Don Johnson was ready to leave the show at the end of its second season, and the studio lined up Mark Harmon to take over the role of Sonny Crockett. The only one not happy with this solution was executive producer Michael Mann, who convinced Johnson to stay on. As a result, Johnson became the best paid actor in the history of television series. Johnson subsequently had to turn down roles in quite a few movies, such as the leads in both Die Hard (1988) and The Untouchables (1987).
The series' commitment to the visual quality of every episode made it one of the most expensive shows to produce at the time. In fact, the cost to produce one episode of the show was greater than that of the entire annual budget of the Miami Police Department's Vice Unit!
During pre-production, Don Johnson wanted Sonny Crockett to be "more of a cowboy", and suggested "a lot of denim, V-neck sweaters and cowboy boots". He was really unsure about how the heavy use of pastel and bright colors would fit the macho, no-nonsense persona of his character, but producer Michael Mann and costume designer Jodie Lynn Tillen managed to convince him. They saw Crockett more in the lines of a beach bum. Johnson relented and as a result became one of the biggest fashion symbols of the 1980s.
In order to help get the potential cast members more into character, they were taken on stakeouts by the real Miami Vice unit. While auditioning for the role of Sonny Crockett, Don Johnson came into a script reading for the producers directly from an all night stakeout. He appeared tired, his hair a mess, and he had not shaved that morning. That look showed the producers what a real life vice cop would look like following a long night of work, and he was hired immediately.
Edward James Olmos and Don Johnson often argued during the first season due to their different acting styles. Olmos used his anger towards Johnson for his character in their scenes together. In some episodes, Lt. Castillo never looks at Crockett at all.
All technical advisors for the show served with the real-life Miami Vice unit, and required that the cast members first pass the Florida Department of Law Enforcement firearms test before they could handle weapons on the set.
Crockett's Ferrari Daytona was actually a modified Corvette. Ferrari executives were so upset that this ersatz Ferrari was gaining such popularity that they offered to provide the series with their new flagship car, the Testarossa.
According to Sonny Crockett's character history he volunteered for military service in Vietnam in the early seventies. This is based on the real actions of Don Johnson who attempted to join the United States Marine Corps around that time. However, unlike Crockett who served a combat tour in Vietnam, Johnson was rejected by the marines due to a criminal conviction for drug possession.
Edward James Olmos made a few changes to his character when he was hired for the show. He said that his character's desk should always be free of paper work, and that the cops knock on the door before entering the office.
In scenes where there was the potential for the white Ferrari Testarossa being destroyed the car was "stunt doubled" by a supercharged and heavily modified DeTomaso Pantera. As part of an agreement with Ferrari it was destroyed after the series ended.
NBC originally wanted to spin off the characters of Officers Renko (a white cop raised in the South) and Hill (a black cop raised in the East) from Hill Street Blues (1981) into their own show, but decided not to when it was discovered that they were two of the most popular characters with viewers of the show. However, network executives liked the idea, and eventually it was incoporated into the characters of Sonny Crockett (white cop raised in the South) and Ricardo Tubbs (black cop raised in the East) on this show.
The idea for the look and tone of the show originated from NBC Exec Brandon Tartikoff whom, after seeing the success of the cable music network MTV, pitched an idea of cops who looked like they'd just walked out of an MTV video. "Miami Vice" was the result.
Anthony Yerkovich left Hill Street Blues (1981) to write the pilot for this show. While he was on "Blues", he wrote a character that was a 300 pound racist biker played by actor Dennis Burkley. The character's name was Sonny Crockett, the same name he gave the lead to this show.
Sonny Crockett owned four boats on the show: a Cabo Rico 38 sailboat in the pilot; an Endeavour 40 sailboat in season 1; an Endeavour 42 sailboat in seasons 2 to 5; and a Wellcraft 38 Scarab KV "cigarette" speedboat. All three sailboats that were featured on the show were called "The St. Vitus' Dance".
The soundtrack LP went to #1 and stayed there for 12 weeks, making it the most successful TV soundtrack of all time. Jan Hammer received a congratulatory phone call from Henry Mancini, whose music from Peter Gunn (1958) was the previous record holder (it was #1 for 10 weeks in 1959).
