'Little Miss Sunshine' Star Julio Oscar Mechoso Dead at 62

Little Miss Sunshine actor Julio Oscar Mechoso, known for his lengthy career in both television and film, has died at age 62. The Miami Herald reports that he died Saturday after suffering a heart attack.

Aside from landing big screen roles in films like Little Miss Sunshine, The Legend of Zorro and Jurassic Park III, Mechoso was also known for his spots on popular TV series like Seinfeld and Miami Vice. More recently, he appeared on The Big Bang Theory and Grey’s Anatomy.

He got his first TV role not long after graduating from FIU on the Miami-made sitcom ¿Qué pasa, U.S.A.?

Longtime friend and fellow actor, Andy Garcia penned a powerful tribute to Mechoso shortly after his death.

"How can one express the extreme loss of someone so close to you, the extreme emptiness that one feels now and forever," he wrote in a letter, according to the Miami Herald. "A sudden loss is always unjust, but in the case of Julio Oscar Mechoso, my friend, my soul mate it is greater than that, as I have lost the truest of friends."

"Julio is a unique and extraordinary artist. I say is, because his artistry will carry on and will be present in all that will witness it," he continued. "That will never die."

Mechoso possessed an intensity so fierce he often burst into tears during table reads. Friends even teased him with the nickname "lloracito" (the little one who cries), but he stopped being pigeon-holed into "tough guy" roles when filmmakers discovered his knack for comedy.

"He was a very funny guy," his daughter, Melinda, said. "He was an entertainer. If you look at his old school pictures from Miami, the people around him always have big smiles, because he’s doing something to make them laugh. He loved do that. He would never let anyone else talk at the dinner table — he had too many stories to tell."

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Born in Cuba and raised in Miami (his family operated Little Havana’s Mechoso Store, which sold clothing and appliances), his high school performance of George C. Scott’s infamous profane speech from the opening of the film of Patton won a prize. For the next four years, his aspiring actor friends at what was then Miami Dade Community College and later FIU would beg him, “Do Patton!"

"It was just amazing," recalled Garcia. "It was Patton, but it was also Julio. He had this way of inhabiting a role."