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''L.A. Law'' without Jimmy Smits

”L.A. Law” without Jimmy Smits — The actor doesn’t rule out a return to the drama

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Jimmy Smits may not be a regular next season, but that doesn’t mean he won’t be back on L.A. Law.

”If I decide to go out there and pursue features and maybe go back to do theater, there’s still a tie for me to the show,” Smits says. ”That family has been very important, and they’re going to keep on going, and down the line maybe I’d like to come back.” And if he or any other Law alum wants to make guest appearances, executive producer Rick Wallace will try to make it happen. ”I think the writers would be very capable of coming up with story lines so that, under certain circumstances, maybe we could bring people back for a shorter run,” Wallace says. ”We’ve really managed over five years to create a remarkable ensemble. I wouldn’t want to slam the door.”

The 35-year-old Smits, who has played Victor Sifuentes since Law made its debut in October 1986 (and who won a 1990 Emmy as best supporting actor in a drama series), is fully aware that ”the show’s done a whole lot for me.” His success on it brought him the role of a fiery Mexican general in the 1989 movie Old Gringo, with Jane Fonda and Gregory Peck, and in the forthcoming Fires Within, a romantic triangle about a Cuban political prisoner (Smits), his wife (Greta Scacchi), and an American fisherman (Vincent D’Onofrio) who rescues her en route to Miami. But now, he says, it’s time for others — such as this season’s new recruits, John Spencer (he plays sleazy counselor Tommy Mullaney) and Amanda Donohoe (manipulative C.J. Lamb) — to get a chance. ”The show will go on and be very strong,” Smits says. ”It has a momentum of its own.”