Growing up on the edge of Harlem with his younger sister Emma, father and Puerto Rican mother, Hector Elizondo attended a boys' choir at the age of 10 and performed for local radio and television stations. While in high school he took voice lessons, but also excelled in baseball and was scouted by the major leagues.
However, Hector decided to become a history teacher and enrolled at the City College of New York. He also studied dance at the Ballet Arts Company at Carnegie Hall. When he suffered a knee injury, he turned to acting instead, establishing himself as a versatile stage actor, winning an Obie for his performance as God—in the guise of a Puerto Rican steam room attendant—in the off-Broadway comedy, Steambath (1971). He also earned additional recognition in Sly Fox and Volpone.
After two failed marriages Hector continued acting, and met actress Carolee Campbell, a star on the NBC soap The Doctors, at the Actor's Studio. They were hitched in 1969 and have been happily married ever since.
During the late '60s, Hector made his first feature film bow and has been in over 80 movies and TV-movies since. This bald, gap-toothed character actor has played everything from a Mexican bandit in Valdez Is Coming (1971), a psychopathic killer in The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (1974), a dogged detective in The Fan (1981), a middle-class family man in The Flamingo Kid (1984), to an incorruptible football coach in Necessary Roughness (1991). Elizondo has also been a favorite of director Garry Marshall who has cast him in at least 12 of his movies including Pretty Woman (1990), for which Elizondo earned a Golden Globe nomination for Best Supporting Actor; Dear God (1996); The Other Sister (1999); Runaway Bride (1999) and The Princess Diaries (2001).
Hector has also made his mark in television through the years. Among his extensive credits, the high point would be his avuncular D.A. on Foley Square, with the low being Captain Renault in the David Soul version of Casablanca (1983). He copped a rare starring role in the 1992 miniseries The Burden of Proof. He also played a leading role in the CBS medical drama, Chicago Hope from the mid-'90s to 2000. His role as Dr. Phillip Watters earned him five Emmy award nominations (winning one). He has even taken a stab at directing episodes of the series.
Since then, he has played regular roles on several more weekly TV series: the CBS hour-long drama Kate Brasher (2001); the ABC sci-fi drama Miracles (2003); and the CBS sci-fi series Century City (2004). In 2007 he joined the cast of the medical drama Grey's Anatomy and played the role of Carlos Torres until 2013. From 2008 to 2009, he played the recurring role of Dr. Neven Bell on the ABC comedy series Monk, starring Tony Shalhoub in the title role. Currently, Hector plays a starring role as Ed Alzate on the Fox sitcom Last Man Standing (2011 to 2020) starring Tim Allen.
He has also lent his voice to the animated films The Book of Life (2014) and The LEGO Batman Movie (2017).
His hobbies include Kendo (a type of Japanese fencing), playing the guitar, singing, and playing the bongos.