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television actor best known for "Miami Vice"
Donald Wayne Johnson was born in Flat Creek, Missouri, on December 15, 1949, the son of a farmer and a beautician. The family moved to Wichita, Kansas, when he was about six years old, returned to Missouri when he was 12, and moved back to Wichita for Don's senior year of high school. He starred in his high school's production of West Side Story, and graduated from Wichita South High School in 1967. He received a full drama scholarship to the University of Kansas, but dropped out in 1971 to join the American Conservatory Theatre in San Francisco.
Johnson made his professional debut in the American Conservatory Theatre production of Your Own Thing, a rock musical loosely based on Shakespeare's Twelfth Night. His first starring role on stage was in the play Fortune and Men's Eyes, in which he played a young man who was raped while in prison. He made his movie debut playing the title role in The Magic Garden of Stanley Sweetheart (1970), starred in the sci-fi cult classic A Boy and His Dog (1975), and appeared in several relatively minor, low-budget films before making the move to television.
After starring in four television pilots that failed, Johnson found himself cast as detective Sonny Crockett in Miami Vice, which aired 1984-1989. The show was an almost instant hit, and Johnson's character, with his pastel-colored jacket over t-shirt and habit of wearing dress shoes without socks, became a "fashion icon." Johnson won the Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actor in a TV Series, in 1986.
While enjoying the fame generated by Miami Vice, Johnson also garnered a bit of glory as a recording artist, with three Billboard Top 100 Singles: "Heartbeat" (#6, 1986), "Heartache Away" (#56, 1986), and "Till I Loved You" (with Barbra Streisand, #25, 1989).
Johnson focused on his film career after Miami Vice was cancelled in 1989, but had only limited success. He returned to television with a starring role in Nash Bridges, which he created and produced. Nash Bridges was cancelled in 2001, and although Johnson has stayed relatively active since, he has not had another major starring role.
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This page was last updated on 09/22/2017.