While in his last year of high school in Wichita, Kansas, and needing one more class to graduate, Johnson chose drama and landed the lead role in “West Side Story.” Shortly thereafter, he was awarded a full scholarship to the University of Kansas where he studied for two years before joining The American Conservatory Theater. A string of feature films followed, among them “Return to Macon County Line,” “Zachariah,” “The Hazard Experiment” and “A Boy and His Dog.”
Johnson's television credits include “The Rebels,” “Beulah Land” and “From Here To Eternity.” The television movies “Elvis and Me,” “First You Cry” and “Centerfold” all preceded “Miami Vice,” which began in 1983.
While working on “Vice,” Johnson turned out the equivalent of one television movie per week. He also managed to find time for other projects as well. These included two feature films, “Sweet Hearts Dance” and “Dead Bang.” Johnson also recorded two albums, “Heartbeat,” which sold over a million copies, and “Let It Roll.” Dennis Hopper directed Johnson in the feature film “The Hot Spot.” In “Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man,” Johnson co-starred opposite Mickey Rourke as one of the last of a dying breed, playing the Marlboro Man. He also starred with Melanie Griffith in Disney's “Paradise,” a delightfully charming and emotional movie based on the French film “Le Grand Chemin.” In 1992, Johnson and Griffith teamed up again to do “Born Yesterday,” also for Disney. During the same year, he starred in the thriller “Guilty as Sin,” with Rebecca De Mornay. In 1996, Johnson co-starred with Kevin Costner and his “Nash Bridges” sidekick Cheech Marin in the box office hit “Tin Cup.” His latest feature film, “Goodbye Lover,” starred Patricia Arquette.
While doing “Miami Vice,” Johnson developed an astute acumen for filmmaking and directed six episodes over the run of the series. His production company, The Don Johnson Company, has future projects that involve his talents both in front of and behind the camera. He is also executive producing film projects for television and theatrical release.
The Don Johnson Company produced the highly acclaimed movie for TV “In the Company of Darkness,” which was Academy Award-winning actress Helen Hunt's first movie. In 1995, for the third year in a row, The Don Johnson Company produced the prestigious Washington D.C. based Horatio Alger Awards special and also produced a successful drama series called “The Marshal.”
In March of 2001, Johnson finished executive producing and starring in the series “Nash Bridges,” which ran for six successful years. Johnson has starred in a record 233 episodes of network television, and both “Miami Vice” and “Nash Bridges” are currently being syndicated worldwide in 143 countries.
Currently, The Don Johnson Company is producing two major feature films, including a combination live-action/CGI family picture with the Walt Disney Company entitled “The Mysterious Tadpole.” Additionally, The Don Johnson Company is in pre-production on two pictures with HBO and several new one-hour television series. The company is also developing television movies and a variety of feature films.
Johnson loves the process of filmmaking and he plans to continue venturing into many creative aspects of the entertainment industry.