Jimmy Smits is eyeing another presidential run.
More than a decade after the TV icon's character of Texas Congressman Matt Santos was elected President on "The West Wing," Smits, 61, is playing another White House hopeful.
On "24: Legacy," a spinoff of the hit drama "24," Smits is Sen. John Donovan, who's not only vying for commander-in-chief but is married to a former counter-terrorism honcho in the action-packed series that debuts on Fox Feb. 5, right after Super Bowl LI.
VIVA: You've had a handful of recurring TV roles lately, but it's been a while since you were a regular on a network series. Is that by design?
JIMMY SMITS: With me, whether it's doing "Sons of Anarchy" or "Dexter," I'm just trying to mix it up, working with different genres. I'm not at the point where I'm picking and choosing what (roles) come through my desk. But at least I can say I want to work with that particular person or that particular genre. With "24," that's something I hadn't done, which is action.
VIVA: How is playing another politician who wants to be President different from your "West Wing" character?
JS: It's a whole different genre. It's not a show with the political machinations of "The West Wing."
VIVA: Your John Donovan also isn't a Latino. Did that at all play into your wanting to do the role?
JS: I think that when they were reimagining what they were going to do with the show, they kind of wanted to reinvigorate the series. In terms of casting choices, they have a lot of proactive woman characters. With Donovan, it wasn't about being a Latino character but more, "Let's change things around."
VIVA: When it comes to TV, do male actors have to face what a lot of women do as they get older as far as not getting the same type of roles they did when they were younger?
JS: Are you saying I'm an old man? I think it's less for men, but you do feel the years knocking at the door. Absolutely. But my compass is all about trying to do different stuff, like with "The Get Down," where I'm making my mark with a character and working with unknown kids. That fulfills me in a different way.
VIVA: Well, you are the Emmy-winning elder statesman, after all. So do young actors come to you for advice?
JS: It's not about advice. When I talk to kids about continuing in this business and the idea of what a celebrity is, there's no right way. A person who stays on a show for 12 years and becomes an iconic figure, or someone who does 10 different shows, what's the difference between what they're doing? Everybody has to do what feels right for them. There are certain pitfalls in this business, and you should keep doing what got you here, whatever it is.
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