Long before he was Capt. Jack Sparrow, Johnny Depp was Officer Tom Hanson on “21 Jump Street,” the Fox show that made him a teen heartthrob star.
And when he came to Miami Beach in January 1990 to film a Spring Break episode of the undercover cops series, it was clear that Depp was already a major phenomenon.
A Palm Beach Post reporter and photographer went down to see what all the fuss was about with Depp, then 28. He didn’t give them a lot to work with. On the set at Penrod’s Beach club, he sat in a chair and fiddled with a ball cap. He chain-smoked Marlboros. He drank Evian water. He went over his lines and filmed a scene of his character watching scantily-dressed girls in lingerie boxing in a vat of Jello. (Some things about Spring Break never change.)
He did explain why the Jump Streeters were in South Florida.
“It’s exploitation. Ratings,” Depp said. “We come to Florida, film a lot of girls in bikinis and ratings go up.”
Depp, whose latest Sparrow movie, “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales” is out Thursday, was no stranger to Florida: He went to high school in Miramar and played in local bands.
And if there was any doubt that he was going to be a superstar (his movie “Cry Baby” was about to come out), it wasn’t in the minds of the women, young and old, who flocked to the Miami Beach set that day to get a glimpse of him.
“My mother would kill me if she knew I was here,” one girl told a Palm Beach Post reporter. “I’m supposed to be in school.”