Edward James Olmos on Jenni Rivera: 'She's Had an Incredibly Difficult Journey'

The actor and executive producer of "Filly Brown" writes for THR about opening his film without his co-star: "I can't tell you how sad it is that she won't be here."

This story first appeared in the Dec. 21 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

Jenni Rivera is one of the most truthful artists I’ve ever been around. Everything that happened to her happened in plain view of the whole world -- divorces, sex-scandal tapes. She’s had an incredibly difficult journey. Every single thing she did with a sense of who she was, and she’s never shied away from talking about her feelings. It made her so popular among so many people in her world.

She had to live life that way in order to be the artist she was. She was a compassionate, passionate person to the highest extent, and her art was a direct reflection you can hear it when you listen to her sing and see it in her performances on video and her only dramatic piece of work.

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Filly Brown is the first time she was put in front of a camera in a film. The way Jenni cried at a later screening in view of what the film had done and what she was part of -- I had no idea she would be so overwhelmed by it. I can’t tell you how sad it is that she won’t be here to experience what’s going to happen when it’s out in April. She should be nominated and win for best supporting actress. I had asked her to come in to the film, and she came in and just did what she does best -- was honest to herself and to her moment. And her moment was brilliant, like a classically trained artist: a riveting, riveting performance. She was just coming into her own, but she just stunned people.

It comes from her consummate performances of her music, like Barbra Streisand, Frank Sinatra or Judy Garland, other consummate artists who sing from a place deep inside. She was the most effective artist in banda and nortena music that’s ever been since Selena, who opened it up -- but Jenni took it to the highest level with millions and millions affected. Her music was infectious, like country-Western. Like Patsy Cline, she was one of those heartbreaking vocalists who sang the truth about their lives and about everything they can possibly sing about.

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She had a great amount of humility, yet she was a feisty woman. If you met her, my God, she was like a real force of nature. Extraordinarily honest -- you had to be careful because she just put it out there! As a businesswoman, she was very opinionated; she had an opinion all the time. She was really very strong; you didn’t want to mess around with her. She was very much into moving women forward. She always took time with young people to talk to them at the drop of a hat for long periods of time, not just quickly discuss something. She was always getting involved.