On July 9, 1955, one of the most prominent Hispanic actors was born. His name is Jimmy Smits, a.k.a. Detective Bobby Simone on NYPD Blue. Smits has helped increase the visibility of Hispanics in non-typecast roles on television. He has also made his appearance in several movies, and he lends his support to groups concerning themselves with Hispanic issues.
Jimmy Smits was born in Brooklyn, New York. His father came from Surinam, and his mother came from Puerto Rico, where he spent most of his childhood. Smits eventually returned to Brooklyn and attended Jefferson High School. Jimmy played football at first--standing six feet, two inches tall--but decided later on that acting was more important to him. He quit football and joined every dramatic production he possibly could, even at other schools.
No one in Smits' family went away to college, but he changed all that by going to Brooklyn College to study drama and earn a B.A.
After that, he attended Cornell to earn an M.A. in theater. As an ambitious young actor, Jimmy's dream was to perfect his craft and work on high-quality projects with high-minded people. In reality, however, he spent his first years in the business playing roles that did not meet his artistic expectations.
At that time, many Hispanics and African Americans were not given that much of a chance in acting. Sure, they got parts, but the roles they played were misleading toward their race. After landing a part in L.A. Law in 1986, Smits changed all that. More and more Hispanics were appearing in films and television shows. Soon after Jimmy's debut on L.A. Law, he landed parts in Running Scared, The Believers, Stamp of a Killer, and Glitz in only three years!
Then, in 1994, Smits joined the cast of NYPD Blue,