‘Miami Vice’: When Don Johnson and Philip Michael Thomas Reunited On-Screen After ‘Vice’

During the casting process for Miami Vice (1984-89), Don Johnson and Philip Michael Thomas didn’t immediately lock down the parts of Sonny Crockett and Ricardo Tubbs. Given the failed pilots in Johnson’s past, NBC wasn’t sure he was the man to lead the series.

But something happened when Johnson and Thomas read together. “He and I just had this chemistry,” Johnson told Rolling Stone in 2014. “Philip was jumping on the furniture, I was doing my Crockett thing. The dynamic just clicked.”

Over five seasons (111 episodes), Johnson and Thomas showed off that chemistry on a weekly basis. When the series wrapped, the two actors went their separate ways. While Thomas’ career stalled a bit in the post-Vice years, Johnson landed another starring role on a series by the late ’90s.

It didn’t take long for Johnson to bring in his old pal on the show. Late in season 2 of Nash Bridges, Thomas made an appearance as the old partner of the title character played by Johnson.

Don Johnson and Philip Michael Thomas reunited 8 years later on ‘Nash Bridges’

Don Johnson stands with the cast of 'Nash Bridges' with a view of San Francisco behind him
1996: Promotional cast portrait for the television series ‘Nash Bridges,’ which features American actor Don Johnson | CBS Photo Archive/Getty Images

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After some roles in TV movies, Thomas worked overseas on two ’90s series starring Bud Spencer. But by the end of the ’90s, Thomas was nearing the end of his run as a working actor. (His spokesman gig for the International Psychic Network may have played a part in this.)

Yet Thomas didn’t check out before appearing on screen with Johnson in Nash Bridges. In “Wild Card” (season 2 episode 22, 1997), Thomas turned up as Cedrick Hawks. Before viewers even see him, you get an idea what’s coming: A reference to the Miami Vice theme plays in the background.

“Bubba, you are way too far from home,” Nash (Johnson) tells Hawks (Thomas), whose back is to the camera when viewers first catch a glimpse of him. Then the two smile at each and embrace. It’s one of those classic TV moments.

The reunion didn’t stop there. In “Out of Miami” (season 6 episode 14, 2001), Thomas returned to reprise his role as Hawks. At that point, Miami Vice had been canceled and off the air for 12 years.

Johnson and Thomas could reunite in the ‘Miami Vice’ reboot

Don Johnson and Philip Michael Thomas laugh on the 'Miami Vice' set circa 1985
MIAMI VICE: Don Johnson as Det. James ‘Sonny’ Crockett, Philip Michael Thomas as Det. Ricardo ‘Rico’ Tubbs | NBCUniversal via Getty Images

The Miami Vice saga didn’t end in 1989. Executive producer Michael Mann directed a film version starring Colin Farrell and Jamie Foxx in 2006. And you may have caught the trade announcement of a Miami Vice reboot in 2017. (Vin Diesel is reportedly executive producing.)

If that reboot happens, Johnson has some ideas about working Crockett back into the mix. “I’ve actually come up with some ideas for bridging the gap [following the end of the series],” Johnson told Rolling Stone in ’14.

“I’m feeling that joy and enthusiasm I felt the first time around, to reprise the character of Sonny Crockett.” In 2019, he was still there. “We’re kicking around some thoughts,” he told ITV’s This Morning at the time. If Johnson has “thoughts” on Crockett, he must be thinking about Tubbs, too.