How Johnny Depp Tried To Get Fired From 21 Jump Street (& Why He Left)

How Johnny Depp Tried To Get Fired From 21 Jump Street (& Why He Left)

21 Jump Street cemented Johnny Depp’s status as a teen icon and national star, so why did he try to get fired from the production after season 2?

Johnny Depp tried to get fired from 21 Jump Street numerous times before he eventually left the production in the summer of 1990, but why did Johnny Depp leave 21 Jump Street? First aired on April 12, 1987, the series quickly hones in on a squad of young-looking undercover police officers who are seen investigating crimes in high schools, colleges, and other teenage venues – with their espionage aided by their youthful appearances. 21 Jump Street starred characters played by Johnny Depp, Holly Robinson, Peter DeLuise, and Dustin Nguyen, with the series subsequently accredited with famously launching Depp’s burgeoning career.


While Johnny Depp had seen success with several supporting roles, such as love interest Glen in A Nightmare On Elm Street, it was his casting as Officer Tom Hanson that garnered him national recognition in the late 1980s. 21 Jump Street quickly cemented Depp as a bona fide idol among American teens, with the actor commanding no less than $45,000 per episode at the height of his popularity on the series. Depp’s status as an instantly recognizable teen heartthrob marked quite the reversal of fortunes for the young star, who had previously worked minimum-wage grocery store jobs to supplement a failed music career.

Related: Every Real-Life Person Johnny Depp Has Played (& How They Compared)

Yet, despite giving him his first big break, three-time Oscar nominee Johnny Depp repeatedly tried to get fired from later seasons of 21 Jump Street before the actor eventually left the series in 1990. So how (and why) did Johnny Depp leave 21 Jump Street? As originally reported by The Telegraph in 2006, Depp trashed his trailer in an effort to break free from the “one-dimensional” character he continually played, with his status as a teen idol serving as a source of great irritation to the actor at the time. Depp was eventually allowed to leave the production after 21 Jump Street season 4, following a meeting with director Tim Burton, who granted him the opportunity to branch off into the more complex character roles he had been craving.

Why Johnny Depp Left 21 Jump Street

Johnny Depp 21 Jump Street 1987 TV

Although Johnny Depp remains grateful for the jumpstart 21 Jump Street gave his early movie and TV career, he also remembers being “in a prison, creatively” in later seasons of the show. In the same Telegraph interview, Depp elaborates on his feelings, stating that “it started to get a little show-boaty, you know what I mean? It just started to become false. It started to become this action-packed can of soup, you know? You just market it, and send it out.” This feeling of stagnation, coupled with the series pigeonholing Depp as a teen heartthrob-style character quickly led to the actor’s disillusionment with the 21 Jump Street project.

As a result, Depp reportedly did “everything he could” to get fired from the 21 Jump Street production. Eventually, Edward Scissorhands star Johnny Depp’s hopelessness resulted in the deliberate destruction of his trailer in the hopes of being jettisoned from the series, although even this act of petulance could not convince 20th Century Fox to let go of their most marketable asset mid-season. Eventually, however, Depp was allowed to leave after filming wrapped on 21 Jump Street’s fourth season, with Depp seeking new pastures after his aforementioned encounter with Burton. Depp would go on to act in the more multi-dimensional, challenging roles he had always craved under the veteran director, with 21 Jump Street surviving for just one more season after his premature departure from the project. Depp’s name still appeared in the credits for two 21 Jump Street season 5 episodes despite his absence from them.

How Did Depp Leaving Affect 21 Jump Street?

The exit of Johnny Depp from 21 Jump Street understandably spelled doom for the series. Season 5 went straight to off-network syndication since it was struggling to meet ratings after both Depp and Harry Truman Ioki actor Dustin Nguyen left. Once it had fallen out of its primetime slot, 21 Jump Street quickly got snuffed out, with season 5 being the last one. However, this wasn’t totally the end of the franchise, as the films starring Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill, 21 Jump Street and 22 Jump Street, breathed new life into the concept. Any answer to the question “why did Johnny Depp leave 21 Jump Street?” involves his desire to take on different work and challenge himself, even though it was essentially a death knell for the series. For Tatum and Hill, however, the movie franchise proved to be a snug fit, using their chemistry to hilarious effect.

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Charles Cameron
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A Core Features Editor for Screen Rant specializing in SEO-driven content, Charles Cameron has been managing copy, data reporting, and diverse teams in various forms since 2014. A B.A. graduate of UEL, Charles spent several years in corporate analytics roles before committing to pursuing editing full time. A British native, Charles also is an avid football fan, podcast co-creator, and Brand Strategy & Content Manager for Text Inspector who loves delivering new content en-masse across various forms of media. To date, he’s covered a wide range of TV and Film stories for Screen Rant, including delineating exactly why Gladiator 2 should never see the light of day, detailing numerous left-field fan theories, and reporting Netflix’s ever-changing top 10 movies and TV shows each week. He’s also adamant Revenge of the Sith is the best Star Wars movie out there – which he consistently gets flak for.

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