Although Lt. Martin Castillo, played by Edward James Olmos, rarely engaged in the shows many shootouts, when he did his weapon of choice was a Colt Trooper Mk V 357 magnum with a six inch barrel. This is an improbably large weapon to be carried by a plain clothes officer whose duties are primarily administrative. Possibly this was an attempt by Castillo to remind the cocky Sunny Crocket (Don Johnson) that it is Castillo who has the bigger gun.
Many of the television critics who praised the show in its first season made reference to the series' music, a combination of songs by artists like Glenn Frey, Phil Collins and Kate Bush and original music by Jan Hammer, the former keyboardist for the Mahavishnu Orchestra. Frey and Collins made cameo appearances in some episodes of the series.
The Ferrari Daytona Spider driven by Crockett and Tubbs in seasons one and two was in actuality a kit car. A plexiglass body on top of a Chevy Corvette chassis with a Corvette power plant on Pirelli tires. This was done by producers in order to save cost over using a genuine Daytona Spider. And then Ferrari CEO Enzo Ferrari did not like the fact a kit car was used therefore the auto maker offered the use of a new white Ferrari Testarossa for seasons three to five.
Sonny's undercover alias was "Sonny Burnett." Ricardo's became "Rico Cooper" except for the pilot episode, when his alias was "Teddy Prentiss," and some early first season episodes when he used "Richard Taylor."
James "Sonny" Crockett was to use a SIG Sauer P220 in .45 Auto which is evident in the pilot episode. Crockett started using the Bren Ten 10mm auto. The Bren Ten, manufactured by Dornaus & Dixon, was a stainless steel handgun notable as the first ever chambered in the powerful 10mm Auto caliber. The Bren Ten was originally manufactured as a two-tone weapon: the carbon steel slide was black oxide and frame was stainless steel. The model used in Miami Vice had a hard chromed matte finished slide so that it showed up better during night shots. The pistol used in the show was chambered in .45 ACP, as opposed to the standard 10mm Auto. After the Dornaus & Dixon company went out of business in 1986, the product placement contract went to Smith & Wesson. He also carries a Detonics Pocket 9 as a backup, tucked in his rear waistband near the small of his back.
Before filming started, the producers briefly considered doing most of the exterior shots in Los Angeles and passing it off to viewers as downtown Miami, in a similar way as CSI: Miami (2002) did nearly two decades later. This idea was abandoned in favor of all exterior filming taking place in and around Miami. Unlike shows like Dallas, which spent a few weeks every season filming exterior scenes in and around Dallas and then proceeding to film interiors at MGM Studios in Los Angeles, Universal enlisted the services of Greenwich Studios in North Miami for most of the interior scenes.
Larry Wilcox decided to audition for the role of Detective James 'Sonny' Crockett to keep his career active. This was after he was dropped from the CHiPs (1977) TV series and it was canceled in 1983. Larry Wilcox and Don Johnson were the last two finalists and the producers of Miami Vice (1984) had difficulties choosing between them. Unfortunately for Larry Wilcox, the producers decided against him because they felt going from one cop role to another would not be a good fit for a new TV show; after they revealed he played police officer roles in previous TV shows. As a result, Don Johnson was chosen for the role of Detective James 'Sonny' Crockett.
Miami city officials were initially appalled at the idea of calling the series "Miami Vice", because at the time, Miami had been receiving a lot of negative press about its recent race riots, police corruption and drug trafficking. It was felt that having the word "vice" in the title of the show would further tarnish the city's reputation. A few nondescript alternative titles were suggested to the production team, but the producers adamantly adhered to the title "Miami Vice", and when the show became a success, opposition to its title diminished.
In an appearance on The Graham Norton Show (2007), Don Johnson recounted how he achieved his iconic look on the show purely by accident. He said that it began because the weather in Miami was just too warm so he began stripping whatever piece of clothing he didn't need including socks. The costume designer on set had also gone to Italy and came back with clothing from _Gianni Versace_ and _Giorgio Armani_, both of whom were relatively unknown then but Johnson didn't like their clothes and said they looked like pajamas.
The trivia item below may give away important plot points.
Sonny Crockett's pet alligator on the show is named Elvis; Don Johnson played Elvis Presley a few years earlier in the made-for-TV movie Elvis and the Beauty Queen (1981). There were two alligators used during the show, Elvis and Presley . Originally the producers wanted to use a stuffed alligator.