Riding a wave of critical acclaim after his turn as pimp Nero Padilla in the final season of FX’s Sons of Anarchy, Jimmy Smits has signed on for a lead role in The Great Gatsby director Baz Luhrmann’s music-driven Netflix series The Get Down.
The period piece, set in 1970s New York, follows the daily struggles of a group of South Bronx teens with nobody to rely on apart from each other. Driven by desperation and desire, they fight to survive and usher in a new age of hip-hop, disco, punk and dance that reflects the pains of their existence.
Smits has signed on for the role of Francisco Cruz, aka “Papa Fuerte,” a political player in the area who uses his authority to deliver jobs, housing, health care and other necessary services that the city is denying Bronx residents. He rules his turf with charm, an easy smile and whatever amount of duplicity is required to protect the people who depend on him.
Luhrmann, for whom The Get Down has been a years-in-the-making passion project, said the following in response to Smits’ casting:
“The Puerto Rican culture of the ’70’s Bronx plays such a large role in the story we are telling that the character of Papa Fuerte had to be played by an actor who could bring experience, gravitas and authenticity to the role. I know our entire cast is excited to have someone of Jimmy’s talent joining us on the journey we are undertaking. We are thrilled to have him on The Get Down.”
Smits, also known for his roles in L.A. Law, NYPD Blue and Dexter, is intimately familiar with the subject matter – the actor, who is of Puerto Rican descent, was born in Brooklyn and spent his teens and early 20s living in the city during the 1970s.
The Get Down will unveil its 13-episode first season sometime next year. In addition to Smits, the series will star Herizen Guardiola, Shameik Moore, Justice Smith, Skylan Brooks and T.J. Brown Jr.