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32 Wild Guest Stars On Miami Vice

 Julia Roberts with Don Johnson on Miami Vice.
Julia Roberts with Don Johnson on Miami Vice.

Showrunner Michael Mann had a clear vision for Miami Vice when it debuted on NBC in 1984. He wanted an action show about two "cool" vice cops that showcased both the beauty of South Florida and its seedy underbelly. The show was incredibly popular and influential over its five-season run, and it starred some up-and-coming actors who would one day be huge.

Miami Vice also crammed in an insane amount of wild cameos you'd never expect, most notably musicians, but also captains of industry, magicians, wrestlers, and comedians. Check out this incredible list that just scratches the surface!

Bruce Willis in a small role on Miami Vice
Bruce Willis in a small role on Miami Vice

Bruce Willis

In the first season of Miami Vice, the show featured a young actor with no credits to his name, Bruce Willis. Willis played a gun runner in the episode, being pursued by Tubbs (Philip Michael Thomas) and Crockett (Don Johnson). It's not crazy to say that without this role, Willis would've never landed Moonlighting and maybe never gone on to have the incredible career he had.

Gene Simmons on Miami Vice
Gene Simmons on Miami Vice

Gene Simmons

Newton Windsor Blade, played by KISS bass player Gene Simmons, was a long-time criminal antagonist to Tubbs and Crockett. Since the mid-'80s weren't great for Kiss, it makes sense that the legendary rocker, known for his wild hair and very long tongue, would branch out into acting. He's not the best actor, but it's crazy seeing him on the show.

Captain Lou Albano on Miami Vice, playing a heavy
Captain Lou Albano on Miami Vice, playing a heavy

"Captain" Lou Albano And Afa Anoa'i

Professional wrestlers are pretty common to see on TV and "Captain" Lou Albano was also no stranger to TV, appearing in a Cyndi Lauper video in the '80s. Still, it's really fun to see Albano and fellow wrestler Afa Anoa'i playing henchmen to George Takai on Miami Vice in the show's third season.

Little Richard looking scary on Miami Vice
Little Richard looking scary on Miami Vice

Little Richard

In the show's second season, Miami Vice really leaned into musicians as guest stars. One prime example is rock n' roll pioneer and real-life preacher Little Richard, who appeared in the episode "Out Where the Buses Don't Run," as a preacher on the beach. The episode also included up-and-coming actors Bruce McGill and David Strathairn in guest spots.

Penn Jillette, Philip Michael Thomas, and Don Johnson in Miami Vice
Penn Jillette, Philip Michael Thomas, and Don Johnson in Miami Vice

Penn Jillette

Penn Jillette, the talking half of the legendary magic duo Penn & Teller, has a few acting credits in his career, usually as himself. His first acting credit, however, was playing a New York City criminal on Miami Vice. It is one of the rare times he didn't appear with his partner Teller at his side.

Julia Roberts in Miami Vice
Julia Roberts in Miami Vice

Julia Roberts

Even the biggest stars in the world have to start somewhere. Miami Vice was one of the places that helped launch careers, and there may be none bigger than Julia Roberts. Roberts starred in one episode, as an assistant to a crime lord in the season finale of Season 4. It was only her second credited role, and two years before Pretty Woman made her an icon.

G. Gordon Liddy on Miami Vice
G. Gordon Liddy on Miami Vice

G. Gordon Liddy

Perhaps the wildest guest star in Miami Vice history was former FBI agent and Watergate burglar G. Gordon Liddy. That's right, the ringleader of one of the most notorious political crimes of the 20th Century had a guest spot on the show. Liddy played a former colonel in the U.S. Army who, in a very meta way, was a great admirer of former President Nixon.

Barbra Streisand making a cameo on Miami Vice
Barbra Streisand making a cameo on Miami Vice

Barbra Streisand

In a truly "what the heck?" moment, the legendary Barbra Streisand makes a literal walk-through cameo in the 18th episode of Season 4 of Miami Vice. She doesn't have a line, and it's a wide shot as Crockett and Tubbs get out of the car. They look twice at her, but she keeps walking. She was dating Don Johnson at the time, which explains why it happened, but still, it's wild.

Miles Davis in Miami Vice
Miles Davis in Miami Vice

Miles Davis

Jazz legend Miles Davis has exactly three credits in movies or TV that are not playing himself or a musician. One of them is Miami Vice. Davis played a criminal being investigated by the vice squad and with that awesome, gravelly voice, he is actually great in the role.

