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Johnny Depp Trashed His Trailer Trying to Get Fired From "21 Jump Street"

The budding film star hated his teen idol image.

Johnny Depp's career has taken a hit in the wake of recent controversies that have prompted major movie studios to stop working with him, but when he was getting his start as an actor in the late '80s, he was actively trying to get fired. One of the now-60-year-old's first major roles was on the TV show 21 Jump Street, and he tried his hardest to get out of doing the show once his film career began to take off. Read on to learn why Depp wanted out of the crime series so much and what he did in an attempt to get the ax.

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Depp was cast as Officer Tom Hanson on 21 Jump Street in 1987.

Johnny Depp in 21 Jump Street

Depp made his screen debut in the 1984 horror classic A Nightmare on Elm Street, where he plays a teen who gets sucked into a bed and turned into a fountain of blood, courtesy of Freddy Kruger. While a memorable moment, it wouldn't be until a few years later that the rising actor got a true leading role that helped propel him to the next level of stardom.

In 1987, he was cast to play Officer Tom Hanson, one of the main characters of the police procedural 21 Jump Street. Hanson, like the rest of the Jump Street squad, is a very young-looking cop, and he uses his youthful appearance to go undercover in high schools and other teen settings. The show ran for five seasons on Fox, making it not only one of the actor's first major hits but also one of Fox's, as the network had only recently launched.

21 Jump Street helped Depp become a teen idol, but it soon became clear that Hanson wasn't the role of his lifetime.

RELATED: 6 '80s TV Shows That Would Never Be Made Today.

He wasn't impressed by the quality of the show—and he had film opportunities.

Depp's lack of enthusiasm for 21 Jump Street became apparent fairly early on. In a 1989 interview, he said he was happy that the show had put him on the map, with the caveat that the accompanying "sex-symbol teen idol stuff" was "not [his] goal." He also revealed a clear disinterest in the series, responding with "work," "contract," and "responsibility," when asked to describe going back for the new season in one word.

"In the first two seasons, I think there was a lot of good stuff going on," the young actor said. "There were good, important messages. But I think that towards the third season, it started to get a little showboat. It just started to become false. Started to become this action-packed can of soup. You just market it and send it out there. I'm not in any way trying to say that it's a bad show, but I'm just saying that after a while, it's not what it started out to be."

However, five years later, Depp was much more harsh about his past gig in an interview with Playboy. He said he didn't enjoy being a heartthrob at all and that he "wanted to be an actor, and that was impossible on TV." Depp also called the premise of the show "fascist" and said that its anti-drug message was hypocritical, as the people making the show (including himself) were frequently getting high.

He acted out in an effort to get fired.

Johnny Depp in 1988
Ron Galella, Ltd./Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images

In addition to his growing dislike of the show, Depp was also eying a film career. He starred in Tim Burton's Edward Scissorhands and John Waters' Cry-Baby in 1990.

"I don't want to bite the hand that feeds me or anything like that," Depp told the Los Angeles Times that same year. "But I would much rather do movies with John Waters than be undercover in a high school carrying a gun."

So, starting with Season 3, Depp started trying to get out of the show, any way he could think of.

"I offered to do a year of the show for free. I hate sounding like, 'Oh, I'm on television and they're paying me a load of money, poor me,' but I would have done two years for free to get out of there," Depp recalled in that Playboy interview. "They were trying to turn me into Menudo, into the New Kids on the Block. I couldn't play that game. I would rather shrink back into everyday life than get stuck being that."

Eventually, things escalated, and The Telegraph reported that Depp "trashed his trailer, caused trouble on the set and did everything possible to free himself from the show."

"It was out of control," he told the paper in 2006. "They created this image, this monster, and they were selling it to the world."

His outbursts worked. Depp's role was reduced in Season 3 compared to the first two seasons, and at the end of Season 4, he was released from his contract. Although he did not appear at all in Season 5, he was still credited in the first two episodes.

RELATED: 20 Stars Who Were Fired From Major Movies.

He played Tom Hanson one more time, years later.

Jonah Hill, Channing Tatum, and Johnny Depp in 21 Jump Street
Columbia Pictures/MGM

Although Depp left 21 Jump Street on what were probably not the best terms, he would play Officer Hanson one more time. In the 2012 movie 21 Jump Street, which starred Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum as much more comical undercover cops, Depp and Peter DeLuise, who played Doug Penhall on the original show, make cameo appearances. Turns out they've become undercover DEA agents, and director Chris Miller tweeted that Depp's costume was so good that co-star Brie Larson thought he was just an extra. It's a funny full-circle moment for Depp and 21 Jump Street, even though Hanson meets a pretty gruesome end in the movie.

James Grebey
James has been an entertainment journalist for more than a decade, writing and editing for outlets like Vulture, Inverse, Polygon, TIME, The Daily Beast, SPIN Magazine, Fatherly, and more. Read more
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