Biography

Although this Hispanic hunk's character died quickly in his TV debut on the Miami Vice pilot, Smits parlayed what could have been 15 minutes of fame into a multi-decade career. His five-year stint on L.A. Law as a rags-to-riches lawyer turned Smits into a star, earned him an Emmy and helped pave the way for Latino actors who were sick of only playing criminals. In 1994, he joined the taboo-breaking NYPD Blue as a sensitive detective who wasn't afraid to show his backside. While Smits appeared in a handful of films along the way, including two Star Wars movies, he's most frequently seen on the small screen. In 2004, he signed on to play a Democratic presidential candidate-turned-president-elect on the last two seasons of West Wing. After that series ended, Smits executive-produced and starred on the short-lived CBS drama Cane---a casualty of the 2007-08 writers' strike---which he immediately followed with a Season 3 stint on Showtime's acclaimed Dexter. Smits also devotes his time to a number of charitable causes, including the National Hispanic Foundation for the Arts, which he co-founded in 1997 to promote Hispanic talent in the performing arts.

Fast Facts

  • Mother was from Puerto Rico and father was from Dutch Guiana (now Surinam).
  • Before high school, lived for two years in Puerto Rico, where he learned to speak Spanish.
  • Worked as a union labor organizer during his college years.
  • An investor (along with Paul Rodriguez and Jennifer Lopez) in the Conga Room, an L.A. dance club/restaurant that showcases Latino music.
  • Made his big-screen debut in the 1986 buddy-cop film Running Scared.
  • On the political drama West Wing, his character, Democratic president-elect Matthew Santos, was loosely based on Barack Obama, who was not yet even a U.S. senator at the time.
  • Reprised his Star Wars role of Sen. Bail Organa for the popular video game Star Wars: The Force Unleashed.

Awards

  • 1999, Emmy — Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series: Nominee
  • 1992, Emmy — Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series: Nominee
  • 1996, Emmy — Outstanding Lead Actor for a Drama Series: Nominee
  • 1997, Emmy — Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series: Nominee
  • 1991, Emmy — Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series: Nominee
  • 1997, Golden Globe — Best Performance by an Actor in a Television Series - Drama: Nominee
  • 1998, Emmy — Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series: Nominee
  • 1989, Emmy — Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series: Nominee
  • 1991, Golden Globe — Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Series, Miniseries or Motion Picture Made for Television: Nominee
  • 1996, Golden Globe — Best Performance by an Actor in a Television Series - Drama: Winner
  • 1999, Golden Globe — Best Performance by an Actor in a Television Series - Drama: Nominee
  • 1987, Emmy — Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series: Nominee
  • 1990, Emmy — Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series: Winner
  • 1995, Emmy — Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series: Nominee
  • 2009, Emmy — Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series: Nominee
  • 2005, Screen Actors Guild Awards — Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series: Nominee
  • 1995, Screen Actors Guild Awards — Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series: Nominee
  • 1996, Screen Actors Guild Awards — Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series: Nominee
  • 2008, Screen Actors Guild Awards — Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series: Nominee
  • 1998, Screen Actors Guild Awards — Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Drama Series: Nominee
  • 1998, Screen Actors Guild Awards — Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series: Nominee
  • 1997, Screen Actors Guild Awards — Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series: Nominee
  • 1995, Screen Actors Guild Awards — Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Drama Series: Nominee
  • 1997, Screen Actors Guild Awards — Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Drama Series: Nominee
  • 1996, Screen Actors Guild Awards — Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Drama Series: Nominee
  • 1994, Screen Actors Guild Awards — Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series: Winner
  • 1996, Independent Spirit Awards — Best Male Lead: Nominee
  • 1988, Emmy — Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series: Nominee

Relationships

  • Joaquin — Son
  • Barbara Smits — Ex-wife
  • Cornelis Smits — Father
  • Emelina Smits — Mother
  • Taina — Daughter
  • Diana Smits — Sister
  • Wanda De Jesús — Significant Other

College

  • City University of New York, Brooklyn College, Brooklyn, NY (BA, 1980); Cornell University, Ithaca, NY (MFA, 1982)

Details

  • Birth Place: Brooklyn, NY
  • Birthday: July 9, 1955, Cancer
  • Profession: Actor
  • User Rating:4.21 out of 5 (328 ratings)
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