Teller with a mustache on Miami Vice
Teller with a mustache on Miami Vice

Teller

The quiet half of the magic duo Penn & Teller, Teller is a man of few words most of the time. When he appeared on Miami Vice – without his partner Penn Jillette – he had quite a few lines when he played a seedy lawyer in the fourth season episode, "Like a Hurricane." It's a rare opportunity to hear Teller speak on TV.

Musician Frank Zappa in Miami Vice
Musician Frank Zappa in Miami Vice

Frank Zappa

Musician extrodinaire Frank Zappa was a true iconoclast. You never really knew where the guy might show up. One might think that Zappa would see Miami Vice as beneath him, artistically, or too commercial, but that's what made him so great. He wanted everything to be absurd on some level and showing up to play a criminal on a yacht on a network TV is definitely absurd.

Sheena Easton on Miami Vice
Sheena Easton on Miami Vice

Sheena Easton

Sheena Easton is definitely underappreciated these days. The two-time Grammy winner was huge in the '80s. Not only did she have a slew of hits, working with the likes of Nile Rogers, Prince, and Kenny Rogers, but she sang the theme song to a Bond movie for For Your Eyes Only, and appeared on multiple episodes of Miami Vice as Sonny Crockett's love interest.

Chris Rock and Philip Michael Thomas
Chris Rock and Philip Michael Thomas

Chris Rock

It's almost hard to believe that Chris Rock's career stretches way back to the mid-1980s, but then you see him with a guest spot on Miami Vice in 1987. It's one of his very first roles, before New Jack City and his bit part in Beverly Hills Cop II, but it's a decent role for a young actor. He plays a records clerk who understands the early days of the internet.

Phil Collins on Miami Vice
Phil Collins on Miami Vice

Phil Collins

Not only did Phil Collins' music often appear in Miami Vice but the legendary drummer and singer also played a con man named...Phil in the second season of the show. Collins has played a few bit parts in movies over the years, but this was his biggest role as an actor.

Lee Iacocca on Miami Vice
Lee Iacocca on Miami Vice

Lee Iacocca

Miami Vice was so good at getting guest stars, they even landed a captain of industry. Lee Iacocca was the CEO of Chrysler in the '80s and as such, he was somewhat famous, especially for not being in the entertainment world. When you talk about bonkers guest stars, Iacocca has to be one of the nuttiest. He plays (uncredited) the city park commissioner in the finale of Season 2. Weird.

Willie Nelson on Miami Vice, holding a phone
Willie Nelson on Miami Vice, holding a phone

Willie Nelson

There are few more iconic musicians in the world than Willie Nelson. With a career that stretches eight decades, Nelson has done it all, including guest starring on Miami Vice. Nelson got to play a retired Texas Ranger who worked with Crockett and Tubbs on a case in the third season of the show.

Eartha Kitt on Miami Vice
Eartha Kitt on Miami Vice

Eartha Kitt

Eartha Kitt is probably best known to TV audiences as one of the huge stars who appeared on the 1960s Batman show, where she played Catwoman in the third season. The actress, dancer, and singer, also made a guest spot in Miami Vice in the second season episode "Whatever Works."

Ted Nugent on Miami Vice
Ted Nugent on Miami Vice

Ted Nugent

Rocker Ted Nugent is a polarizing figure. Known for his politics as much as his guitar shredding, he has thousands of fans and thousands of detractors. Like a lot of other musicians, he plays a bad guy in the second season of the show.

Annie Golden in Miami Vice
Annie Golden in Miami Vice

Annie Golden

Beloved actress Annie Golden started her career in show business in the 1970s as the lead singer of the punk band The Shirts, who were part of the scene at the legendary CBGB's. Golden has gone on to star on stage and screen, including a recurring role in a couple of episodes as Crockett's Ferrari mechanic. Golden is best known these days for playing Norma in Orange is the New Black.

Don King in Miami Vice
Don King in Miami Vice

Don King

In a show as over-the-top as Miami Vice was, it only makes sense to have one of the biggest personalities of the decade appear as a guest star. Don King was larger than life in the '80s. The boxing promoter had Mike Tyson in his corner at the time, and Tyson was one of the biggest draws in sports, meaning King was everywhere. Naturally, he played a boxing promoter named "Don Cash" in an episode in Season 3.

NBA legend Bill Russell in Miami Vice
NBA legend Bill Russell in Miami Vice

Bill Russell

NBA big men are no strangers to acting. Wilt Chamberlain in Conan The Destroyer, Shaquille O'Neal in Shazam, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in Fletch and Airplane!  are a few examples. Celtics Legend Bill Russell was always a little more understated than those three, but he did find his way into an episode of Miami Vice playing a judge.

