Latino Actor Encourages Students to Stay in School

It was not too long ago when Actor Jimmy Smits entered City University in New York aspiring to be a teacher and continue his acting.
The box office actor recalls the stress and determination it took for him to take on fatherhood and juggle class and work all at the same time.

Screen Shot 2013-11-14 at 3.21.07 PM“I would take the earliest possible morning classes, come home to feed and take care of my daughter, work afternoons at a Brooklyn youth development program where I had performed community service work in high school, and then return to school to work on plays,” Smits said. “I began college as an education major with a theater minor with the intention of eventually teaching speech and theater.”

Smits was encouraged to continue acting as a graduate student. At Brooklyn College he received a B.A. degree in theatre and earning a Master of Fine Arts from Cornell University in 1982. And at times prior to all his success, Smits had doubts about school and working in theater.

“I was raised to accept the challenges I had set for myself,” Smits said. “Because of graduate school, I have felt well grounded and able to realize my potential as an actor.”
Smits is a first generation American. His mother is from Puerto Rico and his father is from a Dutch colony in South America known as Suriame.

“Through education, especially higher education, a person becomes well-rounded, particularly in the field of performing arts,” Smits said. “Certainly, there are those who become successes, even superstars, and never attend college. However, on a personal level, college and graduate school made me a better actor.”

Smits says a positive attitude is important to have in the movie industry. Actors have to constantly audition for new roles in films and the competition is rife.
“There are always projects that you want to do as an actor that for some reason or other, having nothing to do with your talent, don’t materialize,” Smits said. “You might even be rejected because of ethnic prejudices. Whatever the reason for the adversity you face, you must never abandon your aspirations.”

Jimmy Smits is an Emmy Award and Golden Globe winning actor. He has established himself as one of the most versatile actors in television and film.

Smits has enjoyed roles on NYPD Blue, The West Wing and L.A. Law on television. On film Smits played Senator Bail Organa in Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones and reprised the role in Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith. On the theater stage Smits has been seen in Much Ado About Nothing and Anna in the Tropics, a Broadway play.

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