His latest television projects include principal roles in the HBO miniseries on the Watergate scandal, The White House Plumbers, starring Woody Harrelson and Justin Theroux, David Makes Man written by Academy Award winner for Moonlight, Tarell McCraney, Start Up with Martin Freeman and Ron Perlman, Academy Award winner Paolo Sorrentino’s The Young Pope with Jude Law and Diane Keaton for HBO, Jugar Con Fuego for Telemundo and the top-rated show Mayans MC on the FX Channel.
Current recurring roles include the comedies One Day at a Time with Rita Moreno and Super Store with America Ferrera, as well as the dramas, The Good Fight with Christine Baransky, The Affair with Anna Paquin, The Punisher with Jon Bernthal, Madam Secretary with Tea Leoni, Lethal Weapon, Colony, Alpha House, Elementary, The Fosters, and The Blacklist.
Tony Plana also starred as Ignacio Suarez, the widowed father to America Ferrera’s Ugly Betty, in ABC’s landmark, groundbreaking hit series for which he received the 2006 Golden Satellite Award from the International Press Academy, an Imagen Award, and an Alma Award. Ugly Betty received the highest ratings and the most critical acclaim of any Latino-based show in the history of television, most notably 11 Emmy nominations and a Golden Globe Award for best comedy.
Previously, he also starred in Showtime’s original series, Resurrection Boulevard, and was nominated for two Alma Awards for best actor. Resurrection Boulevard was the first series to be produced, written, directed and starring Latinos and awarded an Alma Award for the best television series of 2002.
Other feature film credits include JFK, Nixon, Salvador, An Officer and a Gentleman, Lone Star, Three Amigos, Born in East L.A., El Norte, 187, Primal Fear, Romero, One Good Cop, Havana, The Rookie, Silver Strand and Picking Up the Pieces with Woody Allen. He has also appeared in the action thriller Half Past Dead with Steven Segal; The Lost City, with Andy Garcia, Bill Murray, and Dustin Hoffman; and Disney’s highly acclaimed GOAL! The Dream Begins.
He has produced and directed two feature film comedies, A Million to Juan with Paul Rodriguez and The Princess and the Barrio Boy, the first Latino family film to be produced by Showtime, starring academy award nominee Edward James Olmos and Maria Conchita Alonso. The film received two 2001 Alma Award nominations for Best Made for Television Movie and Best Ensemble Acting and won the 2001 Imagen Award for Best Made for Television Movie. Plana’s television episodic debut was 2001’s Resurrection Blvd.’s Saliendo, which garnered critical acclaim, receiving a GLAAD Award for best dramatic episode of the year and a SHINE Award nomination for sensitive portrayal of sexuality. He has directed several episodes of Nickelodeon’s hit series, The Brothers Garcia, receiving a Humanitas Award nomination and winning the Imagen Award for its third season finale, Don’t Judge a Book by its Cover. He also directed the season finale of Greetings from Tucson for the Warner Brothers Network and the Halloween episode of Desperate Housewives in its final season on ABC.
Plana was the Co-founder and served as Producing Artistic Director of the East LA Classic Theatre (ECT), a group comprised of multicultural, classically trained theatre professionals, for over 20 years. The EastLA Classic Theatre was dedicated to serving economically challenged communities through educational outreach programs for primary and secondary schools.
As ECT’s Producing Artistic Director, Plana defined its mission as ‘educational’ with a priority on creating access to classic dramatic literature for young minority audiences, emphasizing interpretations filtered through a multicultural, non-traditional perspective and presented with a contemporary, populist aesthetic. His provocative adaptations of classic Shakespearean plays were specifically conceived for students with little or no theatre going experience. He produced, directed and adapted these plays set against curriculum relevant historical backgrounds that served as catalysts for the investigation of personal and interpersonal psychology, race and cultural relations, socio-political issues and world history. Such as A zoot suit styled, musical Romeo & Juliet, was set during World War II with 1940’s swing music and dance, featuring an East L.A. Latina Juliet and a West L.A. Anglo sailor Romeo struggling to define their love and identities in a wartime city sharply divided by racism, xenophobia, and economics and a Mariachi Musical production of Much Ado About Nothing set in early California.
Plana has continued to challenge the boundaries of teaching and learning language through an innovative approach called Language in Play (LIP). Working directly with language arts teachers, LIP utilizes the performing arts to impact literacy skills in academically at risk and bi-lingual students. Evolved collaboratively with educators over the last fifteen years, ECT’s unique process of ‘personalizing’ language, through student play writing and play acting based on autobiographical experience, has proven more effective in achieving academic advancement and personal growth than established, traditional methods. It has consistently improved students’ reading, writing and speaking skills resulting in higher attendance and lower drop-out rates, increased class participation and homework completion, as well as achieved better test scores, strengthened self-confidence and provided an engaging and meaningful school experience.
In 2005 he was honored as Educator of the Year by Loyola Marymount University’s Department of Education. In 2008 he was awarded Loyola High School’s Cahalan Award as a distinguished alumnus and a Lifetime Achievement Award by the Imagen Foundation. In 2009 the HOLA organization honored him with the Raul Julia HOLA Founders Award for excellence. In 2010, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa selected him as worthy of one of the highest honors bestowed by the City of Los Angeles, The Dream of Los Angeles Award for his contributions to the media arts and education. He is the proud recipient of the 2013 ALMA Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Council of La Raza, the National Association of Latino Independent Producers’ Lifetime Achievement Award for 2016, and the 2018 Nosotros Lifetime Impact Golden Eagle Award. He is currently an affiliate faculty member of the Center for Equity for English Learners at Loyola Marymount University School of Education.
- Alzheimer’s Disease: Finding Help and Hope
- The Classroom as Theatre
As founder and executive artistic director of the East L.A. Classic Theatre, Tony Plana helps improve language arts skills and facilitate language acquisition in the Hispanic community through educational outreach programs (Language in Play) designed for curriculum integration or after school intervention, but his mission to transform education applies to students from all walks of life. Embracing a holistic way of teaching, Plana promotes using theatre in the classroom to tap into different learning modalities and multiple intelligences while augmenting the capacity of teachers. Combining his passion for both education and the arts, Plana has developed unique teaching tools that are aligned to California's standards for English language development (ELD), language arts (LA), and visual and performing arts (VAPA) and that have been put into practice, enhancing personal development and achieving improved academic performance across the curriculum.
- Embracing the Spirit of Diversity
Speaking to both corporate and campus audiences, diversity speaker Tony Plana recognizes various cultures' contributions to all facets of American life. A Cuban immigrant, Plana shares stories from his youth, stressing the importance of education in his achievements. Celebrating diversity, human values, and tolerance, he emphasizes moving past the civil rights struggles of the 20th century, and embracing the complexity of identity in today's society. Plana's presentation reveals how inclusion changes our perspectives--for the better--and improves our interactions with one another.