Jimmy Smits, 'Bluff City Law'
I everybody. I'm Peter Travers. Welcome to popcorn where we tell you what popping in the culture and I'm thrilled today to have Jimmy Smits as a guest. He's got a new series called bluff. City Law your career law alone so great that you should lecture on. Oh no and no. And they're gone and we get invited to like like could you. Would you mind being a keynote speaker at the blankety blank. A Bar Association. No what do I have have to offer. Maybe you could just say I have checked your honor as exactly. That question is relevant material. I would love to do that. You mean you don't have that in you sometimes you. You don't go home and just pretend you're in charge. I don't we'll have that part of me of being feeling comfortable like just speak from the heart kind of thing that doesn't that doesn't really work in the courtroom well but I depend on depend on great writers to hopefully you know. Make up for all uh-huh insufficiencies that Jimmy has this Jimmy the character. Yeah I'm looking at your faith and I'm seeing a series one after another you know I see L. A. Law I see NYPD blue. I see the West Wing. I see Dexter Dexter. I see all these things that you've done to people recognize you for one thing in particular. No of those. You mentioned sons of anarchy is Savannah different. No different generations different socio economic groups although there's people in suit and ties our biggest away fans as well. Yeah but no. It's it's great to hear from a now attorney. Say you know I I was going to law school in. La Law was had. Come out and I'm one of the reasons why a lawyer now is that that makes you fit those something it should especially since you basically no digital squat about long to actually know it is really really great. I love that. Well let's let's do some due diligence here and talk about bluff city law and the kind of war you play now Memphis slayer as opposed to who you did when you were. He's he's he doesn't have that kind of like That bounce that idealistic young attorney on La Law all had to disguise. He's a rock means. He's a rock has fishers though he's esteemed in the community the and has done all these social justice causes and runs this. You know small boutique firm pillar of the Memphis society but there. There's a lot of. There's a lot of as many people who are successful in their particular fields. You might look up to them. A certain way. My daughter daughter in the series Sydney straight. Play back the wonderful caitlyn McGee. That's the dynamic that we have as a father daughter relationship. That's a little strange strange. Little strange out there trying to find their way or something each other again. So you're shooting saying this in Memphis. Doing it actually in never heard of that. Did you ever hear of green screen. Everything is done that way we used to do. NYPD NYPD blue. Who and come here actually do it on the Fox lot and then come signed three times a year if we were lucky and we have the scripts to do like like exterior shots and you know that for a type of show like that? It's more inside because it's about the the workings of of a precinct more. So that that that worked but this it made so much sense to us having wanting to deal with the show that dealt with law in its purest form the aspirational qualities of law and And speaking for the voiceless being voice for the voiceless voiceless dealing with social justice causes and not wanting to be in these big metropolitan areas to show a different side of America America. And maybe a place that hasn't been shown you gotta be there because it becomes not just a backdrop up to have the gates everywhere you wanted to permeate everything and I wanNA keep you know. Keep that vibrant with the writing room. The writer's room to squeeze in Los Angeles keep keep on writing stories and come come and visit the sets and see what we're doing so that the storylines reflective of of that community your character Raja straight is a guy who firm is the opposite of where his daughter had come from the big corporate big city. I'm I'm just going to destroy. This is the way it is and whatever personal flaws he may have and he's trying to do something good you really and the family terms of the way they approach the law and you mentioned the whole thing about being from a corporate firm win win win is a lot is a lot different. So they're finding their way towards each other through a tragedy that happens in the pilot episode. Yes what we know that from that your wife is dead and therefore you're getting the casseroles right. Yes active tip the whole thing work so I want to ask you from the beginning. What's the first thing you did? Was it Miami Vice. was that the first one. We're told my television the television. I had done a couple of nightspots before that but the first time I was the pilot with Miami Vice and you were gone I first five minutes of of the pilot but I knew that going in. Well I hope so but it wasn't like come on this guy. Let's get up student. Let's be an explosion of that. You never got to have all that Don Johnson kind of wardrobe very fascinating to be there that because I was there for the pilot episode and to see Michael Man and Thomas Carter who directed the pilot and Don's coming up with what he wants to do. He's taken the taking his jacket and crumpling it up and telling the wardrobe person no I wanted. He can't be it become an iconic kind of local right. Even though it's easy enough to wrinkle in thank you can make all of that and they were pressing. Everything for them is what I'm looking at you. I'm thinking Brooklyn boy serve. How does because it happened that you decide you know what I'm GonNa do mom and Dad? They didn't understand that really well. There's no there's no there's no touchstone own with the entertainment industry. My family at all other than other than watching you know Ed Sullivan Max. Regional amateur hour altogether other and smoke. It was something that I think. It had to do a lot. With the fact that I've moved we moved around a lot on me. I'm from Brooklyn Bronx. Puerto Areco four-time kind of this kid trying to fit into different economic situations to neighborhoods All all of that part of it And and I wasn't really great in school but when I found that I could. I found this thing this theater thing that I was interested in. Yeah I can spend hours in. A library. Researching the historical significance of kings in in in London because related to a Shakespearean play. Great that you were in the library redoing it now you would do it on your phone King Serey. How should I play this part? I need to do it. was there anything you as a Latino that you had you felt this couldn't