Years active1982–present
Spouse(s)Elvimar Silva

Esai Manuel Morales Jr. [3] (born October 1, 1962) is an American actor who has had notable roles in 1987's La Bamba, the PBS drama American Family , and the Showtime series Resurrection Blvd. Morales also appeared 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 .


Morales portrayed the DC Comics villain Deathstroke/Slade Wilson in the superhero television series Titans (2018) which earned him acclaim among comic book fans worldwide. Morales will appear as the main antagonist in the spy action film Mission: Impossible 7 (2022) opposite Tom Cruise, a role which he will reprise in the sequel, Mission: Impossible 8 (2023).

Early life

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. [4] Morales began his pursuit of an acting career by attending the School of Performing Arts in Manhattan. [5]


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). [6] 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). [7]

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 .

Morales (right) with Grace Park (left) and Eric Stoltz (center) Eric Stoltz-2009.jpg
Morales (right) with Grace Park (left) and Eric Stoltz (center)

Morales was cast in the film American Fusion (2005), [8] 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. [9] 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 Caprica Syfy's prequel to the series Battlestar Galactica . [10] [11] 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. [12]

In 2011, Morales starred in the drama film Gun Hill Road as Enrique, [13] and in the web drama Los Americans airing on [14] 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 . [15]

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 [16] and was cast in the DC Universe superhero series Titans as Slade Wilson / Deathstroke [17]

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, a role which he is reprising in the eighth film set for release in 2022. [18] [19]

Awards and honors

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", [20] 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. [21] He is also interested in environmental issues and was a founding board member of E.C.O. (Earth Communications Office). [22]

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. 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. [23]

Personal life

Morales is a vegetarian. [24] His daughter Mariana Oliveira was born on September 24, 2010. [25]

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. [26]



1982 Forty Deuce Mitchell
1983 Bad Boys Paco Moreno
1986 Rainy Day Friends Neekos Valdez
1987 La Bamba Roberto 'Bob' Morales
The Principal Raymundo 'Raymi' Rojas
1989 Bloodhounds of Broadway Jack 'Handsome Jack'
1990 Naked Tango Zico Borenstein
1992UltravioletNicholas Walker
Freejack 'Ripper'
1993The WaiterJulius
Living and Working in Space: The Countdown Has BegunKennyDirect-to-video
1994 Rapa Nui Make
Don't Do It Charles
In the Army Now Sergeant Stern
1995 My Family 'Chucho'
1996 Livers Ain't Cheap Collin
Death in GranadaRicardo
The Real ThingCollin
Dog WatchMurrowDirect-to-video
Scorpion Spring Astor
1997 The Disappearance of Garcia Lorca RicardoNominated Alma Award
1998 The Wonderful Ice Cream Suit Dominguez
1999Southern CrossPhilip Solano
2000 American Virgin Jim The Director
Spin CycleNickens
Doomsday ManMikeAlso Second unit director
2002 The Adventures of Tom Thumb & Thumbelina Vergas Mouse (voice)Direct-to-video
Paid in Full 'Lulu'
2005Once Upon a WeddingPineda
American FusionJoseVC Film Fest Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival Best Actor Award Winner
2006The Virgin of JuarezFather Herrera
Fast Food Nation Tony
How to Go Out on a Date in QueensFrankie
2008 Kill Kill Faster Faster Markie
La Linea Pelon
King of the Avenue Natas
The Town FBI Taskfore Agent Marcus
2011 Gun Hill Road EnriqueFilmOut San Diego, US Best Actor Award Winner
2012 Atlas Shrugged: Part II Francisco D'Anconia
Seattle SuperstormTom Reynolds
2013 Playin' for Love Principle Jose Martin
2014 Jarhead 2: Field of Fire Captain JonesDirect-to-video
2015 Spare Parts Mr. SantillanNominated Imagen Foundation Award Best Supporting Actor
2016 Never Back Down: No Surrender Hugo VegaDirect-to-video
2018 Superfly Adalberto Gonzalez
Imprisoned Governor Mandera
2019 The Wall of Mexico Henry Arista
2020The Latin from ManhattanPapifilming
2021Option C TBApre-production
Mission: Impossible 7 TBAfilming


