Every Sexiest man alive had to start somewhere. Unless you are 12years old you know that Johnny had a very fruitful career prior to becoming a pirate or even a Scissorhanded fella. Depp’s first big role was as scream queen Heather Langenkamp’s ill-fated boyfriend in one of my favorite horror films “Nightmare on Elm Street” from 1984. While the film became a hit and produced 6 sequels (plus a remake and “Freddy vs Jason”-both of which existence i do not acknowledge), Depp’s character Glen Lantz was (spoiler alert) sucked into a bed and they really didn’t have much of a chance for him to make appearances in future films.
Johnny Depp’s true claim to fame was “21 Jump Street“, a police procedural crime drama television series that ran on Fox from 1987 to 1991. The show centered around cops who looked young enough to pass as teenagers, they infiltrated local highschools to investigate drug trafficking, burglaries, hate crimes, homophobia, promiscuity, AIDS etc.
“21 Jump Street” is this gorgeous representation of late 80s culture, in particular television culture. Imagine the show to be the tougher, older brother of the original “Beverly Hills 90210” which premiered in 1990. Main difference between the two, Jump Street acknowledged the existence of minorities. The show was deliciously over acted with attractive people being cops that for once were cooler than the criminals they caught. This fact helped to lessen the annoying factor that moral ambiguity did not really stand a chance within the show’s storylines. It did touch upon topics that other programs didn’t dare but everything still ended up being fairly good vs bad with not much multidimensional storytelling. Overall, the show is a great example of 80s macho culture with its fast cars, bad hair and shoulder padded suits colliding with the grittier youth culture of the early 90s.
Depp was definitely the breakout star of “21 Jump Street”. A great example of one of the few instances were the media cult from our present day could not yet have influenced viewer’s perception, Depp himself was that sex symbol, the mysterious cool guy that women wanted to be with and men thought to be cool enough to accept as a bro; the media did not have to make him into that. The guy has always been a good actor and in some roles even amazing but the downfall of fame: in most of his roles from the last 10 years i don’t see well written and – acted characters, instead, i consciously and subconsciously acknowledge seeing Johnny Depp the actor on screen pretending to be them. Over exposure and media cult status form the death sentence for a versatile actor. Is that the fault of the media or us as consumers? I don’t know.
Either way, if you want to get into the show, start from the beginning, that is where the meaty stuff is at. In later seasons, the studio tried to make money off of Depp’s status as a heartthrob, whereas Depp tried to desperately get out of his contract in order to do film roles and therefore gave some freakishly bad acting performances.
I am personally not a fan of this chain-smoking, too cool for school hobo with stupid facial hair BUT if you love 80s-90s television and want to see how one of the biggest celebrities of our time got his start, go watch “21 Jump Street” and you won’t be disappointed.