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21 Jump Street Actor Wants to Shake Image

By Monika Guttman, Tribune Media Services
Sun Sentinel, Fort Lauderdale
April 23, 1988

Don't even think of calling Johnny Depp a teen idol.

The handsome star of Fox Broadcasting's hit 21 Jump Street (7 p.m. Sundays, WCIX-Ch. 6, WFLX-Ch. 29) does have more than his fair share of teen fans. And it's only natural that his role in the series as a police officer who works undercover in high schools makes him a heartthrob among the Clearasil set.

But at age 24, the Miramar native is mature, savvy and, as he puts it, “fighting tooth and nail” to avoid any kind of labeling.

“I'm doing everything I can against being put in some teen idol category,” Depp says with a soft voice. “I don't want somebody who's writing the checks to limit me, to put me in a herd of people that ‘can only do teen projects.’ I want to play roles where I have to shave my head, sew my eyeballs shut, all kinds of things. I want to do everything I can.”

Actually, Depp already has appeared in several successful projects with adult appeal: feature films such as Platoon and Nightmare on Elm Street and guest spots on such series as Hotel.

Yet, despite his achievements and his ongoing fight against typecasting, Depp is happy to be a role model for teens. And as someone who has lived through many of the troubles teens come in contact with, Depp is a particularly apt spokesman.

He had his bout with drugs. A guitarist, Depp played club gigs with bands while he was still underage. He dropped out of school in the 11th grade and moved to Los Angeles to pursue a future in music. There was a marriage and divorce.

Depp and his band came to Los Angeles in 1983 in search of a recording deal. “We played some great gigs, with Billy Idol and Los Lobos. But when I got Elm Street, the band sort of fell apart. They weren't real happy that I'd gone off to get this film. Giving up the music pulled at me, too.”

Not that he'd intended to give up the music for acting. “It was all a fluke. I was working days at a phone-sales place, selling ink pens on the phone. But I'd been introduced to actor Nicolas Cage, and he introduced me to his agent. She sent me to read for Nightmare on Elm Street. It was all very strange—it came together so quickly."

-- donated by FANtasticJD

-- photos added by Zone editors