By the age of ten Mr. Elizondo showed signs of musical ability and W.C. Handy recommended him to the Frank Murray Boy's Choir, with which Elizondo subsequently appeared on local radio and television. After graduating from Booker T. Washington Jr. High in 1951, he went to the High School of Music and Art as a voice major, in addition to attending public high school, where he played baseball and was scouted by the New York [now San Francisco] Giants, and the Pittsburgh Pirates.
In 1954 Mr.Elizondo went to New York City College, with the intent of becoming a teacher of History. While studying at night, he worked in the day at a sheet metal shop, and on the weekends played guitar and conga drums in a band. After having married early, he became the father of a son, Rodd. Mr. Elizondo was forced to leave school as a freshman in order to work full-time to support his family.
A year later he was divorced, and in what could be considered a rather progressive ruling for the times, Mr. Elizondo was granted full custody of his son. Mr. Elizondo was offered a recording contract but turned the offer down when the company suggested that he should change his music style.
In 1963 he took interest in dancing and joined the Ballet Art Company of Carnegie Hall. But as it often happens in life ("Who says that life is always fair?") Mr. Elizondo injured his knee just before a national tour of West Side Story. Sometime later he was offered the part of "Reber in Mister Roberts", and he's been in acting ever since! Mr.Elizondo appeared in many Off-Broadway plays during the 60s ("Kill the One-Eyed Man", Howard Sackle's "The Great White Hope.")
His first major success came playing GOD in guise of the Puerto Rican steam room attendant in Bruce Jay Friedman's "Steambath". While the play itself got mixed reviews, Mr. Elizondo was highly praised and won an Obie award for his efforts. As he didn't want to be type-casted Mr. Elizondo chose his roles carefully.
As a result of that his career didn't take-off as it should. Mr. Elizondo also choose his roles regarding his personal integrity. This didn't stay unrecognized when he achieved the "Integrity Award from Diversity Awards for Integrity of Roles chosen". Mr. Elizondo then appeared in several films (i.e. The Taking of Pelham 1-2-3, Cuba). He returned to the stage in New York and played Simon Able, George C. Scott's scheming servant in "Sly Fox" - which earned him a Drama Desk nomination for outstanding performance.
In the 80's Mr. Elizondo starred in several tv-shows and here began his friendship with Garry Marshall. They met in Marshall's driveway during one of Marshall's basketball plays. Mr. Elizondo made a memorable first impression by throwing a behind-the-back pass right into Marshall's face. "You're a better actor than you are a passer," Marshall said, once he realized his jaw wasn't broken. They've been best friends ever since. "Before I met him, all I knew was that he was an actor who played Puerto Rican drug dealers," Marshall says now. "Then I saw him in a couple of plays and I said, 'Whow, you can do other things.' You put a toupee on him and he looks like a different guy. And I said to him, I promise you'll never have to play a Puerto Rican drug dealer for me." Since then Mr. Elizondo had a role in every of Mr. Marshall's movies. (Garry Marshall once stated in an interview: "Hector is my good luck charm.")
Their first movie together was "Young Doctor's in Love" and Mr. Elizondo just signed for another Marshall movie: "The Other Sister". In some of the movies Mr. Elizondo stayed uncredited (like in Beaches and Overboard). He wanted to do that as well in "Pretty Woman". But Mr. Marshall rejected that. Hector Elizondo was quite surprised by the success of his role, even so he is actually only about 10 minutes onscreen. (But watch out: he is quite a "scene stealer" ;-) !)
Mr. Elizondo received a Golden Globe nomination for his role in Pretty Woman. He then made appearances in many tv-shows (Kojak, Rockford Files, Colombo) and starred in the mini series "Burden of Proof".
In 1994 he was cast as Dr. Phillip Watters in David E. Kelley's medical drama Chicago Hope and since then we can enjoy his playing of the role. Mr. Elizondo was twice nominated for an Emmy as best supporting actor (Chicago Hope) and won the Emmy in 1997. (Congratulations!)
He is a character player who is chameleon-like able to play a rich variety of comic and dramatic roles. Always proving that he can switch between ethnic identities as he changes the many wigs that he uses to cover his natural baldness.
Since 1969 he is married to Carolee Campbell, an actress who starred in the tv-show "The Doctors". Sometime around 1976 or so, it was reported that Carolee had become disenchanted with the acting business and turned to publishing. She operates her own publishing company, Ninja Press, which creates and produces its books by hand.