Smits was born in Brooklyn, New York. "Jimmy" is the name on his birth certificate, rather than "Jim" or "James". Smits' father, Cornelis Leendert Smits, was from Paramaribo, Suriname, and was of Dutch descent. Smits' mother, Emilina (née Pola), was Puerto Rican, born in Peñuelas. He has two sisters, Yvonne and Diana, grew up in a working-class neighborhood, and spent time in Puerto Rico during his childhood. Smits identifies as Puerto Rican and was raised in a strict, devout Roman Catholic family. He frequently visits Puerto Rico. In 2001, he was arrested for his participation in protests against U.S. Navy bombing practices on the Puerto Rican offshore island of Vieques. Smits was an athlete at and graduated from Thomas Jefferson High School. He earned a bachelor's degree from Brooklyn College in 1980 and an MFA from Cornell University in 1982.
An early role played by Smits was that of Eddie Rivera in the two-hour series premiere of Miami Vice, in 1984. In the episode, he portrayed Sonny Crockett's original partner, who was killed in a sting gone wrong. Beginning in 1986, Smits played Victor Sifuentes in the first five seasons of the long-running legal drama L.A. Law. 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' most acclaimed roles was that of Detective Bobby Simone on NYPD Blue, which he starred in from 1994 to 1998. He received several Emmy nominations for his performance on that television series and won the ALMA award twice. In 1999, Smits received the HOLA Award for Excellence from the Hispanic Organization of Latin Actors (HOLA). Smits was to have hosted the 2001 Latin Grammy Awards broadcast on September 11, 2001, but it was called off because of the terrorist attacks that day. He instead hosted 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 in spinoff movie Rogue One (2016).
Smits played the role of Congressman Matt Santos of Houston, Texas, in the final two seasons of the American television drama The West Wing, joining fellow L.A. Law alumnus John Spencer. His character eventually ran for and won the US Presidency in the series. In Dexter season 3, Smits played the role of Miguel Prado, an assistant district attorney who befriends the title character. 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 cancelled 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). Smits stars in The Get Down, a musical drama television series which debuted in 2016 on Netflix. In 2016, Smits returned to his role as Senator Bail Organa in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.
- ↑ https://web.archive.org/web/20060117063710/http://www.parade.com/articles/editions/2005/edition_01-02-2005/in_step_with_1
- ↑ http://marineparkfh.com/tribute/details/1291/Cornelis_Smits/obituary.html
- ↑ http://www.collegeoutreachusa.org/articles/smits.html
- ↑ http://www.redbookmag.com/your/celebrity/manifesto/jimmy-smits-cm
- ↑ http://www.latina.com/entertainment/tv/exclusive-jimmy-smits-playing-outlaws-there-might-be-ethnicity-thing-it
- ↑ https://web.archive.org/web/20041112200812/http://www.puertorico-herald.org/issues/2001/vol5n34/VQEds-en.shtml
- ↑ http://www.biography.com/people/jimmy-smits-9542327
- ↑ https://web.archive.org/web/20080830004604/http://community.tvguide.com/blog-entry/TVGuide-News-Blog/Todays-News/Jimmy-Smits-Dexter/800041016
- ↑ http://www.usatoday.com/story/life/tv/2012/10/01/sons-of-anarchy-smits-perrineau/1606569/
- ↑ http://deadline.com/2015/08/baz-luhrmann-the-get-down-production-hiatus-netflix-1201497749/
- ↑ http://www.empireonline.com/movies/rogue-one-star-wars-story/jimmy-smits-confirms-bail-organa-rogue-one/