happen. Did you sense an air of impossibility impossibility about it or was it always something you thought was in the car. I think maybe that might be one of the reasons why I was drawn to the classics. Because because it didn't feel like I had to do an identification kind of thing I could be you know a IAGO or or fellow or or or Henry Five. Why not there is no reason why I don't know why was that? I was concerned it. Was You know boundless Louis going to see people like role Julian James Earl Jones. Tackle the classics to me and me having something in in common with with both of them it it it gives you permission to aspire in. Somebody's yeah so those. I kind of seeds that happened and wonderful teachers on the way they kept on pushing me and now I'm looking at you because I see I'm seeing your whole and I I remember how much I loved it when you got to be the president in West Wing and only got to do this and that was fun. The campaign went through this speech. You wish you were there now would be. It would be nice Lawrence. Lawrence O'Donnell was writer while I was while I was on John had left by and he wrote this episode so that I did with Alan alda which was a live debate because we were chronically. What a campaign would be like and we did this? Live debate episode on the East Coast in West Coast twice that they. I like if it was a play it was it remains one of the high points of stuff that I've done television to this day. There's a lot of high point wants to do. You have a favorite to you. Is One thing that you know not a favorite. I don't like the word of what was the show that you worked on television that you learned the most from from what was it. Well okay so we're well. I mean different things for different reasons that that live episode was Graydon Raden on West Wing pushing the envelope Sunday why. PD blue in terms of what content. We were doing the naked exuberance that I had Makina Lillo but I mean I worked within called Cain That didn't the writers strike kind of you know and that was a big disappointment for me. I learned so much For working because it was a little bit you know people ready for it. They want I guess I. I don't know I'd like it when you play so it would be because you're not afraid to show the flaw in a character even one who is taking us. At least. There's some sense of moving upward to do something for somebody but when you were on how to get away with murder with Viola Davis. That's a really flawed character. He's Messing up everything at the same time but real you know well. I did that because I wanted to work with vice so baton but yeah it's it's about trying to find characters that are complicated trying to find the flaws and and the but keeping the point of view view of the character clear or trying to clarify it as much as possible not necessarily justify it but just clear for their life life path that that the character is going so that the audience understand. He's really up but he is. I don't know why he did that. There's always the most it's interesting you can't be. You can't always have the white hat and be doing that all right. We have some questions now. I know you'll know what they are from Commodity Ham Damn Mr Smith. You are the real deal off. Did you accept this part because she missed the days when you played a lawyer on. La Law no Mr Schmitz's now taking he's he's in law school. What we were going to go back to the whole thing about theater? They have opening arguments MM to the jury. They have closing statements where they get too. Many does remind me of a bit of soliloquies or their strategies in terms of the way a lawyer performs where they can direct the energy of a jury to their client or to that person that they're against or they perform a lot of ways. So maybe that's why you know you've got better come on and did all right. Let's see one more question here from Ray T. I'm so well so AM I. I'm so pumped about the in the heights movie. Are you in lin-manuel old buddies. ooh That's anybody's. Puerto Rican is friends with every other reporter. That's basically that's it sure did. Yeah that's what happened. Yeah I saw that play was when it was a workshop and then I saw it again when it was off Broadway thirty seven arts and and different incarnations of it on Broadway. I knew that kid had something special. Him and Kiara read who this Roth wrote in the heights. Little did we know that he was going to blow up and become you know you look back. Women Wall well stuff. 'cause he changed. The Hamilton changed the way we look at theater. Hamilton did and there's Magritte's we get things done absolutely like when people saw aside story and they were. I mean they're never gonNA be able to go see Oklahoma and the same kind of way. It's it's it's a shift. A seismic shift in terms of the way feeders approaches. He did that with with Hamilton in in the heights. The did the movie this summer. And Jon Chu directed. uh-huh did want such a wonderful job on crazy rich Asians. I am so impressed with him as a director so prepared peop- like he goes home at night night and edits and then brings you the scene the way he had that movie in his mind. Good for him. Yeah it was taken taking over for doing yes. Yeah got to do that. And this is the first time you've been on this show. I don't know why you just stay in. LA IN MEMPHIS all the time but the fact is that this show always ends in a little bit of song is it does and you're going to sing blow a couple of notes. So that's okay I'm asking for. I don't believe you because I believe if you were playing the role you would do it. No no no no but we know no it's just the tiniest little bit there must be a song in your head and in your heart all the time looking at desperately looking for publicist. He saying who got me onto this. This is just. It's just crazy. Look at that you know so many people do that. We see me sweating right. Yeah they do it. I see it. They go people actors who are just known to be fearless just the idea that they would hit two notes to different terrifying to them. Is it really come on okay. When I was growing up there was a group called the persuasion? Yes and the album called street corner symphony concern this week. Because I can't look at look at anybody this up. I as we stroll along to two games holding hands walking all alone so in love all the way to that too. We don't know what to do so in love ooh You And so are oh you. Wow who knew knew. I was off key like thirteen. It doesn't matter. It was nothing but it was amazing. I'm such a fan. You know why they came from the heart you know why. He's so good good because it's like a it's like a conversations not like no cards coach. Shoot cheap yeah.