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Out of the Archives: Jimmy Smits on Women

After his successful turn as attorney Victor Sifuentes in the TV drama L.A. Law, Jimmy Smits acted with Ellen Barkin in the movie Switch written and directed by Blake Edwards. He spoke about it to HFPA journalists in 1991.
Switch is about the treatment of the female species and how, if your body were switched around, you would still be in the male psyche. It is true, women do get treated like that in the workplace, most definitely. I feel more akin to what women have to go through in terms of stereotypes because I’ve faced that in my own career by virtue of my ethnicity. Being Hispanic-American, on a daily basis there are little obstacles that I have to get through, so I understand women and maybe there’s a kindred spirit there.”
“I don’t know if it has to do with the birthing process or whatever, but women are much more in touch with their emotions, and that’s something that men don’t have, because of the way traditionally we’re raised to hold back, to be assertive, to be the provider, and that makes you deal with emotions a certain way. All of us have to acknowledge that we both have male-female sides to us and that also applies to emotionality.”
“It wasn’t so much that Ellen Barkin gave me advice in a schooling kind of way, but it was interesting to watch her observing men, our physicality, like the little things that guys do when we get nervous. And Ellen is not afraid to go for that emotionality, in terms of nailing this character.”
“If a woman were to become President, I think there would be much more of a balance in our domestic and foreign policy, in policies that are lacking in terms of poverty and education.”
“There may be only four or five Latin Americans that are on television on a continuing basis. Hopefully, that’s going to change, with producers seeing the success of my character, there will be more professional characters like Victor Sifuentes. On the flip side, we have to become more in control of the decision-making process in terms of this industry, and that means more writers, more people behind the cameras, more people on the producing end, and that’s something that really interests me.”
“The census this year, in 1990, was very telling as to the amount of Latin Americans that are in this country, what the potential buying power is, which Hollywood is always very interested in because that transfers into dollars for them, and the possible political clout. So it’s a ripe time for us, and it’s time to take advantage of it.”
“When I was doing L.A. Law, I rented all these movies about lawyers, and I would always go back to To Kill A Mockingbird. I got to work with Gregory Peck in Old Gringo, and he’s always been a role model. I have admired people like him that have had life-long careers in this business. So that’s a priority for me, not to be a flash in the pan.”