Although Don Johnson made his screen debut in 1970, he rattled around bit parts in movies and guest spots on TV for 14 years before he landed the role that would launch him to superstardom: Sonny Crockett on "Miami Vice." The show was so huge and the role so iconic that Johnson became an instant tabloid superstar, as well known for whatever alleged bits of bad business he was up to that week as for anything else. But still, he charged through the five seasons of "Vice," inspiring men across the country to change their fashions to look more like him. He was Emmy-nominated for the part in 1985.
But Johnson's career extended beyond "Vice." Before he landed the part of Crockett, he starred in a number of movies, including playing the lead role in post-apocalyptic sci-fi cult classic "A Boy and His Dog." During and immediately after "Vice," he also appeared in films including "Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man" and the remake of "Born Yesterday." He even recorded records; the first album, "Heartbeat," was a minor hit in the U.S. and a major hit overseas. The single of the same name hit No. 5 on the U.S. charts.
In the '90s, Johnson was the star of another long-running TV series, CBS' sly detective show, "Nash Bridges." Though "Bridges" didn't have the cultural influence of "Vice," it ran for more episodes and cemented Johnson as one of the top TV stars of his generation.
"I made a decision early on that I did this [acting] because I love it," Johnson told the Associated Press in 1987, at the height of "Vice" fever. "Whether or not I became rich and famous was not the criteria for doing it. There were two reasons: One, I'm not qualified for anything else; and two, it's what I love to do."