It was 1996 when Don Johnson first peeled out in his 1970 Barracuda convertible as the smart-aleck titular character in "Nash Bridges," the CBS police procedural that brought the "Miami Vice" superstar back to prime-time television for six seasons.
The onetime maverick captain of the San Francisco Police Department's elite Special Investigations Unit is still making the wheels squeal more than 25 years later with "Nash Bridges: The Movie," airing Saturday (USA Network, 9 ET/PT).
Johnson, 71, had no problems pulling his SIU screen partner, Joe Dominguez (Cheech Marin), out of retirement. He simply gave Marin, 75, a phone call that demonstrated that Johnson can still crack Nash Bridges-wise a quarter century, and a few gray hairs, later.
"I asked Cheech, 'First of all, are you still alive?' He answered in the affirmative. I said, 'Second question, are you ambulatory?' And he asked the same of me," says Johnson, having a good ol' chuckle. "After we finished (messing) with each other for a few minutes, we realized, this is going to be fun."
Johnson kept the fun going during a video discussion from the home in Montecito, California, he shares with his wife of 22 years, Kelley Phleger.
Question: If Nash Bridges was a cowboy cop in back in 1996, how much do you rein in his conduct in 2021?
Don Johnson: I brought Nash Bridges up to speed and into the 21st century, within the four walls of the character. I sort of extrapolated the growth that I've experienced spiritually and emotionally. Lo and behold, even wisdom showed up, So Nash may even be meditating now.
Q: In one scene, naturally involving a battle ax, Nash Bridges announces, "This is going to hurt." As a frequent screen puncher and punchee, what actually did hurt?
Johnson: I've learned a few tricks in my old age, like making sure you stretch before you do a fight scene. Amazingly enough, we got through all that stuff without injury. I was exercised but not sore or stiff. I stay in pretty good physical condition.
Q: You do look very well – what is your life elixir?
Johnson: I start each day meditating and do something physical every day like hiking or yoga. I started really doing yoga with my wife at the beginning of the pandemic. We went medieval on that. Real serious. I chose wisely to do a regular class with girls – and not men – because they will kick your (butt).
Q: Does this two-hour special signify a backdoor way to a full "Nash Bridges" return?
Johnson: That was probably always in the back of our minds. If it all goes well and we get the right numbers, then yeah, it'd be fun to make some more. And I did realize that my creative fertility around these characters, this tone and San Francisco has gotten really good.
Q: In 2017, there was talk of a Vin Diesel-produced return of your classic 1980s "Miami Vice." Where does that stand?
Johnson: We were supposed to talk. He reached out to me. I reached out to him. Then it never just really culminated. No one's talking to me about ("Miami Vice"). And that's a mistake. The challenge with "Miami Vice" is that it was a very specific time and sensibility. It's obviously going to take on a different tone now. I'm not saying it can't be done, but it's not going to be "Miami Vice." It will be "Vice"-like.
Q: When's the last time you spoke with "Miami Vice" co-star (and "Nash Bridges" guest star) Philip Michael Thomas?
Johnson: We talk two or three times a year because people are always throwing money at us to get us to redo it. It just doesn't make any sense unless you have the full weight and force of Universal Studios behind it.
Q: You just reposted an Instagram photo from Antonio Banderas (ex-husband of Johnson's ex-wife Melanie Griffith) featuring their daughter Stella Banderas posing with your daughter Grace. Are you one big happy extended family?
Johnson: Grace and Stella are like sisters. They love each other. When you have a child with someone, that's forever. So you'd better figure out how to make peace, because what you do and how you behave directly affects that child. We don't, like, hang out all the time together. But it's normal and natural for me to repost Antonio Banderas' photo with both of our daughters. It would be inappropriate for me not to.
Q: Will Dakota Johnson be bringing (Coldplay rocker) Chris Martin home for your family Thanksgiving? There are a lot of engagement reports. What are your thoughts?
Johnson: I have no thoughts on that, and I'm not going to say anything. She is a very private person. She doesn't like it when I talk about her world.
Q: You're going be singing in the season premiere of "Kenan" with Kenan Thompson on Dec. 15. Is this a return to Don Johnson crooning?
Johnson: It's a Christmas song, but not one that you're readily familiar with. It's in the realm of the character. So it's not Don Johnson going, "Woo, here we go again."
Q: In the spirit of all this, is there any chance you might return with ex Barbra Streisand for a follow-up to your 1988 duet, "Till I Loved You"?
Johnson: I'd say no, but you never say never. Hell, anything can happen. Honest to God, I spend most of my days going, "I cannot wait to get up tomorrow and see what the (expletive) is going to happen next.' My life has turned into a very entertaining place.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Don Johnson talks 'Nash Bridges' reboot, 'Miami Vice,' embracing yoga