Jimmy Smits has had a long and incredibly varied career as an actor. He got his big break on an episode of "Miami Vice" in 1984 and then went on to find fame as Victor Sifuentes on "L.A. Law" for six seasons. After that came "Pee Wee's Playhouse," "Star Wars," "NYPD Blue," "West Wing," "Dexter," and a lot of theater to name just a few other career highlights. He joined the cast of "Sons of Anarchy" in Season 5 to play Katey Sagal's love interest, Nero Padilla.
Jimmy Smits on getting cast on 'Sons of Anarchy'
Smits and his long-time partner, Wanda De Jesus, had been fans of the show since its debut. The pair attended a Directors Guild of America tribute for director Paris Barclay, who Smits had worked with on "NYPD Blue" and who currently helms episode of "Sons of Anarchy." At the event, Smits and De Jesus ran into "SOA" creator Kurt Sutter, who is married to Katey Sagal. In a recent conference call interview, Smits recalled, "Wanda and myself, and Katie and Kurt, we spent a couple of minutes talking, and in a way, it was out of that that the call came from Kurt that he wanted to know if I would sit down with him and just explore the possibility of an idea for an arc."
And so out of this chat, the seed for the characters of Nero and Carla (who is played by De Jesus) were planted. Smits immediately jumped at the chance to work on the show. He remarked, "The show is very, very cinematic in a way. They're able to do these wonderful things and have that very iconic thing of outlaws. It's almost like watching a Western in a lot of ways. So that was the whole beginnings of our conversations."
Jimmy Smits on researching his 'Sons of Anarchy' role
After being cast, Smits set to work on researching the role. He stated, "I found the common ground like I do with a lot of different characters. The research for me is probably just as fascinating as being on-set doing work every day." He interviewed people in Latino motorcycle clubs and ex-cons who were trying to turn their lives around. He asked them about their lives, their lore, and their tattoos, "because your body is kind a board of your past." He noted, "Those things flesh out a character's life in a lot of ways. You hear stuff, and you have to be like a sponge and use what you can and how it relates. Because TV is fluid and things change on a week-to-week basis. But those are the things that I do with every character."
Jimmy Smits on making Nero decent
Then Smits had the task of figuring out how to make a pimp, gang member, and thief come across as a decent guy. The actor said in some ways the term "decent" is all relative. He pointed out that these characters are not walking around thinking they're bad guys. "You're part of the environment that you grow up in, the socialization, and in that, there can be decency. I always try to find a little glimmer of that in anything that I do, because I think that those little glimmers, finding places where there's humor or lightness in something that's deep and profound, it tends to resonate more and makes people more human."
Watch "Sons of Anarchy" on Tuesday nights at 10 PM EST on FX.
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