‘Miami Vice’: Little Richard’s Sweat-Drenched Cameo in a Classic Season 2 Episode
It seemed like Little Richard (1932-2020) could do the impossible in a recording studio. Take the vocals on “Keep a-Knockin’,” which he somehow pulled off without overdubs. But the rock ‘n’ roll pioneer couldn’t sidestep the sweltering Florida sun while shooting his Miami Vice cameo.
That appearance came in “Out Where the Buses Don’t Run,” the third episode of season 2 (1985). In the memorable opening sequence, as we follow Sonny Crockett (Don Johnson) and Ricardo Tubbs (Philip Michael Thomas) in their pursuit of a drug dealer, Little Richard enters the picture.
Though you might expect the vice squad to run into him performing at a Miami club, Little Richard plays a character close to another part of his heart: Rev. Marvelle Quinn, who preaches from atop his car. (Richard was an ordained minister.)
By the end of the scene, the sweat is pouring down Little Richard’s face. But it doesn’t take anything away from his cameo in what is arguably the finest episode of Miami Vice Season 2.
Little Richard had to stand in the sun for his ‘Miami Vice’ cameo
Miami Vice had to observe a tight production schedule with 22 episodes per season. While that’s to be expected on a network show, the difference came in the on-location shoots. In a 2014 Miami Herald article, Johnson spoke about the impact of the heat on his character’s signature look.
“I would have to go back to work in late July […]. The heat was unbearable,” Johnson said. “It’s 100 degrees out there with 98% humidity. How can I do this? So I just started rolling up the sleeves, losing pieces of clothing — socks, belts — wearing T-shirts.”
Little Richard couldn’t hide in the shade during his guest-star spot. As Rev. Quinn, he had to preach in that blazing sun for a number of takes. There were the long shots from behind Crockett and Tubbs; overhead shots from across the street; medium shots; and a series of close-ups.
By the close of the four-minute opening to “Out Where the Buses Don’t Run,” Richard had worked up such a sweat that it was streaming down his face. But it didn’t take anything away from his performance.
‘Out Where the Buses Don’t Run’ is a high point of ‘Miami Vice’ Season 2
Though Little Richard adds lots of spice to the opening sequence (which features The Who’s “Baba O’Riley” on the soundtrack), his character doesn’t factor into the main story of “Out Where the Buses Don’t Run.” Bruce McGill, who plays ex-vice detective Hank Weldon, is the real guest star of this episode. (David Strathairn is in the mix as well.)
McGill’s Weldon is quirky (to say the least) and obsessive in his hunt for Tony Arcaro, a drug lord who got away from Weldon on a legal technicality. As he helps Crockett and Tubbs in their own investigations, Weldon showcases some cutting-edge technology (a computer he’s named Lorraine) and lots of strangely accurate intel.
By the close of “Out Where the Buses Don’t Run,” the audience sees exactly why everyone in Weldon’s life wanted to distance themselves from the ex-cop. It’s an episode that likely had an influence on Twin Peaks — and one that kicks off in style with Little Richard. You can’t ask for more on an episode of network TV.