L.A. Law alum Jimmy Smits is suited up and back working in a courtroom in NBC’s Bluff City Law, but this time it’s complicated.

On the new drama premiering Sept. 23, Smits’ Elijah Straight is reunited with his daughter Sydney (Caitlin McGee) in the aftermath of a family tragedy. The lawyers previously worked together at a Memphis Law Firm that specializes in civil rights matters, but they split due to problems they have yet to work out.

In EW’s exclusive preview of the series’ pilot above, Sydney, a top corporate attorney, confronts her father over the reasons she left the firm in the first place.

BLUFF CITY LAW -- "Pilot" Episode -- Pictured: (l-r) Caitlin McGee as Sydney Strait, Jimmy Smits as Elijah Strait -- (Photo by: Jake Giles Netter/NBC)
Credit: Jake Giles Netter/NBC

“Their relationship is a great jump-off point for great drama — having messy relationships—right?” Smits tells EW about the animosity between father and daughter, and what it will take for them to get back on track. “As the relationship has its ying and yang thing happening during the season, it’s going to relate with the way they deal with cases. The whole relationship with the family and how it relates to the different characters, is going to be ongoing but I don’t think the show is going to live and breath that. There’s a lot of pain there, too, because of the loss that they suffered. But it has to be a positive story they end up telling because of the area of the law that we’re in.”

As the story begins to unravel in the pilot, it is revealed that Elijah has not been the model husband or father. But in order for him and Sydney to repair their relationship they will have to put in the work.

“They could really do with some therapy,” Smits explains. “Part of their therapy is their mutual love for the law and how they handle their cases. Also, their approach to handling their cases and the cases they decide to take on. We’ll find common ground but it’ll also be the source of continual contention between us.”

He adds, “There are a lot of different layers to the relationships on the show and that’s what drew me to the series. What does family mean? Is family just genealogical or does it have to do with the way you were brought up? That’s a big resonant chord that the show is going to live and breathe in.”

Bluff City Law premieres Monday, Sept. 23 at 10 p.m. PT on NBC.

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