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Interview: Jimmy Smits on Nero Padilla in FX’s “Sons of Anarchy”

Interview: Jimmy Smits on Nero Padilla in FX’s “Sons of Anarchy”

Interview: Jimmy Smits on Nero Padilla in FX’s “Sons of Anarchy”
December 05
17:41 2013

Preston Barta / Film Critic

The North Texas Daily had the chance to sit down and talk to “Sons of Anarchy” star Jimmy Smits (“NYPD Blue”) about his character, Nero Padilla, social media and getting physical with Charlie Hunnam.

So much of the world uses Twitter and Facebook these days, and people are very vocal about what they like and don’t like. What are your thoughts about social media, and how do you feel about the fan reaction to your character? People seem to have really embraced him.

Jimmy Smits: “I’m not really a social media person, so I’m not on Twitter and I don’t have a Facebook page and everything like that. And that’s not a down on it, because I really see the value of it. I’m just, I don’t know— I’m slow, remedial. But I’ve been told that [the fans] are very vociferous, they really are engaged in the show, and I think that that core audience that we have that is like that is so great for the show. I’m amazed that they’ve kind of like embraced him the way they have, and we’ll see what happens when things turn.”

It’s kind of a remarkable time for television, and you’re kind of in a unique position, because you’ve worked in every sort of era since the mid-‘80s. If you could talk to the mid-‘80s Jimmy Smits about the stuff that’s available on TV today, could the younger version of yourself ever have fathomed that this type of show would even exist?

Smits: “That’s a great question, because I have kind of like traversed a lot of genres and I’ve gotten to do that in the television arena. Certainly like Steven Bochco will say that for him to pitch ‘NYPD Blue’ now on network television, he would be hard pressed to get that particular show on the air. But now, with the advent of cable and such, you guys are calling it the golden age of TV in terms of the writing and stuff, but it’s kind of naturally found; it’s like different branches of a big tree TV’s become. And they’ve found these great outlets for writers to be able to paint these very broad canvases, and, as our show’s creator, Kurt Sutter, has done here, give insight to kind of so it’s not just doctor, lawyer and politician kind of things. You’re getting an insight to a particular culture thing with regards to this motorcycle club that people haven’t seen before. So they’re learning about all of that, but they’re getting engaged in this whole thing about family and this kind of like Shakespearean undertones that Kurt has put in there. It’s just great to see that we’ve been able to find these kinds of different outlets.

And now it seems like, to me, that it’s jumping into, with all of the binge watching that’s happening, it’s jumping into another. It’s morphing itself into something else, and I’m going to be fascinated to see what happens with the different platforms like Netflix and all of these other stations— all of these other arenas that are happening where people will be able to see television in different ways.”

So many crazy things are happening this season. What have been some of your favorite scenes to film this season?

Smits: “The little physicality that Jax and I had a couple of episodes ago, although I haven’t actually seen that particular episode— I missed that episode but I saw pieces of it when they were putting it together— was great for me, because I literally and figuratively got to exercise a different kind of muscle. So that was fun to do. And they had some great stunt people there that did a lot of work, and they wound up not using a lot of that. They might have used a frame of it. So we really, Charlie Hunnam and I, that day— that was a long night, and fun, fun to do.

Charlie’s work has been really superb, and I really give the guy a lot of props as an actor. He’s the lead on this particular show, and the way he comports himself really kind of funnels down. And he’s a very bright guy and loves to talk acting, so there was a kind of good rapport that we’ve had.

When you get involved in some kind of physical thing like that it manifests itself in 30 second of a fight scene or whatever, but there’s something that transpires between the two people that are involved that brings the relationship literally to another kind of level. That’s the only way that I can explain it. So I really feel much closer to him as an actor and as a supporter.”

It’s very obvious how much Nero cares about Gemma (Katey Sagal), and how important that relationship is to him, but do you think that’s important enough to sort of stay his hand if push comes to shove? Is Gemma enough to kind of keep him in place and keep him from doing something he may wind up regretting?

Smits: “I think you hit the nail on the head right there. What has developed over these past two seasons between these two characters they’ve really developed a— you’ve watched them kind of do this awkward different kind of courtship that’s happened. I mean they’re saying I love you to each other now, and who would have thought that would have come out of Gemma’s mouth. Not just to her son and stuff, but to another relationship guy. So it’s very interesting. We’ll see how that all plays out. There’s a definite pull there.”

“Sons of Anarchy” airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. on FX.

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