Jimmy Smits
Smits at the 2016 San Diego Comic-Con
Jimmy L. Smits

(1955-07-09) July 9, 1955 (age 68)
New York City, U.S.
Years active1984–present
Known for
Barbara Smits
(m. 1981; div. 1987)
PartnerWanda De Jesus (1986–present)

Jimmy L. Smits (born July 9, 1955) is an American actor. He is best known for playing attorney Victor Sifuentes on the 1980s–1990s legal drama L.A. Law, NYPD Detective Bobby Simone on the 1990s–2000s police drama NYPD Blue, Matt Santos on the political drama The West Wing, and for appearing in Switch (1991), My Family (1995), The Jane Austen Book Club (2007), and In the Heights (2021). He also appeared as Bail Organa in the Star Wars franchise and as ADA Miguel Prado in Dexter. From 2012 to 2014, he joined the main cast of Sons of Anarchy as Nero Padilla. Smits also portrayed Elijah Strait in the NBC drama series Bluff City Law.

Early life and education

Smits was born in Brooklyn, New York. Smits's father, Cornelis Leendert Smits (1929–2015), was from Paramaribo, Suriname, and was of Dutch descent.[1][2][3] Smits's mother, Emilina (née Pola; 1930–2015), was Puerto Rican, born in Peñuelas.[4][5] He and his two sisters, Yvonne and Diana, grew up in a working-class neighborhood.[6][7] When he was ten years old, he moved to Puerto Rico for a couple of years. Until then he did not speak Spanish. He described attending a Spanish-only school as "jarring" and "traumatic."[8]

Smits was raised in a strict, devout Roman Catholic family. He identifies as Puerto Rican[6][7][9] and frequently visits Puerto Rico.

Smits was an athlete in his youth. He graduated from Thomas Jefferson High School and earned a bachelor's degree from Brooklyn College in 1980 and an MFA from Cornell University in 1982.[10]


Smits at the 39th Annual Emmy Awards in 1987

One of Smits's early roles was playing Sonny Crockett's original partner on the first episode of Miami Vice in 1984. In the first five minutes of the episode he falls victim to a car bomb.

Beginning in 1986, Smits played Victor Sifuentes in the first five seasons of the NBC television Steven Bochco legal drama L.A. Law,[11] for which he was nominated for six Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series, winning in 1990.[12]

Also in 1986, Smits made his feature film debut as drug dealer Julio Gonzalez in the comedy/action cop film Running Scared starring Billy Crystal and Gregory Hines. In 1989, Smits had a leading role in the romantic adventure Old Gringo as Jane Fonda's love interest.

Additionally, Smits played a repairman on Pee-wee's Playhouse, and he starred in the multigenerational story of a Chicano family in the film My Family (1995), alongside Edward James Olmos and Jennifer Lopez.

One of Smits's most acclaimed roles was that of Detective Bobby Simone on the ABC television program NYPD Blue, in which he starred from 1994 to 1998. He received several Emmy nominations for his performance on the series and was reunited with his former co-star Dennis Franz at the 2016 Emmy Awards presentation. He won the ALMA award twice.

Smits in 2000

Smits was scheduled to host the 2001 Latin Grammy Awards broadcast on September 11, 2001. It was canceled due to continuous news coverage and out of respect for the victims of the terrorist attacks earlier that day. He did host a non-televised press conference to announce the winners.

Smits appeared as Senator Bail Organa of Alderaan in Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones (2002) and Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith (2005), in which the character becomes Princess Leia's adoptive father. He reappeared as Bail Organa in the game Star Wars: The Force Unleashed (2008) and the spinoff movie Rogue One (2016). He later reprised the role for Obi-Wan Kenobi (2022).

Smits played the role of Congressman Matt Santos of Houston, Texas, in the final two seasons of the NBC television drama The West Wing,[13] joining fellow L.A. Law alumnus John Spencer. His character eventually ran for and won the U.S. presidency.

In Dexter season 3, Smits played the role of Miguel Prado, an assistant district attorney who befriends the title character.[14] Smits was nominated for an Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series for the role.

