Busy Smits in CBS pilot, sets 2 more

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Jimmy Smits has signed to star in and executive produce CBS' untitled Cynthia Cidre drama pilot.

Additionally, the actor's El Sendero Prods. has set up two projects through the company's pod deal with ABC TV Studio: a drama from filmmaker Todd Robinson at FX and a miniseries from Gregory Nava at ABC.

"It's wonderful to have this new chapter in my professional life, and I'm thankful that Touchstone has given me that kind of opportunity," Smits said.

The untitled Cynthia Cidre project (previously "Los Duques") follows the lives of three generations of the Duques, a powerful Latin American family in South Florida who work in the rum business.

Smits will play Alex Vega, an outsider who has been given control of Duque Rum by the Duques' ailing patriarch. The project originally was developed by CBS Paramount Network TV. Because of Smits' deal at ABC TV Studio, that studio has now come aboard to co-produce with CBS Par TV.

Landing Smits is a coup for CBS.

"He is an extraordinary talent," CBS Entertainment president Nina Tassler said. "He brings a sense of integrity and a scope and honesty to the project."

On the pilot, Smits will serve as an executive producer alongside writer Cidre, Jonathan Prince, Polly Anthony and Jimmy Iovine.

Smits said he was won over by Tassler's determination to get "the best possible creative team" for the project as well as her willingness to take big creative risks.

"She is thinking outside the box," Smits said. "She is really trying to mix it up."

The first of El Sendero Prods.' projects for ABC TV Studio is "The Inside," set up at FX. It centers on a former Special Forces operative who agrees to give up his identity and family to go undercover and infiltrate a dangerous drug cartel.

Robinson, to whom Smits reached out after seeing his upcoming feature "Lonely Hearts," will pen the script and executive produce with Smits.

The second project is described as an epic miniseries about U.S. immigration told through interconnected stories to be written and directed by Nava. The mini reunites Smits with Nava, who directed him in the 1995 feature "My Family/Mi Familia."

In addition to ABC TV Studio and El Sendero, the project is co-produced by Nava's El Norte Prods., with Nava's producing partner Barbara Jitner-Martinez also attached.

"Jimmy is an extraordinarily collaborative partner to work with," ABC TV Studio president Mark Pedowitz said. "As a star, he is a self-starter — he brings in viewers into any show he's in."

Smits, who recently starred on NBC's "The West Wing," next appears in the feature "The Jane Austen Book Club."

He is repped by CAA, Brillstein-Grey Entertainment and attorney Tom Hoberman.
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