Philip Michael Thomas was born on May 26, 1949, in Columbus, Ohio. After appearing in low-budget roles during the 1970s, Thomas earned his big break by landing the part of Detective Ricardo Tubbs on the 1980s TV series Miami Vice. He released a pair of music albums and provided the voice of a character for two Grand Theft Autovideo games, but struggled to recreate his success from earlier years.
Early Years and Career
Philip Michael Thomas was born on May 26, 1949, in Columbus, Ohio, to father Louis Diggs, a Westinghouse plant foreman, and Lulu McMorris. He grew up with seven half brothers and sisters who used the surname Thomas, the last name of his mother's first husband.
In 1953, Thomas's family moved to the Los Angeles area. He acted in his church's theater group as a child, and at age 15 he became interested in ministry while participating in the Pentecostal Delman Heights Four Square Gospel Church choir. After high school, he earned a one-year scholarship to attend the predominantly black Oakwood College in Huntsville, Alabama, where he studied religion and philosophy.
Thomas transferred to the University of California, Riverside and switched his focus to acting after being influenced by the theater production of Hair. He eventually quit school to pursue an acting career, and appeared in several low-budget features throughout the 1970s.
Show Business Stardom
Thomas's big break came in 1984, when he was tapped for the role of Detective Ricardo "Rico" Tubbs on the Michael Mann-produced cop show Miami Vice. Playing opposite Don Johnson, the two became iconic stars of the 1980s and influenced fashion trends with their suave South Florida personas and styles. Thomas's popularity crossed gender and racial lines, and he reveled in the attention.
During this time, Thomas coined the acronym EGOT—short for the Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony Awards—and proclaimed his aspirations to win all four. Although he fell well short of that goal, he was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for his performance as Detective Tubbs.
The good times ended in 1989 with the cancellation of Miami Vice, as Thomas found himself limited to roles in television movies and an Italian TV series. The mid-1990s saw Thomas become a pitchman for a telephone psychic service and a spokesperson for Nextones, a cell phone entertainment company. In 1997 and again in 2001, he reunited with Johnson as a guest star on the TV series Nash Bridges.
In the 2000s, Thomas worked in the video game industry, providing the voice for character Lance Vance in Grand Theft Auto: Vice City and Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories. In 2006, the film version of Miami Vice hit theaters with Jamie Foxx playing the role of Detective Tubbs, briefly returning Thomas to the spotlight.
Of Native-American, German, Irish and African-American ancestry, Thomas was linked to numerous women at the peak of his career and reportedly is the biological father of approximately a dozen children. Not shy about his star attraction, he once said, "Women see themselves being made love to by me and Don. We are necessary for their fulfillment."
Known for his ego, he has compared himself to influential figures in history, such as Mahatma Gandhi, and famous families: "There are only a few who will be the Fords, the Edisons, the Carnegies, and I think I'm in that number."
Outside of acting, Thomas dabbled in the music industry with the release of two albums, and produced a women's clothing line named PMT.
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