Leonard Cohen in Miami Vice
Leonard Cohen in Miami Vice

Leonard Cohen

French-Canadian singer/songwriter Leonard Cohen had legions of fans for decades before his death in 2016. While his music was often featured in movies, he wasn't really an actor. Still, Miami Vice managed to score him for an episode in Season 2.

James Brown in Miami Vice
James Brown in Miami Vice

James Brown

One of the coolest things about most of the guest-starring spots on the show was that rarely did one of the stars play themselves. That even went for mega-stars like James Brown. The Godfather of Soul appears as a musician, but not himself, so that had to be fun for Brown and the rest of the cast.

David Johansen in Miami Vice
David Johansen in Miami Vice

David Johansen

David Johansen will first and foremost always be known as the lead singer of The New York Dolls, but he's also played a few roles on screen, including the cab driver/ghost of Christmas Past in Scrooged. He also got to play a version of himself on Miami Vice before adopting the Buster Poindexter persona in his music career.

Glenn Frey
Glenn Frey

Glenn Frey

Miami Vice was known for all its musician guest stars, and the first of those was the late Eagles guitar player and singer Glenn Frey. Frey provided a fair amount of music for the show, including his hit song "Smuggler's Blues" written for the show. He appeared in Season 1 playing a pilot who Tubbs and Crockett need for a smuggling bust, naturally.

George Takei and Melanie Griffith in Miami Vice
George Takei and Melanie Griffith in Miami Vice

George Takei (And Melanie Griffith)

It's not that surprising to see an actor like George Takei on a show like Miami Vice but what makes it bonkers is that he's in a scene with Melanie Griffith and two professional wrestlers, "Captain" Lou Albano and Afa Anoa'i. It's a wild scene with the Star Trek vet playing a criminal overlord and the wrestlers as his henchman. Griffith was dating Johnson at the time, and they would eventually marry and become parents to Dakota Johnson.

Frankie Valli in Miami Vice
Frankie Valli in Miami Vice

Frankie Valli

The show reached way back in the past when it cast singer Frankie Valli for an episode in its musician-laden second season. New Jersey boy Valli's career goes all the way back to the 1950s and he's had an astonishing 29 Top-40 hits. Still, his first acting role came in 1985 on Miami Vice.

Iman and Philip Michael Thomas in Miami Vice
Iman and Philip Michael Thomas in Miami Vice

Iman

Iman was one of the first supermodels of the '70s and '80s and she was on the cover of every fashion magazine out there. She didn't get into acting until 1985 when she first appeared on the show in the same episode as G. Gordon Liddy and Bob Balaban. Later she appeared in another episode in 1988 as a different character murdered by a serial killer.

Rita Moreno in Miami Vice
Rita Moreno in Miami Vice

Rita Moreno

Talk about a legend! EGOT-winner Rita Moreno is Hollywood royalty and her role on Miami Vice is unique because she plays a crooked congresswoman, which is not something you would expect from her. She's brilliant, by the way, as you expect.

Isaac Hayes in Miami Vice
Isaac Hayes in Miami Vice

Isaac Hayes

Soul singer and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member Isaac Hayes is no stranger to acting. For years he voiced Chef on South Park, and he had roles in legendary movies like Escape from New York, and I'm Gonna Git You Sucka. He also showed up in one episode of Miami Vice, playing a bad guy, which he was great at.

The Fat Boys in Miami Vice
The Fat Boys in Miami Vice

The Fat Boys

Miami Vice oozed '80s cool so seeing 1980s hip-hop pioneers The Fat Boys on the show shouldn't be a surprise, but it is, and boy is it funny. Big Buff aka The Human Beat Box saunters up to Tubbs and Crockett on a street corner and makes them an offer that the two vice cops definitely refuse, but they don't bust him, because, come on, you can't bust The Fat Boys!

Ben Stiller in Miami Vice
Ben Stiller in Miami Vice

Ben Stiller

Sometimes it feels like Ben Stiller has been around forever, and that's for good reason. One of his very first roles in Hollywood was on an episode in the show's fourth season. Stiller plays a criminal busted by Crockett and Tubbs and he's got some great lines, playing a real scuzzy kind of guy.

A lot of shows over the years have brought in some interesting and surprising celebrities for cameos and guest spots, but when you look at this list from Miami Vice it's hard to argue that any show did it better.