Additionally, Smits portrayed the character Alex Vega in the CBS TV series Cane, which aired from September 25, 2007, to December 18, 2007, and was subsequently canceled by the network due to the 2007 Screen Writer's Guild strike.

Smits joined the Sons of Anarchy cast in season 5 as Nero Padilla, a high-level pimp who refers to himself as a "companionator". He builds a relationship with Gemma Teller Morrow (Katey Sagal) and forms an alliance and mentorship with Gemma's son, the central character Jax Teller (Charlie Hunnam).[15]

Smits starred in The Get Down, a musical drama television series which debuted in 2016 on Netflix.[16]

On February 25, 2019, news outlets reported that Smits was cast as Elijah Strait in NBC drama series Bluff City Law[17] and it was picked up to series on May 6, 2019.[18] Bluff City Law brings Smits back to TV courtrooms on a steady basis for the first time in over a quarter century since his role in L.A. Law.[19]

In 2021, Smits played Kevin Rosario in the musical film In the Heights.[20]

Stage performances

In the mid-1980s, Smits acted in numerous performances at the Hangar Theatre in Ithaca, New York, Cornell's summer repertory program. In 1982 at the Hangar his roles included Max in Cabaret, Paul in Loose Ends, and the lead in Pudd'nhead Wilson. Smits has participated in the Public Theater's New York Shakespeare Festival, playing the role of Duke Orsino in Twelfth Night in 2002 and Benedick in Much Ado about Nothing in 2004. In 2003, Smits starred in the Broadway production of the Pulitzer Prize-winning play, Anna in the Tropics, by Nilo Cruz, performed at the Royale Theatre. From November 2009 to February 2010, he appeared opposite Christine Lahti, Annie Potts, and Ken Stott in the critically lauded Broadway play God of Carnage, replacing Jeff Daniels. In December 2012 through March 2013, he appeared in Chicago in The Motherfucker with the Hat, at Steppenwolf Theatre Company.



Year Title Role Notes
1986 Running Scared Julio Gonzales
1987 Hotshot Stars Team Member
1987 The Believers Tom Lopez
1989 Old Gringo Gen. Tomas Arroyo
1990 Vital Signs Dr. David Redding
1991 Switch Walter Stone
1991 Fires Within Nestor
1993 Gross Misconduct Justin Thorne
1995 My Family Jimmy Sanchez
1995 The Last Word Actor (Martin)
1997 Murder in Mind Peter Walker
1997 Lesser Prophets Mike
2000 Adventures in Wild California Narrator
2000 The Million Dollar Hotel Geronimo
2000 Price of Glory Arturo Ortega
2000 Bless the Child Agent John Travis
2002 Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones Senator Bail Organa
2005 Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith
2007 The Jane Austen Book Club Daniel Avila
2009 Backyard Mickey Santos Also known as El Traspatio
2010 Mother and Child Paco
2016 Rogue One: A Star Wars Story Senator Bail Organa
2017 Who We Are Now Carl
2020 The Tax Collector Wizard
2021 In the Heights Kevin Rosario


