This obituary is part of a series about people who have died in the coronavirus pandemic. Read about others here.
Cecilia Romo turned to acting too late in life to become a damsel of Mexican cinema. A former member of Mexico’s national basketball team, she was 38 when she signed on as an extra in her first movie, David Lynch’s “Dune” (1984), which was filmed in Mexico. She went on to a television, movie and theater career portraying a broad range of characters, including a malevolent nurse, a sneaky witch and an assortment of nuns.
“I’ve played all the nuns in the world: mother superior, the kitchen nun, the garden nun. All of them! In comedies, dramas, theater, musicals,” Ms. Romo said in a 2012 interview on the program “Momentos de Telenovela” on Televisa San Luis Potosí. Her characters were often rebellious, like she was in life, colleagues said, and she had a gift for comedy.
Towering several inches above the divas of her generation, she was an unconventional screen presence who became beloved by television viewers across Latin America in the 1990s.
Ms. Romo died on Aug. 30 in Mexico City, five months after she filmed her last show. She was 74. The cause was complications of Covid-19, her daughter, Claudia Romo Edelman, said.
Ms. Romo was known for her slapstick talents in television shows like “De Pocas Pocas Pulgas” (“Of Few, Few Fleas”), where she appeared in a doctor’s office with a syringe the size of a hunting rifle, and for her facial expressions, like the suspicious looks she cast in “Prófugas del Destino” (“Running from Destiny”), where she played a mother superior who discovers that the women under her watch are fugitives in stolen robes.
“She played a lot of villains, but the roles that she was most known for were playful and cheeky, because she was like that,” said Mayra Rojas, an actress who performed with her. Ms. Romo often appeared in more edgy telenovelas, the kind that did not end happily, her daughter said.
Ms. Romo was born on Dec. 5, 1945, in Mexico City. Her father, Luis Romo Maconde, owned pharmacies and laboratories; her mother, Cecilia Santillan de Romo, was a high school teacher.
Ms. Romo played on the national women’s basketball team in the mid-1960s before attending the National Autonomous University of Mexico, graduating in 1978. She had stints as an economist for the government and a manager for models in advertisements.
When a call came in to her agency for extras for “Dune,” she signed herself up. That got her hooked on acting. Next came a small part in the 1985 movie “Los Náufragos del Liguria,” about shipwreck survivors; her television career took off soon after.
She also did theater. She had roles in more than 30 productions, including in Spanish-language versions of “La Cage aux Folles,” “Mame” and “Hello, Dolly!” in Mexico City and on tour.
Ms. Romo’s marriages to Raul Domingo González Soto, a civil engineer, and Alfonso Ravelo, a musician, ended in divorce. In addition to her daughter, she is survived by her husband, Guillermo Coelho, a film editor; a son, Luis Roberto Ravelo Romo; and two grandchildren. Two of her children, Adriana González Romo and Raúl González Romo, died of a genetic disorder as toddlers.
In her last TV series, “Como Tú No Hay 2” (“Nobody Like You”), Ms. Romo surprised the crew by whistling like a truck driver to gain the other actors’ attention. She made the whistle a signature of her character, a brash healer in a local market.
“She was such a happy person, and a stupendous actress,” said Henry Zakka, a fellow actor, “so she made the rest of us happier.”