The Career of Don Johnson

Donnie Wayne Johnson is an American songwriter, director, actor, singer, and producer born on 15th December 1949. In Miami Vice, a 1980s television series, Johnson played the role of James Sonny Crockett and won a Golden Globe award for his role in the series. In the 90s cop series Nash Bridges, he had the eponymous lead role.

Don Johnson has also received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and he was the World Champion of the Offshore World Cup of 1988 American Power Boat Association.

Don Johnson’s mother, Nell, was a beautician, and his father, Wayne Fred Johnson, was a farmer. They both were 17 and 19 years old when they had Johnson. He was raised in poverty in Kansas.

Johnson graduated from Wichita South High School and got involved in the high school’s theatre program. In ‘West Side Story,’ Johnson played the lead role, and according to his biography, he previously appeared in ‘The Hullabaloo’ and ‘Burnt Cork and Melody.’

He enrolled at the University of Kansas after his graduation in 1967 as a theater major. However, Johnson dropped out after a year. To attend the American Conservatory Theater, he relocated to San Francisco.

Acting Career

Johnson played Smitty in his first major role in the 1969 Los Angeles stage production’s Fortune and Men’s Eyes. Don continued to work on television, stage, and film without breaking into stardom. In this period, his notable films were A Boy and His Dog, The Harrad Experiment, Zachariah, and Lollipop and Roses.

Miami Vice


After several years of hard work to establish himself as a TV actor, Johnson landed a starring role in Miami Vice. Cast as James Sonny Crockett was a big break for him as it was the lead role in Miami Vice. He played the role of an undercover vice detective.

The character, Sonny Crockett, wore Hugo Boss and Versace suits of thousand dollars over a pastel cotton T-shirt. He drove exotic, luxurious sports cars, including a Ferrari Testarossa and a Ferrari 365 GTS/4 Daytona. Moreover, Johnson wore expensive timepieces by Ebel and Rolex and lived on a sailing yacht in a Miami port (St. Vitus Dance) with Elvis, his pet alligator.

The success of his role brought him several other opportunities, such as Hot Summer (1985 TV remake of ‘The long’) featuring Cybill Sheppard. Between the second and third seasons of Miami Vice, a tense salary dispute arose that disrupted the filming schedule. It also made Michael Mann issue Johnson an ultimatum: return or be replaced from the show.

However, Johnson ultimately backed down and returned to the show for far less salary than he hoped. While working on the show, Johnson won APBA World Cup in 1988 in the super boat class. Miami Vice was noted for its cinematography, imagery, use of music, and its glitzy take on the genre of police drama.

Ricardo Tubbs was the partner of Johnson in the show, played by Philip Michael Thomas. Moreover, between seasons, Don Johnson gained further popularity through a lot of TV miniseries.

Nash Bridges


Johnson starred in Nash Bridges (1996-2001 CBS-TV police drama) with Jaime P. Gomez, Annette O’Toole, Cheech Marin, Kelly Hu, Jodi Lyn O’Keefe, Jeffy Perry, and Wendy Moniz. He portrayed the title role of the drama of an inspector for the San Francisco Police Department, later promoted to captain.

In this show, Johnson was again paired with a flash convertible car, a Yellow 1971 Plymouth Barracuda.

The Music Career of Don Johnson

Johnson has three albums to his credit, and ‘heartbeat’ was his first album released in 1986. It was a super hit, and the title tracked ranked at fifth position on the singles chart of ‘Billboard Hot 100’. In 1989, he released his second album, ‘Let it roll,’ and ‘Essential’ in 1997, a compilation album.

In addition to that, Don Johnson has several single hits to his credit as well – some of which include ‘Tell It like It is,’ ‘A Better Place,’ ‘Heartbeat,’ ‘Other People’s Lives,’ ‘Heartache Away,’ and ‘Voice on a Hotline.’ Till I Loved You was Johnson’s big hit duet.

Don Johnson has co-written several songs as well that have become all-time hits, including ‘till I Loved You,’ ‘Blind Love,’ and ‘Can’t Take It with You.’

The 2000s

Don Johnson briefly starred in ‘Just Legal,’ The WB courtroom television drama show, as a jaded lawyer with a dreamy and young partner, Jay Baruchel. In October 2005, the show got canceled just after three episodes. Johnson began a run in Guys and Dolls (West End of London production) in January 2007 as Nathan Detroit.

Johnson also played a role in the Norwegian comedy, Lange FlateBallær, directed by his friend HaraldZwart; he did it as a favor to his friend. In Norway, the movie was launched on 14th March 2008; Johnson appeared at its premiere. Johnson next appeared in ‘When in Rome’ with Anjelica Huston, Danny DeVito, and Kristen Bell.

In 2019, in the murder-mystery ‘Knives Out’ of Rian Johnson, Don Johnson played the role of Richard Drysdale.

The 2010s

On 18th January 2010, Jon Heder and Don Johnson co-hosted WWE’s Raw. He had a supporting role in Machete, a movie by Robert Rodriguez. Johnson started appearing on the HBO series, Eastbound & Down, in October 2010, in which he played the long-lost father of Kenny Powers.

Johnson with Jason Sudeikis had a cameo in the comedy A Good Old Fashioned Orgyin September 2011. In 2012, he had a supporting role in Django Unchained, a Quentin Tarantino film. In the movie ‘Cold in July,’ Johnson starred as ‘Jim Bob’ in 2014. Moreover, he starred in ‘Blood & Oil’ of ABC prime time soap opera in 2015.

World Championship Powerboat Racing

Don Johnson scored his first motorsport victory in 1986, a 1,100-mile powerboat race. It was from New Orleans to St. Louis, up the Mississippi River. He was characterized by shipmates as a fearless, aggressive pilot. In 1988, he was crowned with World Powerboat Championship.

Major Work

The first major film of Don Johnson was ‘A Boy and His Dog.’ He even received his first award for his outstanding performance in this movie. Moreover, the first major television series of Johnson was ‘Miami Vice.’ With instant stardom, it also brought him a Golden Globe Award.

Awards and Achievements

  • Don Johnson was honored with the ‘Saturn Best Actor Award’ by the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films in 1970 for his role in ‘A Boy and His Dog.’
  • Johnson won the Golden Globe Award in 1986 for ‘Best Performance by an Actor in a TV Series’ for his outclass performance in Miami Vice.
  • In the category of Superboat class, Johnson won the ‘APBA Offshore World Cup’ in 1988 and was awarded a star in 1996 on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
  • Johnson received an Emmy nomination in 1985 and a Golden Globe in 1987.

Don Johnson – The Former ‘Miami Vice’ Star

Miami Vice gave Johnson the opportunity to boost his film career and establish his career as a TV star. After that, Johnson’s career bloomed, and he got further work. He even won ‘Best Performance by an Actor in a TV Series’ for this series.