1984 ABC Afterschool Special Miguel RadosEpisode: "The Great Love Experiment"
1985 The Equalizer Officer Miguel CanterraEpisode: "Lady Cop"
Fame GeorgeEpisode: "Savage Streets"
1985–1987 Miami Vice Pete Romano / Felipe Cruz2 episodes
1986 On Wings of Eagles RashidTV mini-series
1989 The Twilight Zone Jesse CardiffEpisode: "A Game of Pool"
1991–1992 The Legend of Prince Valiant n/a (voice)2 episodes
1992Bay City StoryJim DuranTV movie
1994 The Burning Season JairTV movie
Tales from the Crypt 'Puck'Episode: "The Bribe"
1995Deadlocked: Escape from Zone 14Tony ArcherTV movie
1996Dying to Be Perfect: The Ellen Hart Pena StoryFederico PeñaTV movie
1997 The Outer Limits Frank KeltonEpisode: "Heart's Desire"
The Hunger TonyEpisode: "I'm Dangerous Tonight"
1998 Adventures from the Book of Virtues Guillermo (voice)Episode: "Charity"
Circle of Deceit Jeff SilvaTV movie
1999 L.A. Doctors Vince DuraldeEpisode: "The Life Lost in Living"
Atomic Train Noris MacKenzieTV movie
2000A Family in Crisis: The Elian Gonzales StoryJuan Miguel GonzalezTV movie
Family Law Mr. SantiagoEpisode: "Telling Lies, Conclusion"
2000–2002 Resurrection Blvd. Paco Corrales7 episodes
2001–2004 NYPD Blue Lieutenant Tony Rodriguez Series regular; 66 episodes

Outstanding Actor in a Television Series Alma Award Winner

2002 American Family Esteban Gonzalez8 episodes

Nominated Prism Award

Nominated Imagen Foundation Award Best Actor in a supporting role

George Lopez Manny LopezEpisode: "Who's Your Daddy?"
2002–2003 Dora the Explorer Papi (voice)5 episodes
2004Sudburyn/aTV movie
2005 Heartless Rick Benes / David LopezTV movie
Freddie CarlosEpisode: "The Courtship of Freddie's Father"
Behind the Mask of ZorroNarratorTV documentary (co-producer)
2006Company TownRay DupreTV movie
Vanished Michael Tyner11 episodes
JurukanGuest1 episode
2007The CureJorgeTV movie
24: Day 6 Debrief Agent Jorge Ramirez5 episodes
Burn Notice Ernie PaseoEpisode: "Broken Rules"
2008 Jericho Major Edward Beck7 episodes

Nominated Alma Award

2009–2010 Caprica Joseph Adama Series regular; 18 episodes
2010 CSI: Miami Stephen MadsenEpisode: "All Fall Down"
2011 Los Americans Leandro 'Lee' Valenzuela8 episodes, also producer
Fairly Legal District Attorney Aaron DavidsonEpisode: "Bo Me Once"
Seattle SuperstormTomTV movie
17th PrecinctLiam ButterfieldTV movie
We Have Your HusbandEduardo ValsecaTV movie
Nominated - Image Award
2012 Law & Order: Special Victims Unit Jimmy VasquezEpisode: "Home Invasions"
HolaGuest1 episode
2013 Major Crimes Deputy DiazEpisode: "Jailbait"
2013–2015 Criminal Minds [27] Section Chief Mateo 'Matt' Cruz6 episodes
2013TeachersMannyTV movie
Magic City Carlos 'El Tiburon' Ruiz6 episodes
2014 Cleaners Father Brooks3 episodes
2015 The Brink President Julian NavarroSeries regular; 10 episodes
From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series Lord Amancio MalvadoSeries regular; 8 episodes
Mozart in the Jungle Juan Delgado2 episodes
2015–2016 Blue Bloods Sergeant Trey Delgado2 episodes
2016L.A. Series'El Mono'TV movie
Casa VitaRodrigo VitaTV movie
Hit the Floor DetectiveTV Special
Adam Ruins Everything AlfonsoEpisode: "Adam Ruins Immigration"
2016–2020 How To Get Away With Murder Jorge Castillo8 episodes
2017 Chicago P.D. Police Chief Lugo6 episodes
Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders Section Chief Mateo 'Matt' CruzEpisode: "La Huesuda"
Ozark Camino Del Rio4 episodes
2018–present NCIS: Los Angeles Deputy Director Louis OchoaRecurring Season 10
Mars Roland St. John
2019 Titans Slade Wilson / Deathstroke Main role; 10 episodes
2020 Curb Your Enthusiasm FranciscoEpisode:"#10.3"

Video games

YearTitleVoice roleNotes
2005 True Crime: New York City [28]

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