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Jimmy Smits’ New Series To Be Spiked with Real-Life Controversy

Expect Jimmy Smits' forthcoming "Outlaw" drama to be fueled by hot-button issues, attention-grabbing news blasts and tough controversies. That's the word from the star himself, who points out, "My years of working on 'The West Wing' did cement in my mind the fact that there is an audience out there for topical stories."

"Outlaw," as you may know, has him as a Supreme Court justice who steps down. "The way we're positing the character is that during his time on the bench, he's been one of the more conservative-leaning judges. His father, you see in the pilot, is an activist, kind of liberal. When his father dies, it causes him to reassess what he wants to do in his life," Smits explains. "He decides he can make more of an impact by going around the country, trying cases.

"It's exciting trying to do something a little bit out the box there," he adds. "This character is edgy and not predictable."

He reports that he's seeing outlines for the show's scripts as the writers work away, with plans for production to start the second week of July. Before he steps before the "Outlaw" cameras, however, the actor — who now holds the distinction of playing both the president of the United States and a Supreme Court justice on TV series — heads to Washington, D.C., appropriately enough. He's hosting the 30th Annual "A Capitol Fourth" Independence Day mega-event before a crowd of a quarter million on the lawn of the Capitol building — plus millions of viewers at home via PBS.

"I'm always psyched to do it. My family loves it," he says. "They always try to be as eclectic as possible in terms of the performers, to have a real tapestry of our country, and this year, they've done it in a really big way. David Archuleta from 'Idol,' Gladys Knight, Reba McEntire, Darius Rucker and the National Symphony Orchestra, which is going to do a wonderful tribute to Erich Kunzel" — who died last year, having conducted at the event for 20 years. Then there's the other big "Capitol Fourth" draw. Notes Smits, "I grew up in New York, so fireworks on the Fourth of July is a way of life."

SAX APPEAL: Sax man extraordinaire Kenny G says it was only natural that he'd get back to sweet soul music with his new "Heart and Soul" album, which gets its official release tomorrow (6/29) on Concord Records. "I grew up in a very ethnic area of Seattle, listening to R&B music all the time," he tells us. Favorites included "Earth, Wind & Fire and Barry White."

The album is all Kenny G originals, except for collaborations with Robin Thicke and Babyface — with whom he worked via Internet. "These days, everybody kind of does it in their own space and we put it together later. Nobody takes offense to that. Everyone's creative signature is still on it," he says.

The music man is performing here and abroad in support of "Heart and Soul" this summer. He'll tour Asia in October and November, and eventually, he says, he'll get back to China, where his music has become a part of everyday life — to the extent it's heard at sporting events and train stations.

He can't explain that. "I think it's just happened organically. For whatever reason, a couple of my songs are very popular there. They've become part of their culture. It's a cool experience to go over there and have people know the music really well," he says.

He guesses that the "Heart and Soul" music might not lend itself as much to Chinese tastes as some of his past music. "They probably like simple melodies more than the groove. But as an artist, you can't keep doing the same thing. You have to keep changing it up and growing."

STILL DANCING: "Dance Your A— Off" creator and Judge Lisa Ann Walter stays in touch with competitors from the hit Oxygen channel show's first season. "It's so exciting to see the transformations, not just in terms of weight loss, but in how their lives progress," she says. "Weight loss is just a part of it." Season 1 competitor Miles "is the walking embodiment of the power of 'Dance Your A— Off' and what he can do for people. He's inspiring not only his family, but his whole neighborhood in Utah. He has a business where he helps people work out," she reports. "Alicia continues to post pictures. You can see in her photos that she's more confident, that she's feeling her sexiness, her power, her potential. The way she writes, she's not looking for approval."

MULTIFACETED: While David James Elliott is busy playing a criminal on ABC's "Scoundrels," he's awaiting release of an indie thriller, title T.B.A., in which "I play a concerned husband who becomes part aggressor and part victim." The former "JAG" star is also awaiting DVD release of his "Rainbow Tribe" family film that came out earlier this year — in which he shows a completely different side. "It's my character and a bunch of people at a summer camp for disconnected, castoff children — misfits. Through the story, they find themselves." His character, from a true story, is also "dealing with brain cancer that comes back. I had to go down to some very deep layers to do it," Elliott says. He came away from shooting "Rainbow Tribe" in Big Bear, in the Southern California mountains, with a great respect for his young co-stars. "The kids in it are really great — hard-working, respectful and very intuitive."

To find out more about Marilyn Beck and Stacy Jenel Smith and read their past columns, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.

COPYRIGHT 2010 MARILYN BECK AND STACY JENEL SMITH
DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM

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