Year Title Role Notes
1984 Miami Vice Eddie Rivera Episode: "Brother's Keeper"
1986 Rockabye 2nd Policeman Television film
1986–92 L.A. Law Victor Sifuentes Main role; 105 episodes
1986 Spenser: For Hire Hector Valdes Episode: "In a Safe Place"
1987 The Highwayman Bo Ziker Television film
1987 Stamp of a Killer Richard Braden Television film
1988 Mickey's 60th Birthday Victor Sifuentes Television special
1988 Glitz Vincent Marra Television film
1989 Pee-wee's Playhouse Johnny Wilson Episode: "Conky's Breakdown"
1990 Cop Rock Victor Sifuentes (uncredited) Episode: "Potts Don't Fail Me Now"
1992 The Broken Cord David Norwell Television film
1993 The Tommyknockers Jim 'Gard' Gardner 2 episodes
1994 The Cisco Kid Cisco Kid Television film
1994–98, 2004 NYPD Blue Detective Bobby Simone Main role; 90 episodes
1995 Solomon & Sheba King Solomon Television film
1995–97 Happily Ever After: Fairy Tales for Every Child Prince Felipe, Old King Cole Voice; 2 episodes
1996 Marshal Law Jack Coleman Television film
2004–06 The West Wing Matt Santos Main role; 35 episodes
2005 Lackawanna Blues Ruben Santiago, Sr. Television film
2007 Cane Alex Vega 13 episodes
2008 Dexter Miguel Prado 12 episodes
2010 Outlaw Cyrus Garza Main role, 8 episodes
2012–14 Sons of Anarchy Neron 'Nero' Padilla 38 episodes
2016–17 The Get Down Francisco "Papa Fuerte" Cruz 11 episodes
2016–17 Brooklyn Nine-Nine Victor Santiago 2 episodes
2017 24: Legacy John Donovan 12 episodes
2017–18 How to Get Away with Murder Dr. Isaac Roa 13 episodes
2018 America's Untold Story Narrator Television film
2019 Bluff City Law Elijah Strait Main role, 10 episodes and also producer
2022 Obi-Wan Kenobi Senator Bail Organa 3 episodes
2022–23 East New York Assistant Chief John Suarez Main role

Video games

Year Title Voice role Notes
2008 Star Wars: The Force Unleashed Senator Bail Organa
2016 Gears of War 4 Oscar Diaz

Awards and nominations

Main article: List of awards and nominations received by Jimmy Smits

Smits at the 2007 Toronto International Film Festival

Smits has received multiple nominations and awards for his work in film and television. He is the recipient of one Golden Globe Award for his role on NYPD Blue as well as one Primetime Emmy Award for L.A. Law.[21] Throughout his career on television, he has garnered eleven Screen Actors Guild Awards nominations, winning once in the Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series in 1995 for NYPD Blue. He starred on The West Wing from 2004 to 2006 and won an ALMA Award for his role. And in 2012, guest starred on Dexter, for which he was nominated for his twelfth Primetime Emmy Award and winning a Saturn Award for Best Guest Starring Role on Television.[22]

In 1999, Smits received the HOLA Award for Excellence from the Hispanic Organization of Latin Actors (HOLA). He also received the Ackerman Leadership Award for his work "championing bilingual and bicultural mental health and social services for Latino families."[23] On June 4, 2021, he was awarded the 2,696th star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.[24]

Personal life

Smits was previously married to Barbara Smits. They have two children.[citation needed]

He has been in a relationship with actress Wanda De Jesus since 1986. They live together in Los Angeles.[10] In 1987, Smits pled guilty to disturbing the peace following an altercation with police at his residence where he was charged with battery and resisting arrest.[25][26]

Smits helped found the National Hispanic Foundation for the Arts[27][28] to advance the presence of Latinos in the media, telecommunications, and entertainment industries. He is also an advocate for diagnostic colorectal screening and has appeared in a public service commercial.[29] In 2010, he filmed a PSA for Detroit Non-Profit Cass Community Social Services[30] and also served as the Honorary Chair of their 6th Annual "Catch the Fireworks With Cass" event.[31]

