Ever since his iconic role on NYPD Blue, Jimmy Smits has been (aside from a failed show about a Supreme Court justice that quits), taking a number of challenging roles on shows with large fanbases, from Dexter to The West Wing.

This season, he plays Nero Padilla on Sons of Anarchy, who is serving as a surrogate father figure to series lead Jax—even as Jax tells him to stay away from his mother. Jax and Nero have even (attempted) to go into business together.

Smits recently participated in a conference call with reporters about the character, the show this season and more. Here are the highlights:

On what Shakespearean character he likens Nero to. “If you know Hamlet, there’s a character named Horatio, who’s kind of like—he’s on the side kind of like helping Hamlet try to decipher all of these feelings that he’s having. I think that there are a number of different Horatios in the scheme of the Sons world. Opie played that in a way.

On how he prepared for the role. “I went to interview people who were involved in motorcycle clubs—Latino motorcycle clubs—and spoke to a number of what we call …—so people who have been involved in the—been in the penal system who are now trying to be on the straight and narrow like that particular character—and just talked about stories that they’ve encountered and the lore that they have, and what tattoos mean when you have a—because your body is kind of like a board of your past. Things like that, those things flesh out a character’s life in a lot of ways.”

On what he’d like to say to the fans of the show. “Keep watching. We’re so very, very happy that this season that loyal fan base that has been around has grown exponentially. To hear all of the wonderful things that we have around the table when we’re reading new scripts or out there in the grittiness of the motorcycle deserts riding around with—when the guys are riding around, that fan base has increased, and the numbers have increased exponentially … so you’ve got to keep—everybody’s conscious of we’ve got to keep upping the ante and keep raising the bar.”

On whether or not he would be involved in future Star Wars movies now that Disney owns Lucasfilm. “My character was gone after—episode whatever—but if they want to call, let them call.”