On any given day of Fox’s original series 24, the president or a presidential candidate needed Jack Bauer’s help. So what are they going to do now that Jack isn’t around?
The series includes Jimmy Smits as John Donovan, a new candidate for president. Donovan happens to be married to former CTU Head Rebecca Ingram (Miranda Otto). His day gets complicated when Rebecca returns to CTU to help Carter evade killers who rooted out him and his Ranger team from hiding. Donovan’s campaign manager, Nilaa (Sheila Vand), has strong opinions about Rebecca, and within the first hour, Donovan warns Nilaa she’s overstepping when she talks smack about his wife. Gerald McRaney appears as Henry Donovan, the candidate’s father.
Smits spoke with Rotten Tomatoes recently about his role in the new series and about returning to the role of Bail Organa for 2016 blockbuster Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, which so successfully provided connective tissue between the Star Wars prequels and the original trilogy.
The Emmy– and Golden Globe–winning actor also talked about his role in The Get Down as Papa Fuerte, who supports the musical ambitions of his niece Mylene (Herizen Guardiola). The Get Down returns to Netflix this year.
Fred Topel for Rotten Tomatoes: What is Henry Donovan like?
Jimmy Smits: Well, the relationship is going to be very complicated, which is what I love. What happens is that you start finding out that his love for his son — the older Donovan — his love for his son has possibly made him complicit in the events that have transpired in the first hour.
RT: He might be behind the attack on the Rangers?
Smits: We’ll see how complicit he is, but fingers start pointing towards him. The campaign starts going south a little bit. It hasn’t come out like that, but at one point we’re not sure.
RT: Is Henry Donovan directly involved in the presidential campaign?
Smits: He’s involved by the fact that he’s somebody of great wealth that has a lot of international connections because of his background in oil. And he’s been very active in trying to prop his son up to make this move.
RT: Was Henry Donovan a military man?
Smits: No, we haven’t been talking about that in terms of the backstory.
RT: Was Henry Donovan in politics himself?
Smits: No, he’s more an industrialist. We wanted that kind of Big Daddy relationship, you know, Tennessee Williams.
RT: Running for president is a big deal. John Donovan has accomplished a lot. Does he still have issues with his father?
Smits: Absolutely. There are many daddy issues because his dad’s very set in his ways in terms of the way he would like to see things done, to try to use his connections and his financial support to prop up the campaign.
RT: What issues is Donovan running on?
Smits: The show hasn’t been political in designating if he’s a Republican or Democrat or if he’s pro-life. That hasn’t come into being right now because what jump-starts the show is this terrorist attack. You start finding out that the politics in terms of gathering of information, his political bent is a lot different than his wife.
RT: Do we know Donovan’s opponent?
Smits: No, but you’ll find out. His name is Gage.
RT: How has the pace of 24 been different from other shows you’ve worked on?
Smits: It’s been a little frenetic, but good. It’s kind of nice to be away in Atlanta a little bit, because we’re away from the bubble here. It keeps us focused in a different kind of way. I almost feel like sometimes when I’m on location, you miss your home and your family and all that stuff, but it keeps you focused on the work.
RT: Do you have to get your dialogue exactly right so that all the other storylines still make sense?
Smits: I worked on a show called West Wing before. I didn’t work with Aaron Sorkin, but he created the show and set the tenor of the show, which was you follow the words of the script perfectly, because there’s a dramaturgical thing behind it. That was the way that show operated: Speed was very much a part of the dynamic of working on that set every day.
The dynamic here is different because the genre’s a little bit different. You have this action component that West Wing didn’t have. West Wing was a show about politics. This is a show about geopolitical situations. I don’t want to say that they’re more lenient, because I’m an actor who was trained in the theater, so the script is the bible to me. So I try to be as exact as possible, but I want to try to illuminate the characters and what the author’s intentions are, so sometimes I’m not as exact just to help to clarify.
RT: There were reshoots to Rogue One. Did you do any different versions of your scenes, like when you say, “I trust her with my life?”
Smits: No. That was one of the reasons why I did it, because that little scene there meant a lot to me. I’m so happy that the film has done well, because it meant a lot, I think, to the franchise to do this whole thing that the standalone films would be just as substantive and good as the others, so that they can have a life themselves.
RT: Will you be back on The Get Down?
Smits: The Get Down is going to show its second half that’s already shot. Baz [Luhrmann] is talking now to different directors because he wants to shepherd it more than be active every day directing.
RT: What’s coming up for Papa Fuerte?
Smits: His love for his niece knows no bounds. That, plus the political situation that’s going on New York, he’s going to go down.
RT: Do you get to play the fall from the top?
Smits: Oh, there’s a fall. I don’t know if it’s from the top, but his top.
RT: If Mylene gets discovered, is he instrumental in that?
Smits: He’s involved. He’s another one who wants to put his hand into everything, but you start finding out that the family situation is much different than it was shown in the beginning of the first episodes.
RT: Does the second half take us into 1978 or beyond?
Smits: Yeah, we make a time jump, and I’m not sure what the next year is. Disco is on its downswing, which starts affect what happens with Mylene.