Jimmy Smits Heads Back to TV Screens as President of the United States in ’24: Legacy’

Jimmy Smits during the 24: LEGACY panel at 2016 New York Comic-Con. Photo: Stephen Smith/FOX/PictureGroup, courtesy of FOX Broadcasting Co.

Jimmy Smits seeks re-election for his second term as president of the United States – on TV. As much as the 24 franchise is known for Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) killing terrorists and snarling “dammit Chloe,” it’s also known for realistic presidents who have to make morally questionable decisions in a believable way. With the series returning to Fox in the form of 24: Legacy on February 5 – after the Super Bowl – that esteemed position is up for grabs and Senator John Donovan, played by Smits, is going for it. So far, the creators haven’t released who will play the opposing candidate.

“There are only a handful of actors who truly can play presidents, and I have to say when Jimmy Smits agreed to do this, it was a great day for us.”

For TV fans, it isn’t hard to picture Smits as president, due to his experience as a fictional president on The West Wing, where he played Matt Santos. It doesn’t hurt his credibility that Smits himself may be more qualified than a chunk of those still in the race for president. During a panel at New York Comic-Con, 24: Legacy‘s producers Evan Katz, Howard Gordon, and Manny Coto insisted that not just any actor could do the role of president justice. “We can’t overstate how difficult it is, there are only a handful of actors who truly can play presidents, and I have to say when Jimmy Smits agreed to do this, it was a great day for us,” said Gordon. In a later interview, they elaborated by saying their president had to have a weight and grace that would make him or her a realistic president for their world.

They even went as far as joking that when fans go to the ballot boxes on November 8, they should write in Smits’ name. “We’re actually trying to get Jimmy to run, for real,” said the Cuban-American Coto, who is a veteran of the series having written and produced during much of the show’s original run.

In the midst of a stranger-than-fiction election with a candidate who doesn’t think very highly of us, it’s encouraging to see a Latino on network television in such a strong position. For Smits, it’s refreshing to work on a show that allows women and minorities to have power and agency.

Photo courtesy of FOX Broadcasting Co.
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“I like the fact that there’s a diversity element to the show,” he said during an interview after the panel. “These guys, I mean the producers and directors, were really cool about having women that are really proactive characters that don’t fall into the generic stereotypes. And this happens to minority actors all the time, you know, I’m a judge but I really don’t have power to do anything in a given scene.”

“I like the fact that there’s a diversity element to the show.”

That’s not just empty talk from someone trying to promote his show. The panel opened with an extended preview of the show’s first episode, which featured three strong female characters, who the hundreds in the crowd warmly received.

Smits is only one aspect of a show that aims, as lead actor Corey Hawkins put it, to look like America. At NYCC, two men of color (Smits and Hawkins) and a woman (Miranda Otto), introduced the new show to a hundreds of fans.

Although the show will run for 12 episodes, as opposed to 24 like the first eight seasons, it will still take place in real time and cover one day in the life of the characters. That means we won’t know for sure how the election will go for Smits, but based on very limited information it’s safe to say he has our fake vote.

24: Legacy premieres February 5 on Fox after the Super Bowl. The second episode airs February 6 at 8 p.m.