Smits Returns for ‘Outlaw’

Jimmy Smits returns to network TV not as President, as he did at the end of “The West Wing,” but as a Supreme Court justice who up and quits.

The new “Outlaw,” he told reporters at the TV Critics Press Tour this summer, “was an opportunity to 
deal with legal matters and hot-button issues that are
 substantive in terms of a legal show but, at the same
 time, have a character that is outside the box in a
 lot of different ways.”

At a point when “we’re logger-jammed in terms of the
 political right and left,” Smits says, the show gives “an opportunity for us to tackle these 
hot-button issues in a new and kind of fresh way.”

Smits says he was attracted to the project from the writing by executive producer John Eisendrath, who previously wrote for “Alias” and “My Own Worst Enemy.”

“John’s created a really fascinating 
character that’s a challenge for an 
actor,” Smits says. “It’s a wonderful meal for an actor to play.
 And it’s something different than what I’ve done
 before.”

The calls his character “very substantive” but also “much more loose and comfortable than I’ve had a chance to
 play.”

“You haven’t seen me
 tackle that type of character before,” Smits says.

And that other character he played in the legal profession, Victor  Sifuentes on “L.A. Law,” is quite different.

“They’re very far apart because
 there is that young idealism factor that the Sifuentes
 character had,” Smits says. “And this guy is more open and loose
 because he has been on both sides.”

One of the surprises about “Outlaw” comes in the credits: It’s produced in part by Conan O’Brien, who quite publically split with NBC last winter.

“Well,” says another producer, David Kissinger, “as you may have read, Conan is
 doing some other stuff right now, so he really isn’t
 actively involved in a day-to-day way. But this show, in many ways, is a product of the company 
that he put together. And, you know, he’s thrilled at
 the opportunity. So he’s not actively involved at
 this time.”

After a preview airing tonight at 10 p.m., “Outlaw” shows Fridays at 10 p.m. starting this week.

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