Can Jimmy Smits Make Legal Lightning Strike Twice?

The L.A. Law and NYPD Blue veteran teams up with Caitlin McGee for NBC's newest legal procedural, Bluff City Law.

by | September 20, 2019 | Comments

BLUFF CITY LAW -- Season:1 -- Pictured: (l-r) Jimmy Smits as Elijah Strait, Caitlin McGee as Sydney Strait -- (Photo by: Jason Bell/NBC)
(Photo by Jason Bell/NBC)

This fall, Jimmy Smits revisits his L.A. Law days with NBC’s latest legal drama, Bluff City Law. Whether in series regular roles like NYPD Blue and The West Wing or season arcs on 24: Legacy, How to Get Away with Murder, and Dexter, networks know Smits is the kind of reliable star they want to anchor a new fall show.

Bluff City Law is about a father/daughter legal duo who team up to fight injustice. Smits plays Elijah Strait, who reconnects with daughter Sydney (Caitlin McGee) after his wife/her mother’s funeral and convinces her to leave corporate law and join his firm to fight for the very people those companies hurt.

Smits told Rotten tomatoes that being back in a courtroom, even a television courtroom with a script, made him realize his TV law was a little rusty.

“I remembered a couple of things. ‘Objection!,’” Smits joked. “We’re really fortunate because the technical advisers, consultants have been really great in terms of helping us out with all the procedural stuff. It’s important to me. I’m a stickler on that kind of thing, on any type of thing, whether it’s a cop show [or a lawyer show].”

BLUFF CITY LAW -- "Pilot" Episode -- Pictured: (l-r) Caitlin McGee as Sydney Strait, Jimmy Smits as Elijah Strait, Michael Luwoye as Anthony Little -- (Photo by: NBC)
(Photo by NBC)

Bluff City Law is the first courtroom drama for McGee, who was glad to have a TV lawyer veteran there to mentor her.

“It was called Smits Academy of Law and Order,” McGee said. “Really, the thing that was most useful to me in my research was when we actually got to watch a case and we got to see how performative lawyers have to be and how important it is to keep people engaged and interested in your side of the argument.”

The case McGee watched was a medical malpractice case where she saw the doctor in question testify on the stand. That just might come in handy for Bluff City Law. So will the jargon.

“The whole thing about the jargon, no matter what area it is, it’s part of what we do,” Smits said. “It’s like learning another language almost, right? If you’re playing a doctor, it’s part of the fascinating thing what we do, the research part, whether it’s jargon, the technical aspects of it.”

In their first case together, Elijah and Sydney team up against a chemical company whose product they believe caused their client’s cancer.

“In terms of the particular case that we were handling, I tried to do the backstory on that and with regards to the real case that it was based on,” Smits said. “Speaking to the people who are the technical advisers on the show, going to cases, it’s all part of what we do as actors. That’s the fun part.”

BLUFF CITY LAW -- Season: 1 -- Pictured: (l-r) Jimmy Smits as Elijah Strait, Caitlin McGee as Sydney Strait -- (Photo by: Paul Gilmore/NBC)
(Photo by Paul Gilmore/NBC)

Bluff City Law is set and filmed in Memphis, Tennessee, which automatically gives it a different vibe than Los Angeles. Smits says filming any show in 2019 is automatically more advanced too.

“Our show looks a lot different and it’s much more cinematic,” Smits said. “That’s not a slight on L.A. Law at all, but it’s really cinematic, and Memphis is a vibrant part of the show. The look is a lot different. You can actually have drone shots, [but] we haven’t had one yet.”

Smits also looks back fondly on NYPD Blue, the landmark ’90s cop show he joined in season two after David Caruso left.

“I was working on the same lot, so I knew when they had written the pilot that it was going to be ground-breaking,” Smits said. “I didn’t know it was going to be the phenomenon that it turned out to be, so it was kind of fortuitous to me it came back around.”

BLUFF CITY LAW -- "Pilot" Episode 101 -- Pictured: Jimmy Smits as Elijah Strait -- (Photo by: Jake Giles Netter/NBC)
(Photo by Jake Giles Netter/NBC)

NYPD Blue pushed broadcast standards for language and nudity in order to show what life is really like for policemen and women. Today, a show like that might be on streaming with no restrictions at all.

“A show like that, you could not pitch that show to a network [today],” Smits said. “It wouldn’t happen. It just wouldn’t happen. The landscape of television is much more niche-oriented now. Certainly, edgier topic matter is something that we’ve gone for [on Bluff City Law], but I don’t know if you’re going to see naked butts on our show. That’s not going to happen.”

McGee was ready to show Sydney’s love life explicitly, though.

“You might see a back though, a naked back, maybe some abs,” McGee joked. “Hopefully it’ll be Barry Sloane’s.”

Sloane plays Jake Reilly, another lawyer at the Strait firm. Josh Kelly plays Sydney’s ex-husband Robbie, a detective who is still broken-hearted over Sydney. And while the legal drama is one focus of the series, the Straits’ personal lives will come into play as well.

