Lauren Velez
Birth Date:
Brooklyn, New York, USA
Birth Place:
November 2, 1964
5' 4½" (1.64 m)
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Lauren Velez_171212
Dexter's Maria LaGuerta


American actress of Puerto Rican descent Lauren Velez, the twin sister of actress Loraine Velez,  is best recognized for her roles as María LaGuerta on the Showtime television series “Dexter” (2006-?),  Dr. Gloria Nathan in HBO's “Oz” (1997-2003) and Detective Nina Moreno on Fox's “New York Undercover” (1995-1999). She took home an ALMA Award and a NAMIC Award for the first series and an ALMA Award and a NCLR Bravo Award for the latter two shows, respectively. Velez is also memorable for her performances in such films as “I Like It Like That” (1994),  “City Hall” (1996),  “I Think I Do” (1997) and “Serial” (2006, won a Long Island International Film Expo Award).


Childhood and Family:

Lauren Velez was born on November 2, 1964, in Brooklyn, New York, to a New York City police officer father (Jose Velez) and a homemaker mother (Coco Velez). She has a twin sister named Lorraine and     other five sisters. Lauren discovered acting while performing in a grade school play, and then started her career as a dancer. After high school, she and her twin received scholarships to attend the Alvin Ailey America Dance Theater. However, Lauren had to put her dancing career on the back burner after suffering a knee injury. After spending one semester at Kingsborough Community College, she studied Shakespeare at Michael Howard Studios in Manhattan. She also trained at The Acting Studio with James Price.   

In 1993, Lauren was married to Mark Gordon. The same year, her father passed away due to heart attack.

New York Undercover


Lauren Velez made her professional debut by performing in a national touring company's production of the musical “Dreamgirls.” She went on to play understudy for actress Phylicia Rashad in Stephen Sondheim's “Into the Woods” and perform Off-Broadway in the productions of “Much Ado About Nothing” and “Fasade.”

In 1994, Velez broke into the big screen with a notable starring turn as Lisette Linares in the comedy/drama “I Like It Like That,” which was written and directed by Darnell Martin. The role brought her a 1995 Independent Spirit nomination for Best Female Lead. In the following year, Velez got her first major television role. She was cast as Det. Nina Moreno, a streetwise police officer from a Harlem precinct deputed to an elite undercover unit in Manhattan, in the Fox crime/drama series “New York Undercover,” which she played during season 2 to 4 (1995-1999). For her bright acting, Velez picked up a NCLR Bravo for Outstanding Actress in a Drama Series in 1996 and was nominated for an Image Award  for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series in 1997 and 1998 and an ALMA Award for Outstanding Actress in a Drama Series in 1998.

Velez was cast as a cop's widow, Elaine Santos, in Harold Becker's film “City Hall” (1996), opposite Al Pacino and John Cusack, and received a NCLR Bravo nomination for Outstanding Actress in a Feature Film for her performance. She went on to portray Carol in the gay-themed romantic comedy film “I Think I Do” (1997), for which she nabbed an  ALMA nomination in the category of Outstanding Actress in a Feature Film, as well as appear in the films “In Search of a Dream” (1997) and “The LaMasters” (1998). She also offered a fine performance as Camilla Lopez in the made for television film “Thicker Than Blood” (1998), fro which she received an ALMA nomination  for Outstanding Actress in Made-for Television Movie or Mini-Series.

Velez gained further attention on the small screen when she joined the cast of the HBO suspense  series “Oz” to portray prison doctor Gloria Nathan (1997-2003). She was a guest performer in the first season and progressed to a regular cast member in the following season. Delivering a bright acting, Velez was handed an ALMA Award for Outstanding Actress in a Television Series (2001) and three  nominations in the same category (1999, 2000, 2002).   

Velez  made guest appearances in television series like “Strange World” (1999), “The Pretender” (2000), “Profiler” (2000) and “Law & Order” (1999, 2002), and appeared in the CBS telefilm “Love and Treason” (2001), opposite Kim Delaney, David Keith and Timothy Carhart. She played the role of Rosa Sanchez in the drama film “Prince of Central Park” (2000), starring Kathleen Turner, Danny Aiello and Cathy Moriarty, and had an uncredited part as prison counselor in “Prison Song” (2001), a drama film directed and co-written by Darnell Martin.

After “Oz” ended, Velez had recurring roles on “Dragnet” (2003, 2 episodes, as Det. Denise Beltran), “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” (2004, 2 episodes, as Attorney Shamal) and “Numb3rs” (2006-2007, 3 episodes, as Claudia Gomez) as well as one episodic role in the TV series “Strong Medicine” (2005), “Wanted” (2005), “Medium” (2006) and “Law & Order: Criminal Intent” (2008). However, the outstanding actress did not return to TV series as a regular cast until she was cast as Maria LaGuerta in the crime/drama series “Dexter,” which premiered on Showtime on October 1, 2006. The show has earned her an ALMA Award for Outstanding Actress in a Drama Series (2009) and a NAMIC Vision Award for Best Actress (2007), not to mention several nominations including ALMA nominations for Outstanding Supporting Actress - Television Series, Mini-Series or Television Movie (2007, 2008)  and Favorite TV Actress - Supporting Role (2011, 2012), and Screen Actors Guild nominations for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series (2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012).

In 2006, Velez won the Festival Prize for Best Supporting Actress at the Long Island International Film Expo for her performance as Roseanne Crystal in the independent feature film “Serial,” which was directed and written by Kevin Arbouet and Larry Strong.

During 2009-2010, Velez played the recurring role of Elena, the nurse to Betty's father in the ABC comedy/drama series “Ugly Betty.”

In 2011, Velez appeared as Carmen Vega in an episode of A&E's “Breakout Kings” called “Where in the World Is Carmen Vega.” She also guest starred in “Hawthorne.” On the movie front, Velez co-starred with Rose McGowan and Lin Shaye in the horror/thriller “Rosewood Lane” (2011), which was written and directed by Victor Salva.    


ALMA: Outstanding Actress in a Drama Series, “Dexter,” 2009
NAMIC: Vision Award, Best Actress – Drama, “Dexter,” 2007
Long Island International Film Expo: Festival Prize, Best Supporting Actress, “Serial,” 2006
ALMA: Outstanding Actress in a Television Series, “Oz,” 2001
NCLR Bravo: Outstanding Actress in a Drama Series, “New York Undercover,” 1996 Show Less
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