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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
Although Lt. Martin Castillo (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.
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.
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.
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, Don Johnson was rejected by the marines due to a criminal conviction for drug possession.
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".
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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."