For a man who has made a career by playing cops on TV, Don Johnson knows the law and what he’s owed. He recently sued to get his share of the profits from Nash Bridges, a show he helped create, produced, and starred in. A jury has just made its decision, awarding him $23.2 million.
Along with Carlton Cuse, Johnson created the cop show, with himself and Cheech Marin starring as a pair of Inspectors for the San Francisco Police Department’s Special Investigations Unit. Their characters are known for doing their investigative work from Nash’s vintage yellow Plymouth Barracuda convertible. The show lasted a total of six seasons and is syndicated across the world, having aired in over seventy countries.
After missing out on owning part of the rights to Miami Vice, meaning countless millions of dollars, Johnson wanted to make sure he didn’t make that same mistake with his next series. He retained half of the copyright to Nash Bridges, feeling it “protected me and my rights as an artist.”
Believing that he is owed millions of dollars in back profits, Johnson and his production company, Don Johnson Productions, sued Rysher Entertainment, Qualia Capital (the more recent owner of Rysher), and 2929 Entertainment.
Johnson took the stand in the civil trial. His attorney, Mark Holscher, pointed out to the jury that, at the start of the series, Johnson was still a big name while Rysher was a new company that had never produced a primetime show.
“Most people who try to get television shows on the air shoot pilots and compete, and the studios hire the actors. What we are going to prove to you is different in this case: It is that Don Johnson was hiring the studio,” Holscher said.
The attorney for Rysher contended that producing Nash Bridges was very costly, with high speed car chases, many extras, filming on location, and of course Johnson’s exorbitant salary. He insisted the series still hasn’t recouped production and distribution costs.
In the end, the jury agreed that the production companies needed to honor their end of the contract, amounting to half of the show’s profits for Johnson’s company. Rysher Entertainment claims they are ready to appeal, being “extremely disappointed” in the verdict.
Johnson’s attorney seems to feel this is just the beginning, stating that since the show is currently airing in over forty-five countries, it could generate at least $50 million more over the years, meaning Johnson’s company will be entitled to half of it.
What do you think? Are you surprised to hear Johnson won the lawsuit? Should he have?