'Miami Vice' Almost Hired Mark Harmon — Would It Have Changed 'NCIS' Star's Legacy?

Miami Vice is one of the most iconic television shows to emerge from the ’80s, a series that popularized pastel blazers and big hair, all while revolutionizing the way that cop shows were viewed by American audiences. The show made a star out of actor Don Johnson and ran for five successful seasons before ultimately going off the air.

Even though it was on television for a relatively short period of time, there can be no overestimating the effect that Miami Vice had on American pop culture. And, to this day, new fans are discovering the entertaining, stylized series. 

When did ‘Miami Vice’ start airing on television?

Miami Vice debuted on television in 1984, changing the face of pop culture forever. The series followed two Miami-based cops, James “Sonny” Crockett and Ricardo “Rico” Tubbs, as they worked undercover in the glittering Florida city, busting drug rings and battling it out with hardened criminals.

The series had a different look and feel from other police procedural dramas on television at that time, relying heavily on ’80s New Wave culture for much of the costume and design choices.

Right away, fans gravitated to Miami Vice, and in particular, to the characters played Johnson and Philip Michael Thomas. The characters of Sonny and Rico were fan-favorites, their chemistry and fun interplay providing nearly as much entertainment as the drama involved in the cases themselves.

Ultimately, of course, Johnson and Thomas became massive superstars thanks to their work in the series, and to this day, both actors remain best known for those characters, even though they have respectively worked on many other projects. 

Why was Mark Harmon almost cast on ‘Miami Vice’?

Johnson might have become a star because of Miami Vice, but the actor didn’t always have a smooth relationship with showrunners. In fact, according to Mental Floss, Johnson almost left the show after the second season.

Johnson’s contract was up at that time, and when filming began, he had not yet negotiated a new contract. “We’re shooting around him for now,” an anonymous source said at that time. “But it’s costing $50,000 a day to shoot without him, and we’re not going to let him drag the show down with him.”

Desperate network executives tried to form a plan to move ahead — and even contemplated replacing Johnson with a talented television actor named Mark Harmon. At the time, Harmon was a staple on television, acting in shows like Flamingo Road and St. Elsewhere.

“We’re not going to let Johnson wreck the show,” UPI reported, citing an NBC official as a source. “We have Harmon in line and ready to go.” 

Ultimately, the network and Johnson were able to come to an understanding, and his contract was renewed. “I am looking forward to the new season and joining the cast and crew on the set Monday morning,” Johnson said in a statement, reported AP at the time.

Harmon, of course, went on to experience great success of his own, though not in Miami Vice

What is Mark Harmon best known for these days?

All throughout the ’80s and ’90s, Harmon was a popular character actor, appearing in a wide variety of TV shows and movies. Still, it wasn’t until 2003 that Harmon was really able to achieve television immortality after he was cast as Leroy Jethro Gibbs in the hit TV series NCIS.

Ever since then, Harmon has been a mainstay on the series and has earned a slew of awards and nominations for his work in the show. For many fans, the character of Gibbs is one of the all-time greatest television characters of all time — and Harmon’s acting is largely responsible for that.

Had Harmon been brought onto Miami Vice, the course of his career could be entirely different. While it’s easy to think Harmon wouldn’t have landed NCIS if he was on Miami Vice, it’s worthy of noting that Johnson was reportedly offered the role of Agent Gibbs and turned it down. As such, Harmon could have snagged the part regardless.

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