Tom Snyder interviewed Don Johnson for about 25 minutes on his LATE, LATE SHOW simulcast with Snyder's radio show. For those unfamiliar with this show (it's on at one AM here in San Francisco), it follows a radio-like format in that after a few opening remarks, Tom Snyder opens the second segment to viewer phone-in questions. Tom interviewed Don Johnson via a video monitor, with Tom in his New York studio while Don was in the San Francisco CBS affiliate KPIX studio.
Tom remarked that Don was "the guy's who's gonna save CBS" to which a laughing Don replied "I dunno, it feels a little heavy on my shoulders." Don said that he was pleased with NASH BRIDGES and its success. Don revealed that the concept for the series began about a year and half ago in discussions with his neighbor Hunter Thompson at his Woody Creek ranch. Don then took the idea to CBS; CBS then had a management shuffle which then left Don's project in limbo: "This show kind of survived all of that, and several personal things that were going on in my own life," (to which Tom interjected "We heard about those.") Don mentioned his partner and fellow executive producer Carlton Cuse who helped shape the final version of NASH BRIDGES to Don's vision of the show. A seasoned and philosophical Don observed of the CBS process: "They don't want to take the show if it's a success for the other guy, and they damn sure don't want to go down if its a failure."
Tom asked Don about similarities between Sonny Crockett and Nash Bridges, to which Don replied that Nash is mellower, wiser, more mature and has more of a sense of humor while Crockett is more of a "straight-ahead, I'm gonna kick your ass, throw a guy through a window, take 'em all out and let God sort it out kinda of a guy." Of NASH BRIDGES, Don said: "I'm walking a different kind of line with this show. I want the tone of it to be something we can enjoy, something we can laugh with, and at the same time, I want it to be about the people - their heart, their feelings."
Don denied that NASH BRIDGES was autobiographical, calling such comparisons absurd. However, Don observed that: "When we first conceived the show I was still married...Since then there are certainly elements that I can draw upon on a personal level." Tom then asked Don The Tough Question: how did Don deal with his "trial and tribulations" (referring to the break-up of his marriage, etc) so well? Don answered smoothly and reflectively:
"At a certain point, when everybody has had their way with you, as it were...you tend to become a little more spiritually minded about this sort of thing ..that's not me that they're talking about - that's somebody else. Who I am has nothing to do with that. This is what I do for a living and it's not who I am as a human being."
The first phone-in question asked Don if he kept in touch with his old MIAMI VICE cast members. Don said he did - he just recently spoke to Phillip Michael Thomas, Sandra Santiago, and Edward James Olmos who was like a "bad penny. I can't get rid of him." referring that Don runs into Olmos a lot. Tom then mentioned that Don hot-wired a car when he was 12 years old, had been a junior butcher ("You gotta have something to fall back on"), and had been a ladies' shoes salesman. The second phone-in question asked about his personal life to which Don replied he didn't really have a personal life given his workload. Tom mentioned Don's first real acting start at age 18 with the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco, then 15 years in between until MIAMI VICE. Surprisingly, Don went back to acting school after MIAMI VICE, and almost finished off his career with the disastrous film THE HOT SPOT. The third phone-in question asked Don about television violence to which Don responded of his belief in freedom of speech and expression.
Don talked about his three children - two sons and a daughter. On the difference between his boys and his six year old girl: "My sons are a hell of a lot easier to get through to than my daughter is. She seems to have my number. She can just run through the buttons and if she wants to see Daddy happy she can do that. If she wants to see Daddy mad she can do that too. I try to parent them equally...I think little girls are a little more sensitive." The fourth phone-in question asked Don if he really sang in his movie ELVIS AND THE BEAUTY QUEEN and did he gain 40 pounds to which Don said he actually sang and he lost the 40 pounds.
Don ended the interview by praising the citizens of San Francisco, Mayor Willie Brown and Police Chief Lau. Don noted how receptive and cooperative San Francisco was to the NASH BRIDGES production. Don said he received compliments that "they've never seen the city shot this well and it's like a travelogue every week for the City."