TV Guide January 23-29, 1988 – Bad Boy to Role Model
Once a troublemaker, Johnny Depp of 21 Jump Street is now admired for his cool and his part in a series about teen problems.
On a lonely, rainy, anonymous street, Johnny Depp, running through a scene from Fox’s 21 Jump Street, roars up in his blue Mustang, screeches to a halt, leaps out and starts talking tough. His Jump Street character, Tom Hanson, is a rookie cop who’s gone undercover to infiltrate circles of teen-age criminals, but Depp’s stance as a hoodlum would fool anyone. With his angelic punk face and his hair cascading James Dean-style into his eyes, he looks the perfect teen-age rebel.
It comes from years of real-life experience. Depp, 24, grew up in Miramar, Fla., where he wasn’t exactly on the road to becoming a National Merit scholar. “I hung around with bad crowds,” he admits. “We used to break and enter places. We’d break into the school and destroy a room or something. I used to steal things from stores.” And, like some of the kids Officer Tom Hanson has busted on 21 Jump Street, Depp was into drugs. “Pretty much any drug you can name,” he says, “I’ve done it.” At 13 he lost his virginity, and at 16 he dropped out of high school.
Fast-forward eight years to Vancouver, where Jump Street is shot. Depp has acquired a taste for $80-a-shot cognac and is a fan-magazine star, routinely mobbed by adoring teen-age girls. He is also one of the stranger sights in Vancouver, consistently wearing the same eccentric outfit: tattered blue jeans with a hole in the knee, combat boots, a beat-up leather jacket, a weird white rag (actually a first-aid sling) wrapped around his forehead, and several tarnished earrings. It’s a look he perfected in 1986 in the Philippines while working on the film Platoon, in which he had a part as Lerner, small-town boy who serves as the unit interpreter.
It’s easy at first glance to think that Depp is trying hard to stand out, but the people who know him best insist it’s something altogether different: Johnny Depp is simply the embodiment of the ineffable, universally coveted quality called “cool”.
“The coolest person I know,” says Holly Robinson, who plays Officer Judy Hoffs on Jump Street. “He’s naturally cool. Everybody else tries to be cool, but Johnny just is.”
“If this were the ’50s, he’d move to Paris or hang out with Jack Kerouac,” suggests Patrick Hasburgh, creator and executive producer of Jump Street.
“What struck me about him when he auditioned was that he wasn’t nervous,” says Steve Beers, supervising producer of the show. “He was laid-back. He had this presence. He’s an unusual personality. He’s also one of the nicest people I’ve ever worked with.”
How cool is Johnny Depp? He’s so cool that he orders a $75 bottle of wine without blinking as he sits down in his favorite Italian restaurant (weird white rag still around his head) to explain how he got that way.