Film and television actor Don Johnson first studied his trade at the University of Kansas and the American Conservatory Theatre. A professional actor by his late teens, Johnson's earliest stage and screen assignments frequently found him cast as a fallen innocent.
Johnson first gained national press coverage as the 20-year-old star of the counterculture comedy The Magic Garden of Stanley Sweetheart (1970). His next significant credit was the 1975 cult favorite A Boy and His Dog, based on a trenchant Harlan Ellison yarn. Personal and professional entanglements kept him alternately on and offscreen until 1984, when he staged a comeback as Sonny Crockett, a rough-shod yet impossibly hip, sailboat-dwelling Miami-area vice squad detective assigned to work opposite Detective Ricardo Tubbs (Philip Michael Thomas), in Michael Mann's seminal small-screen cop drama Miami Vice (1984-89). To call the program (and Johnson's role in it) "trend-setting" would be a massive understatement; the character of Crockett, with his pastel sports jackets worn atop scoop-neck t-shirts, dark sunglasses, pants without socks, and a two or three-day growth of unshaven beard, rewrote the rules of men's haute-couture for almost a decade and posited Johnson as one of American culture's top male sex symbols for a lengthy duration as well (for a time, it became seemingly impossible to look at the cover of GQ or Esquire without spotting the actor). As the series rolled on, it witnessed Crockett's character undergoing many life changes, including the violent deaths of numerous colleagues on the force and a strange, strange plot point in which he accidentally began to confuse his own identity with that of his drug-pushing alter ego in the Miami crime world.