Miami Vice Wiki

Miguel Piñero


Miami Vice Characters
Miami Vice Writer
December 19, 1946, Gurabo, Puerto Rico
June 16, 1988, New York, New York (Age 41, liver disease)

Miguel Piñero (December 19, 1946 - June 16, 1988) was a Puerto Rican actor, playwright, and co-founder of the Nuyorican Poets Club. He appeared as Esteban Calderone, patriarch of the Calderone drug cartel in the episodes "Brother's Keeper", "Calderone's Return (Part I)" and "Calderone's Return (Part II)" and Esteban Revilla, head of the Revilla drug cartel in the episode "The Prodigal Son", and wrote the episode "Smuggler's Blues" of the series Miami Vice.

Early Life/Career

Piñero was born in Gurabo, Puerto Rico, and when he was four, moved with his parents to Lower East Side New York. His father abandoned the family in 1954 and his mother moved into a basement and lived off of welfare. His first of what would be many criminal convictions was at the age of eleven, for theft. He was sent to the Juvenile Detention Center in the Bronx. Piñero joined a street gang called "The Dragons" when he was 13 and when he was 14 he was hustling in the streets. Before Piñero had reached his 20th birthday, he was a drug addict with a long criminal record. In 1972, while serving a prison sentence for armed robbery in Sing Sing Prison, Piñero wrote the play Short Eyes based on his prison experiences. Two years later, the play was presented at Manhattan's Riverside Church, then moved to Broadway after Joseph Papp, founder of the New York Shakespearian Festival, saw the play. Short Eyes was nominated for six Tony Awards, was awarded an Obie Award and the New York Drama Critics Circle Award for Best Play. After more success in Europe, the play was turned into a successful book. After Piñero was released from prison, he continued to write, then made his TV debut in episodes of Kojak and Baretta, then appeared in the movie Short Eyes (with Shawn Elliott, Luis Guzman and Tito Goya), based on his play. He later teamed up with Michael Mann in the TV movie The Jericho Mile (with Ed Lauter). He also founded the Nuyroican (New York-Puerto Rican) Poets Cafe, a place for performance of poetry about being Puerto Rican in New York. In 1981, he appeared in Fort Apache, The Bronx (with Goya, Pam Grier, and Pepe Serna), followed by roles in Breathless and Deal of the Century. Despite his successes in film and writing, his drug addiction only intensified.

Miami Vice

Seeing his potential, Mann cast Piñero in the role of drug lord Esteban Calderone in the pilot episode to Miami Vice, "Brother's Keeper". Piñero would later reprise his role in "Calderone's Return (Part I)" and "Part II", where the drug lord put a hit on Crockett and, after Lou Rodriguez was murdered, Crockett and Tubbs pursued the drug king to St. Andrews Island, where Tubbs had a tryst with his daughter, Angelina (played by Phanie Napoli) and Crockett ended up killing Calderone. Piñero would later write the episode "Smuggler's Blues" (some elements of which were incorporated into the Miami Vice film). He also appeared as another drug lord, Esteban Revilla, in the second season opener "The Prodigal Son"; for this appearance he grew his hair longer, shaved his moustache, and wore a hat to help differentiate himself from his earlier Calderone character.

After Vice/Death/Piñero

Piñero only made two more appearances on TV, in the series The Equalizer and D. C. Cops, and his health began deteriorating. Piñero suffered from cirrhosis, possibly from his heavy drug use, and he succumbed to the disease on June 16, 1988, at age 41. As per a poem he wrote in 1985, "Lower East Side Poem", his ashes were scattered in his beloved neighborhood. After his death, a film based on his life, Piñero, written and directed by Leon Ichaso, co-produced by John Leguizamo (who, coincidentally, played Calderone's son Orlando), starring Benjamin Bratt in the title role and also starring Rita Moreno, also of Miami Vice descent as Congresswoman Madelyn Woods of season five episode eleven in "Miami Squeeze".