Esai Manuel Morales, Jr. (born October 1, 1962) is an American actor known for his role as Bob Morales in the 1987 biopic La Bamba. He also appeared in the PBS drama American Family and in the Showtime series Resurrection Blvd.. Although in television, he would perhaps be best known for his roles as Lt. Tony Rodriguez on NYPD Blue and Joseph Adama in Caprica.
Morales is of Puerto Rican descent and was born in Brooklyn, New York to parents Iris Margarita (née Declet), a union activist involved with the International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union, and Esai Morales, Sr., a welder. 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, and his first film—Bad Boys, about teenagers in prison—was released in 1983.
He played the ex-convict and biker half-brother of 1950s rock and roll singer Ritchie Valens in the 1987 movie La Bamba. 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 in 1997, and Southern Cross in 1998. In the last three films, as well as in a few others such as Bloodhounds of Broadway in 1989 and Rapa Nui in 1994, Morales was increased amounts of screen time. He portrayed a police officer with the film Dogwatch in 1996. He played Father Herrera in The Virgin of Juarez.