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James Crockett

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James "Sonny" Crockett
Miami Vice character
Miami Vice Blues Glass.jpg
Don Johnson as Sonny Crockett
First appearance Brother's Keeper/Pilot
Portrayed by Don Johnson (series)
Colin Farrell (film)
Nickname(s) Sonny
Aliases Sonny Burnett
Occupation Metro-Dade Police (series)
Miami-Dade Police (film)
Title Detective
Family Jake Crockett (brother, series)
Spouse(s) Caroline (ex-wife, series)
Caitlin Davies (killed in series)
Children Billy Crockett (with Caroline)
Relatives Jack Crockett (cousin, series)
Nationality American

Detective James "Sonny" Crockett is a fictional character from the Miami Vice television series and Miami Vice (film). The character is portrayed by Don Johnson in the television series, and Colin Farrell in the movie version of the show. He was introduced in the Miami Vice pilot in 1984 and appeared in almost all 111 episodes (except one Season 5 episode called Borrasca) and in the motion picture. The character has also appeared in video games and various popular culture references.



James Crockett (born circa 1950), more commonly known as Sonny Crockett, is a former University of Florida Gators football star[1] who had sustained an injury which put an end to his sports career. He served two tours in Vietnam – or as he calls it, the "Southeast Asia Conference". He first appears in the pilot episode of Miami Vice (1984) as an undercover vice cop on the trail of a Colombian drug lord. While undercover he meets Ricardo "Rico" Tubbs (Philip Michael Thomas), an NYPD undercover officer, who too is on the trail of a drug dealer and cop killer, Calderone (Miguel Pinero).

Calderone and "the Colombian" are the same person. Crockett and Tubbs both go undercover as Sonny Burnett and Rico Cooper respectively, trying to get closer to Calderone. They are successful and in the end capture him. Just as they go to see him in jail, Calderone makes his $2 million bail and is on his way out of the country. Crockett promises Tubbs that they will get him, but as reconciliation asks him if he is interested in a career in Southern Law Enforcement. There begins their new partnership as Vice Cops for the Metro-Dade Police Department (now Miami-Dade Police Department).

At first Crockett appears somewhat hard to get along with (a notion, which he admits himself in episodes Brother's Keeper, and Nobody Lives Forever), and have a hard exterior, but is also a rather caring and loving person. This soft side becomes evident when innocent victims die or suffer injustice as the result of others' mistakes. Crockett despises those who use or deceive others self-serving reasons. He assiduously honors his own promises and commitments, and despite being a man of few words, expects no less from others.

His hard exterior stems in part from the type of work he's doing, and also from rough experiences in his past. Losing friends, partners, and other people he's been close to or otherwise deeply cares about. From time to time, these experiences haunt him, and he struggles with feelings of guilt, because of difficult decisions he has had to make. He is very close with his friends and colleagues, Switek, Zito, Gina and Trudy, as well as with his supervisor (Martin Castillo) and especially with his partner, Tubbs. Crockett is depicted as a somewhat rogue character, that lives by his own set of rules and he is often angered by and in conflict with orders from his superiors. This part of the character is emphasized by the fact that he lives on a sailing yacht moored in Miami's luxurious Miamarina and keeps an alligator as a pet on the same boat.

Crockett's role in the investigations decreases in the end of the series, especially after he loses his memory for a while and thinks he is Sonny Burnett, which in reality is his cover. He also loses faith in his work, realizing that he cannot win the battle against all the drug cartells and crooks. Tubbs realises the same thing a little later, and two of them quit their job, and give away their badges in the final episode of the series.

The name "Sonny Crockett" had previously been used for a criminal played by actor Dennis Burkley on Hill Street Blues in 1983, where creator Anthony Yerkovich was a writer. Coincidentally, Gregory Sierra who later played Crockett's original supervisor (before Edward James Olmos was cast) appeared in the same episodes.


For the 2006 film adaptation of Miami Vice, James "Sonny" Crockett was completely reinvented and thus had no relation to the television series character. He had no backstory, like in the series where he was married, divorced, and then married again, the film version of Sonny Crockett only has a backstory for his undercover alias, Sonny Burnett.[2] The television version of Crockett carried a lot of baggage onto the set such as divorces, dead partners, and Vietnam, and so the new Crockett, by contrast, could travel light and sleek, with no back stories to burden the picture with exposition.[2][3]


For the 2006 film, Colin Farrell stated, "If I was to think about the early Crockett, I would have been in trouble because I would have been arguing over the suits that I wanted to wear and no socks with my slip-ons, and all that kind of stuff". Furthermore, Farrell didn't look to Johnson's portrayal for much inspiration.[4]


Awards and recognitions[edit]

Year Result Award Category Recipient(s)
1985 Nominated Emmy Awards Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series Don Johnson[5]
1986 Winner Golden Globe Awards Best Performance by an Actor In A Television Series - Drama Don Johnson[6]
1987 Nominated Best Performance by an Actor In A Television Series - Drama Don Johnson[6]

Impact on popular culture[edit]

In 2006, coinciding with the release of the feature film, a Det. James "Sonny" Crockett action figure was released. It included a figure of Crockett and a plastic alligator.[7] In 2006, Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories was released, and included a character based on Crockett, who interacts with Lance Vance, voiced by Philip Michael Thomas, and Phil Collins himself,[8] who performs a full length in-game version of "In the Air Tonight".

In Back to the Future: The Game, Sonny Crockett is one of the pseudonyms that the player can choose for Marty McFly.

Sonny's backstory of college football prowess and being a Vietnam War veteran were transferred onto the character Bobby Bridges on Don Johnson's other cop show Nash Bridges.

In the TV comedy series 30 Rock, Kenneth Parcell has a pet parakeet called Sonny Crockett,[9] but the fact he'd owned it for 60 years[10] suggests it wasn't named for the character.

A popular fason trend in the 80s was to ware clothes similar to Sonny Crockett's suit, a White suit.


  1. ^ O'Connor, John J. (1985-06-28). "Critics' Choice; Broadcast TV". The New York Times. Retrieved 2007-12-18. 
  2. ^ a b Scott, A.O. (2006-07-28). "'Miami Vice': Operatic Passions, Yet Cool in the Heat". New York Times. Retrieved 2007-12-19. 
  3. ^ Travers, Peter (2006-07-20). "Miami Vice: Review". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2009-05-11. 
  4. ^ Breznican, Anthony (2006-07-26). "'Miami Vice' makes series of changes". USA Today. Retrieved 2009-05-10. 
  5. ^ "Advanced Primetime Awards Search". Academy of Television Arts and Science. Retrieved 2007-11-03. 
  6. ^ a b "Miami Vice". Hollywood Foreign Press Association/Golden Globes. Retrieved 2007-11-03. 
  7. ^ "Mezco Toyz Miami Vice Detective James "Sonny" Crockett Action Figure". Retrieved 2009-05-11. 
  8. ^ Paphides, Pete (2008-04-25). "Phil Collins casually serves notice of his retirement". Times Online. London. Retrieved 2008-05-08. 
  9. ^ Season 2, Episode 5.
  10. ^ 30 Rock episode "Cutbacks"