Lou Diamond Phillips Reflects on 35 Years of La Bamba, Talks Acting with His Daughter Gracie

Lou Diamond Phillips Reflects on 35 Years of La Bamba, Talks Acting with His Daughter Gracie

Lou Diamond Phillips is reflecting on his nearly 40 years in Hollywood.

In this week’s issue of PEOPLE, the actor, 59, opens up about his journey to stardom, the upcoming 35th anniversary of La Bamba, and passing the acting torch to his daughter.

In the early 1980s, Phillips, who calls himself an “unknown kid from Texas,” had his heart set on making it in Hollywood.

“I knew I was going to be an actor, but I never knew that I would be shot out of a cannon into the stratosphere,” he says of his breakout role as Mexican American rock and roll pioneer Ritchie Valens in the 1987 biopic La Bamba.

“It cemented my trajectory and gave me a little bit of tenure. And so the success was stunning. Thirty-five years later it still holds such a lovely place since so many people’s hearts,” he shares.

la bamba

la bamba
Credit: Columbia Pictures/Everett Collection

Now the father of four is sharing his passion with his daughter 24-year-old Gracie (whom he shares with ex-wife Kelly Phillips). The father-daughter pair guest-star on an episode of Fox’s The Cleaning Lady.

“I know the realities of how difficult it is even with the successful career,” says Phillips. “The amount of rejection, the amount of hard work, the criticism that comes from putting yourself out there. There is all of that. And so that’s why I’ve never pushed any of the girls into the arts, even when I saw that they had the inherent talent. I wanted it to be a personal choice for them.”

“But being on-set and seeing [Gracie] bring it was so gratifying,” says Phillips.

Want to get the biggest stories from PEOPLE every weekday? Subscribe to our new podcast, PEOPLE Every Day, to get the essential celebrity, entertainment and human interest news stories Monday through Friday.

the cleaning lady

the cleaning lady
Credit: John Britt/FOX

He’s also thankful for his own enduring career, which after La Bamba has included roles in numerous films, including the 1988 movie Stand and Deliver and TV shows, including the FOX series Prodigal Son which aired from 2019 to 2021.

 “I have such respect for this career, for what actors and artists do,” he says.

The star is also committed to continuing to push for more representation for fellow Filipino actors. “This awakening to authenticity and to representation is a very, very welcome thing and a very good thing,” Phillips says.

“I’m feeling ridiculously optimistic,” he adds.

The Cleaning Lady airs Mondays at 9 p.m. EST on FOX, and is also streaming on Hulu.