See also


  1. ^ "In Step With: Jimmy Smits". Parade Magazine. January 2, 2005. Archived from the original on January 17, 2006.
  2. ^ "Obituary of Cornelis Smits". Marine Park Funeral Home. 2015. Retrieved June 8, 2016.
  3. ^ Smith, Warren Allen (2011). In the Heart of Showbiz: A Biographical Triography of Variety Recording ... - Warren Allen Smith - Google Books. Lulu.com. ISBN 9781257042524. Retrieved December 21, 2016.
  4. ^ Taking Charge Through Education, by Jimmy Smits Archived November 29, 2014, at the Wayback Machine
  5. ^ "Obituary of Emelina Pola Smits". Marine Park Funeral Home. 2015. Retrieved June 8, 2016.
  6. ^ a b Jimmy Smits – Redbook Archived September 27, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
  7. ^ a b "Education, Learning and Research Resources Online - Gale". www.gale.com. Retrieved October 6, 2018.
  8. ^ Parsi, Novid (December 26, 2012). "Jimmy Smits Interview". Time Out Chicago. Time Out Group. Retrieved January 9, 2021.
  9. ^ Hernandez, Lee (July 9, 2010). "EXCLUSIVE: Jimmy Smits on Playing Outlaws: "There Might Be An Ethnicity Thing to It"". Latina. Retrieved July 1, 2010.
  10. ^ a b "Jimmy Smits". Biography.com. Retrieved February 2, 2016.
  11. ^ McKENNA, KRISTINE (August 7, 1987). "Jimmy Smits: A Latino Look And Class Act On 'L.a. Law'". Los Angeles Times. ISSN 0458-3035. Retrieved October 19, 2017.
  12. ^ "Jimmy Smits".
  13. ^ "The Jimmy Smits interview". POLITICO. Retrieved October 19, 2017.
  14. ^ "Jimmy Smits Joins Dexter. Couldn't You Just Die?". TV Guide. June 5, 2008. Archived from the original on August 30, 2008.
  15. ^ Bill Keveney (October 1, 2012). "On 'Sons of Anarchy,' new faces and new fears". USA Today. Retrieved October 23, 2012.
  16. ^ Andreeva, Nellie (August 11, 2015). "Baz Luhrmann's Netflix Series 'The Get Down' To Take Production Hiatus". Deadline. Retrieved June 8, 2016.
  17. ^ Andreeva, Nellie (February 25, 2019). "Jimmy Smits To Star In NBC Legal Drama Pilot 'Bluff City Law'". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved May 8, 2019.
  18. ^ Andreeva, Nellie (May 6, 2019). "Drama 'Bluff City Law' Starring Jimmy Smits & Kal Penn Comedy 'Sunnyside' Picked Up To Series By NBC". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved May 8, 2019.
  19. ^ Huver, Scott (September 20, 2019). "Jimmy Smits returns to the TV courtroom". CNN. Retrieved February 6, 2020.
  20. ^ Sanders, Hosea; Jordan, Marsha (June 8, 2021). "Lin Manuel Miranda's 'In The Heights' movie stars veteran actors Jimmy Smits, Olga Merediz". abc7chicago. Retrieved June 11, 2021.
  21. ^ "42nd Primetime Emmy Award Nominees and Winners". Emmys.com. Retrieved July 12, 2014.
  22. ^ "JIMMY SMITS RECEIVES STAR ON HOLLYWOOD'S WALK OF FAME". Hispanic Lifestyle. Retrieved July 12, 2023.
  23. ^ "Jimmy Smits: Accomplished Actor, And Tireless Latino Advocate". NBC News. Retrieved May 1, 2018.
  24. ^ Sesin, Carmen (June 2, 2021). "Actor Jimmy Smits gets a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame". NBC. Retrieved July 12, 2023.
  25. ^ Frederick M. Muir, Los Angeles Times, 'L.A. Law' Star Smits Arrested in Alleged Attack on 3 Officers, August 12, 1987
  26. ^ Associated Press, 'L.A. Law' Star Jimmy Smits Pleads No Contest, November 25, 1987
  27. ^ "Mission Statement". HispanicArts.org.
  28. ^ Guadalupe, Patricia (October 7, 2015). "Hispanic Arts Gala Awards Latino Talent, Pushes for Greater Numbers". NBC News. Retrieved April 13, 2016.
  29. ^ "Colorectal Cancer | Cancer Screening and Prevention | Health & Senior Services". health.mo.gov. Retrieved March 2, 2021.
  30. ^ Catch the Fireworks With Cass 10'- Jimmy Smits PSA, retrieved March 2, 2021
  31. ^ "6TH Annual Catch the Fireworks with Cass". Hour Detroit. Retrieved April 13, 2016.