NBC’s new legal drama Bluff City Law marks Jimmy Smits’ return to the world of legal drama, having starred on L.A. Law, Outlaw and White House drama The West Wing. That said, you would think this would be old hat to the Emmy- and Golden Globe-winning actor, but at TCA, he told us otherwise.
“There was lots of brushing up [to do],” Smits said about getting back into the TV legal game. “You try to take the best from the experience you had.” He added that his Elijah Strait character on Bluff City Law is a lot different from L.A. Law‘s Victor Sifuentes and that he “doesn’t have a lot of balance.”
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Co-created by Dean Georgaris and Michael Aguilar and written by Georgaris, Bluff City Law is a character-driven drama that follows the lawyers of an elite Memphis firm that specializes in the most controversial landmark civil rights cases. Led by legendary lawyer Elijah Strait and his brilliant daughter, Sydney Strait (Caitlin McGee), they take on the toughest David-and-Goliath cases while navigating their complicated relationship.
The panel, which featured Smits and McGee as well as executive producers Aguilar, Georgaris and David Janollari, talked about how the series is very much a law drama, but there is an emphasis on the father-daughter relationship. McGee points out that there is a clash of how they approach law, saying that Elijah tends to be “more conservative” while Sydney likes to “wage war” when it comes to cases.
As the show navigates through the familial drama between Elijah and Sydney, the producers point out that since the show takes place in Memphis, there will be a lot of episodes that focus on issues in the Tennessee city. On top of that, they will touch on current events affecting the country, but Greogaris said they won’t have stories “ripped from the headlines.” Instead, he said, it will reflect the times with its first 10 episodes, homing in on topics such as free speech, wrongful imprisonment, the opioid crisis and immigration.
Smits also was asked about his opinion on the NYPD Blue reboot, saying that he is very “excited” about it. He received pictures from the set from the cast saying, “Wish you were here, but you’re dead!”
Overall, he supports the reboot. “Anything that’s an ode to my dear [Steven] Bochco and Lord [David] Milch,” he remarked.