“We established in the first episode what we’re all about, what the firm is about,” McGee said. “We are a legal drama, but once you really get to know these characters you’re just going to want to know more about their personal lives. You’re going to want to meet their spouses, their exes, see their homes. … You’ll definitely get to see more of that.”

(Photo by NBC)

That, said Smits, will make the legal cases even more compelling.

“I think that the audiences will engage more in the legal aspects of the show once they know all of the little character traits that each one of the characters has,” he said.

Bluff City Law premieres Monday, Sept. 23 at 10 p.m. on NBC.

Tag Cloud

45 social media binge YouTube Red Awards medical drama Mary Poppins Returns anime PaleyFest Trophy Talk children's TV See It Skip It Rock WGN Lifetime TV renewals PBS Showtime Starz Acorn TV mockumentary Infographic Star Trek directors Superheroe Sundance TV psychological thriller Extras Disney Plus Star Wars movie Discovery Channel Pride Month Vudu Freeform Disney Channel DC Universe Martial Arts President Writers Guild of America National Geographic Academy Awards justice league screenings Spectrum Originals south america ghosts Nickelodeon Nominations Photos stand-up comedy jamie lee curtis witnail CMT ABC San Diego Comic-Con Holiday Masterpiece Watching Series supernatural adaptation First Look Mary poppins cinemax Country Set visit Logo Ellie Kemper doctor who The Arrangement Disney+ Disney Plus DGA E! APB Mudbound Apple TV Plus spain Music festivals what to watch NBC Reality Competition New York Comic Con Cartoon Network USA Network TCM police drama The Walking Dead HBO Max 2020 canceled TV shows award winner Best and Worst cancelled TV shows revenge Video Games Polls and Games aliens The CW sports DirecTV diversity 71st Emmy Awards ratings politics transformers Thanksgiving TLC singing competition SundanceTV 2019 LGBT period drama MSNBC elevated horror Arrowverse FOX dogs ITV GoT Fantasy mutant Horror Brie Larson Reality 007 Film Adult Swim Emmy Nominations series Trailer unscripted Walt Disney Pictures Election comiccon Universal cancelled TV series cooking halloween OneApp Sundance 20th Century Fox dramedy MTV E3 romance First Reviews American Society of Cinematographers serial killer RT21 Shondaland Trivia nature werewolf cartoon batman breaking bad Western sequel Awards Tour slashers travel Hallmark 2015 Chernobyl zombie hispanic Turner Classic Movies Disney streaming service FXX dc 21st Century Fox Marvel Television Tomatazos quibi spinoff Superheroes Kids & Family Podcast IFC Films Character Guide Red Carpet latino Epix TV Land Bravo Mystery Paramount BBC natural history MCU Tumblr NYCC comics Marvel Studios independent Valentine's Day blaxploitation AMC Super Bowl casting IFC SDCC Crunchyroll Box Office Winter TV christmas movies Syfy screen actors guild 2017 toy story crime thriller indie disaster BET canceled reboot A24 Pirates USA crime Toys Comic Book Stephen King Marvel true crime game show Lucasfilm TBS documentary joker Food Network TNT Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Warner Bros. Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Lifetime Christmas movies Columbia Pictures TCA Winter 2020 Ghostbusters TCA YA CW Seed ABC Family Interview spanish language zero dark thirty 2018 VH1 movies Animation comic Paramount Network Emmys TIFF Year in Review Hallmark Christmas movies Black Mirror HBO boxoffice Tarantino Countdown Creative Arts Emmys Apple TV+ renewed TV shows based on movie Summer Pet Sematary Fox News Song of Ice and Fire Biopics Musicals Endgame Opinion Amazon Prime Video Esquire video Pop rotten movies we love Holidays Musical miniseries Cosplay cars Ovation Winners facebook romantic comedy cancelled television Christmas Women's History Month CBS All Access TCA 2017 discovery Sneak Peek Mindy Kaling Shudder The Witch Schedule Film Festival CBS composers SXSW Family Cannes DC Comics Binge Guide RT History green book Apple Sundance Now ESPN Comedy Central LGBTQ Classic Film Mary Tyler Moore BBC America Elton John Peacock technology Heroines Calendar strong female leads FX foreign Rocketman Teen Action Sci-Fi crime drama sitcom Quiz cats free movies Anna Paquin VICE science fiction streaming Amazon Hulu Netflix Christmas movies richard e. Grant Premiere Dates Amazon Prime book crossover dceu animated WarnerMedia Crackle docudrama name the review space Rom-Com Marathons blockbuster Dark Horse Comics zombies Amazon Studios psycho theme song Grammys adventure spy thriller Britbox Avengers Captain marvel Certified Fresh talk show Tubi cancelled thriller sag awards Baby Yoda GIFs Disney tv talk television Spike TV TruTV golden globes 24 frames Oscars biography Spring TV Netflix teaser Nat Geo Comedy war OWN hist vampires CNN versus historical drama Rocky Pixar YouTube Premium El Rey YouTube robots Sony Pictures Comics on TV political drama game of thrones A&E DC streaming service spider-man GLAAD harry potter kids The Purge Fall TV cops Turner cults anthology 2016 X-Men dragons finale Drama History Television Academy Lionsgate