Glenn Frey’s Acting Career: From ‘Miami Vice’ to ‘Jerry Maguire’
The ’80s were the decade of the singing actor, with everyone from Rick Springfield and Don Johnson to Bruce Willis and soap star Jack Wagner scoring Top 40 hits while maintaining successful Hollywood careers. After the Eagles split in 1980, co-founder Glenn Frey decided to take his own shot at acting stardom.
Frey’s first role, fittingly enough, came in an episode of Miami Vice whose storyline had been inspired by his song “Smuggler’s Blues.” Airing in the midst of the show’s first season, “Smuggler’s Blues” found main characters Crockett and Tubbs (Johnson and Philip Michael Thomas) embarking on a secret mission to flush out a DEA leak with the aid of a guitar-toting pilot (Frey) who flies them to Colombia. Aided by its inclusion on the show’s soundtrack album, the single hit the Top 15, sandwiched between a pair of other singles that got a lift from television and film: “The Heat Is On” (from the Beverly Hills Cop soundtrack) and “You Belong to the City” (also on the Miami Vice soundtrack).
Displaying a knack for portraying morally ambiguous guys, Frey parlayed his Miami Vice role into a string of other TV appearances, including a supporting role on the CBS crime drama Wiseguy, and moved into film with 1986’s Let’s Get Harry. Meanwhile, he continued to pursue his solo career into the early ’90s, releasing 1988’s Top 40 hit Soul Searchin’ and 1992’s Strange Weather while adding another soundtrack hit to his discography with the Thelma and Louise Adult Contemporary Top 10 single “Part of Me, Part of You.”
After the Eagles reunited in the early ’90s, Frey’s solo career — and acting ambitions – took a back seat. An attempt to turn him into a weekly leading man with the 1993 detective drama South of Sunset fizzled after one episode, but he continued to surface irregularly with memorable supporting appearances in Jerry Maguire and Arli$$ — and he even got the chance to reunite with Johnson during an episode of Nash Bridges. But he always returned to the band that, in many ways, offered him the role of a lifetime, and the one he was born to play. His final screen credit came courtesy of History of the Eagles, the 2013 documentary that offered a warts-and-all look at one of the most successful careers in modern American music.
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