Edward's mother, Eleanor Huizar, met his father, Pedro Olmos, in Mexico City. They married and raised three children: Peter, Edward, and Esperanza. His parents divorced when he was eight, and Edward spent his leisure time playing baseball as a means of staying away from drugs and gang life.
Edward also loves music. He taught himself to sing & play the piano, and in 1961 joined the band Pacific Ocean. In the mid '60s Edward attended East Los Angeles College & California State University during the day and played music in the clubs at night. He began acting to become a better singer, but found a love for acting instead.
Edward married Kaija, the daughter of actor Howard Keel, in 1971. They have two sons, Bodie and Mico, together.
Edward took jobs delivering furniture between music gigs and small acting roles before landing the role of El Pachuco, the narrator in Zoot Suit. It opened in 1978 with an expected run of ten days, but ran for over a year before going to Broadway. By the time the production ended, Olmos had won a Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle award, a Theatre World award and was nominated for a Tony Award.
After that, acting roles became easier to find for Olmos including 1981's Wolfen and 1982's Blade Runner with Harrison Ford. Olmos then joined the cast of Miami Vice as Lieutenant Martin Castillo. Olmos continued to have great success both acting and directing.
His second wife was actress Lorraine Bracco, though that marriage also ended in divorce.
In 2003, Olmos was cast as Commander Adama in the updated version of Battlestar Galactica. In addition to starring in the acclaimed series, he directed some episodes. He also directed the Battlestar Galactica TV/DVD movie, The Plan. During an on-air interview, Edward said that the role of Commander Adama was the best role he's ever had.