PHILIP MICHAEL THOMAS : MULTIDIMENSIONAL MAN OF TV’S ‘MIAMI VICE’
Philip Michael Thomas bent over an envelope, working out the numerological charts of a visitor, and mused, “My life is so interesting.”
With that gem of an understatement, the co-star of NBC’s hit series “Miami Vice” proceeded to spend the next 20 minutes discussing what the charts showed him about his visitor.
It’s not that Thomas is reticent. “This helps me stimulate my mind,” he explained.
So what do his calculations show him about himself?
“I am on such a strong power. I just turned 36, which is a nine--three plus six is nine--and after this year it’s like ones and eights, power, power, power, power, all the way.”
Thomas, who says he never had to follow the path of many actors and wash dishes for a living, now finds himself at the center of a hurricane of attention created by “Miami Vice,” a series he likens to “alchemy on film.”
If it is sometimes scary, it comes to him as no surprise after a career that began at age 19 when he won a part in the San Francisco production of “Hair.”
“I must admit I get taken aback sometimes but I knew it would happen, and knew it would happen when I first got in the business because I’ve never settled for less than 100%.”
Thomas is a man of contagious self-confidence. His energy is almost palpable; his mind flashes at Mach speed from subject to subject, ranging in the span of a few minutes from computers to ancient Egypt to space travel to television.
He’s brimming with plans for his new album, a possible TV special and a line of women’s clothing, full of praise for his co-workers on “Miami Vice” and eager to show others a path they can follow to success.
“I constantly construct and reconstruct my consciousness, and I’m constantly learning,” he said on a break in recent filming here of next fall’s season premiere of “Miami Vice.”
“I believe if a man hasn’t found something worth standing for then a man will fall for anything, and I do have some pretty solid things that I live by. It’s just a matter of passing on things.”
He calls television “neurolinguistic programming, or hypnosis,” that leaves a permanent image in the brain. Striving for excellence is essential “because not too many of us know any history past television. It is the thing that is the guiding light. We have to have people that are sensitive to humanity because it could be very destructive.”
Thomas plays Ricardo Tubbs, a New York beat cop who follows his brother’s killer to Miami and winds up staying to work with vice detective Sonny Crockett, played by Don Johnson.
“Philip has immense natural talent, immense grace,” said “Miami Vice” executive producer Michael Mann.
Mann said Thomas represents “a new kind of black man on television, and movies as far as that goes”--an “extremely sophisticated, urbane black man who’s proud of and draws from black culture . . . without making it into his identity.”
“That’s very nice,” said Thomas. “I couldn’t have said it any better.”
For his part, Thomas calls himself “American gumbo”--part American black, part American Indian, part Irish and part German.
It’s a combination that hasn’t always been irresistible to image makers. Thomas, who has green eyes and coppery skin, recalls making the rounds of modeling agencies only to have them say, “Uh . . . what are you?”
“Isn’t it interesting the way times change?” he asked.
When he first went after the role of Tubbs, “they thought I was a terrific actor but I wasn’t right for the part.”
“I was in the last 10 of the Tubbses and Don was in the last 10 of the Crocketts.” Thomas was almost out the door when he was called back to read with Johnson. “The magic was there and they saw it . . . and the rest is history.”
Now, the ratings are way up and he’s being mobbed by fans.
“The phenomenon that is taking place across the board on all dimensions, not only just the covers of magazines but what is happening in the hearts of people that watch it every Friday night, it blows my mind,” he said.
Thomas sees “Miami Vice” as a steppingstone in his five-year plan to win each of the major entertainment awards--the Emmy, the Grammy, the Oscar and the Tony.
“It feels so good to know that you’re there,” he said. “It’s no longer a dream . . . I am living it.”
Meanwhile, “I’m still learning to work harder than ever, to keep it moving,” he said. “It’s been fantastic, but I recognize that I’ve got to go back to the drawing board, continue to be creative, continue to let the light shine and continue to be multidimensional.”
It's a date
Get our L.A. Goes Out newsletter, with the week's best events, to help you explore and experience our city.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.