Jimmy Smits makes CBS' 'East New York' his latest TV residence
In his newest series role, Jimmy Smits is walking familiar turf in a number of ways.
The "L.A. Law" Primetime Emmy winner was nominated for the award every season he was a regular on "NYPD Blue," and he returns to that milieu -- and a couple of that police drama's principal creative talents -- in the CBS series "East New York," premiering at 8:30 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 2.
Smits plays the chief overseeing officers including one precinct's new captain (Amanda Warren), who faces resistance from some members of her team while struggling to keep citizens safe at a time when that may be more challenging than ever. Kevin Rankin, Elizabeth Rodriguez, Richard Kind, Ruben Santiago-Hudson and C.S. Lee also are among the show's stars.
For Brooklyn native Smits, "East New York's" representation of its title city means a lot.
"It's the story of New York as a series of immigrant communities, a whole cross-cultural thing," Smits says. "It's a place I have such love for, but you can feel the deterioration that's happened there."
With his Bobby Simone having been very much a street detective on "NYPD Blue," Smits is adjusting to wearing the uniform of his "East New York" alter ego, Chief John Suarez: "Though he's solid and you can lean up against him, he represents the system, too. He wants to change it, and that's why he handpicks (Warren's character) Regina Haywood and gives her a shot in this particular community. It's a way to change the thinking about what policing can be in the times we're in."
Smits became involved in "East New York" through his enduring friendship with "NYPD Blue" and "L.A. Law" writer-producer William Finkelstein.
"I had heard through the grapevine that he was interested in doing another police show," Smits explains. "We had just 'friend' conversations, and one person he said he had for this was (producer-director) Michael Robin, who I basically started out with on 'L.A. Law.' That was another box that got checked for me. He explained the show, and I asked him what they were going to call it. And 'East New York' means so much to me, on so many levels."
Enjoying the combination of fellow acting veterans and relative newcomers that "East New York" includes him in, Smits deems lead actress Warren "everything that I talk to young people getting into acting about having, a 'toolbox.' She's just a bright light. And there are people here who have worked for years; Ruben Santiago-Hudson and I have a relationship that goes back to the days when we were pounding the streets of New York (pursuing auditions). I think we've got a good group here."