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Robert Beltran was born on 19 November 1953, Bakersfield, California, USA. He is the seventh of ten children, of Mexican-Native American ancestry, though Robert describes his heritage as Latindio, the son of Aurelia Olgin (née Adame) and Louis Perez Beltran.
Beltran made his film debut with a small role in the 1981 film Zoot Suit, also featuring Tony Plana and Kurtwood Smith. In 1982, in only his second film appearance, he starred as the titular character in the dark comedy «Eating Raoul». In 1983, he went on to co-star opposite action superstars Chuck Norris and David Carradine in Lone Wolf McQuade. By the following year, however, he was being offered lead roles. He starred in the popular science fiction film Night of the Comet, which has also reached cult status. In 1985, he starred in the war drama Latino, produced by George Lucas, which also featured his fellow Zoot Suit actor Tony Plana.
Beltran also starred in several made-for-TV movies. Among these were 1984’s «The Mystic Warrior», co-starring Nick Ramus and Ron Soble, and 1986’s The Family Martinez, co-starring Denise Crosby.
By 1987, however, Beltran was back to playing supporting roles. That year, he co-starred with fellow Star Trek alumni Rosalind Chao, Herta Ware, and John Fleck in the film «Slam Dance». That same year, he had a supporting role in the acclaimed drama Gaby: A True Story, co-starring Lawrence Monoson.
In 1989, Beltran reteamed with his Eating Raoul director, Paul Bartel, for another dark comedy, Scenes from the Class Struggle in Beverly Hills. Ed Begley, Jr. and Wallace Shawn also had roles in this film. Beltran also co-starred with Cliff DeYoung in Forbidden Sun that same year and then 1990’s To Die Standing.
Beltran played the title role of the 1991 TV movie El Diablo, co-starring one-time DS9 guest star John Glover and Star Trek: Enterprise actor Jim Beaver. That same year, Beltran again co-starred with Tony Plana in the short-lived TV series Veronica Clare. Also in 1991, Beltran appeared in the gangster film «Bugsy», which also featured one-time Star Trek: The Next Generation guest star Bebe Neuwirth.
Afterward, Beltran appeared primarily in TV movies, including State of Emergency, with Paul Dooley and Richard Beymer, in 1994. Also in that year, Beltran guest starred in an episode of the TV series Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, starring Teri Hatcher; TNG guest star Chris Demetral guest-starred in the same episode. Just before landing his starring role on Voyager, Beltran played the recurring role of Detective Louis Soto on the Melrose Place spin-off Models Inc. in episodes with Victor Bevine, Randy Oglesby, Cristine Rose, and Margot Rose. Later in 1994, Beltran was cast as Chakotay in Star Trek: Voyager.
Since Voyager first aired, Beltran has only appeared in one other major feature film. He played one of the Watergate burglars in the 1995 biographical drama Nixon, chronicling the fall of US President Richard M. Nixon. Trek alumni such as Tony Plana, Saul Rubinek, and Paul Sorvino also had roles in this film.
While still filming Voyager in 2000, Beltran co-starred opposite future Star Trek: Enterprise star Scott Bakula in the independent film Luminarias, based on the play of the same name. He also voiced Commander Chakotay in the video game Star Trek: Voyager – Elite Force.
After Voyager ended in 2001, Beltran worked in the TV movie Manticore, in which he co-stars with DS9 actress Chase Masterson. He was next seen in TV’s Fire Serpent for the Sci-Fi Channel, written by Garfield and Judith Reeves-Stevens. In March of 2007, Beltran made an appearance on the NBC series Medium. His upcoming credits include the Sci-Fi Channel TV movie Cry of the Winged Serpent and the comic film Taking Chances and Repo Chick.
In 2009-2010 he has a recurring role as Native American casino promoter Jerry Flute on the HBO series Big Love. Charles Esten, Raphael Sbarge and Noa Tishby have also been appearing on this series.