Charles Floyd Johnson

Producer


The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation Presents

02:26

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About
About this interview

In his three-and-a-half-hour interview, Charles Floyd Johnson discusses his early interest in the entertainment industry and attending Howard University for both undergraduate studies and for law school. He talks of being drafted in the Vietnam War and working at Fort Dix, and later working as a lawyer for the U.S. Copyright Office in Washington, D.C. He recalls his move to Los Angeles to pursue his dream of acting and details how he got a job in the Universal mailroom (for three days) before getting hired by Business Affairs as a production coordinator to work on Night Gallery, The Rockford Files, and Toma, among other shows. Johnson describes how he became an associate producer and later a producer on The Rockford Files, working closely with Meta Rosenberg, Stephen J. Cannell, David Chase, and James Garner. He talks about his years producing Magnum, P.I., B.L. Stryker, and the final season of Quantum Leap, and recounts what he enjoys about the craft of producing. He discusses his experiences producing JAG and NCIS and executive producing John Lewis: Get in the Way -- the first documentary on Congressman John Lewis. Johnson also shares his thoughts on how the industry has changed since he started in television, his greatest career achievements and regrets, and how he'd like to be remembered. Adrienne Faillace conducted the interview on March 11, 2020 in Los Angeles, CA.

"To be successful and to have long [series] runs there has to be synergy. There has to be a kind of pride in the work. And you have to be good at spotting talent and putting the right talent in the right places -- in front of the camera and behind the camera. You’re only as good as those people you surround yourself with."  

People Talking About ...
Highlights
Charles Floyd Johnson on executive producing John Lewis: Get in the Way -- the first documentary on Congressman John Lewis
Charles Floyd Johnson on his biggest takeaways from producing The Rockford Files
Charles Floyd Johnson on 9/11 occurring while JAG was in production and how it impacted the show
Charles Floyd Johnson on Magnum, P.I. being a show about Vietnam veterans returning home
Charles Floyd Johnson on how NCIS got its start -- as a backdoor pilot/spin-off of JAG -- and why it was called NCIS
Charles Floyd Johnson on his proudest career achievements: projects that dealt with color and race (Voices of Our People: A Celebration of Black Poetry, Red Tails, John Lewis: Get in the Way) and the variety of programs that he's had a chance to work on
Full Interview

Chapter 1

On his early years and influences; on acting in plays growing up; on attending boarding school and being one of two African-American students at the school; on always wanting to work in the entertainment industry and his early film and television influences
On attending Howard University, being a member of the Howard University Players, majoring in political science and history, and minoring in education; on attending Howard Law School; on being drafted in the Vietnam War and working at Fort Dix; on working for the U.S. Copyright Office in Washington, D.C.; on working on legal projects in Delaware and Sweden; on moving to Los Angeles; on his trips to Paris
On attending Perpetual Theatre Workshop in Los Angeles; on getting a job in the Universal mailroom (for 3 days) and then getting hired by Business Affairs as a production coordinator; on working on Night Gallery, The Rockford Files, and Toma; on becoming an associate producer and later a producer on The Rockford Files; on working with Meta Rosenberg, Stephen J. Cannell, and David Chase on The Rockford Files
On working with James Garner on The Rockford Files and several other shows; on guest stars on The Rockford Files; on winning an Emmy in 1978; on his biggest takeaways from producing The Rockford Files and the legacy of the show; on staying at Universal Studios until 1980, working on the second pilot of Simon & Simon, and on Hellinger's Law
On leaving Universal for Warner Bros. to produce Bret Maverick; on meeting Don Bellissario and getting brought in to produce Magnum, P.I.; on producing the pilot of Baa Baa Black Sheep; on moving to Hawaii to produce Magnum, P.I.; on changes he made to the show, working with the cast and crew, memorable episodes, and the success of the show

Chapter 2

On producing B.L. Stryker in Florida; on producing the last season of Quantum Leap; on shooting Magnum, P.I. at the same studio where Hawaii Five-O was shot
On the craft of producing and why he enjoys it; on his role models and lessons he's learned from them; on how his background as an actor and a lawyer helps him as a producer
On producing JAG; on changes he made to the show; on working with the Navy; on 9/11 and how it was incorporated into the show; on the short-lived show First Monday; on ratings and demographics of JAG
On the domestic and international success of NCIS; on cast and showrunner changes on NCIS; on guest stars and spin-offs of NCIS

Chapter 3

On executive producing John Lewis: Get in the Way -- the first documentary on Congressman John Lewis
On how television has changed since he first started in the industry; on how opportunities for African Americans have changed since he first started in the industry; on teaching at Georgia Southern University and advice for students who want to become producers
On the value of oral history interviews; on his proudest career achievements: projects that dealt with color (Voices of Our People: A Celebration of Black Poetry, Red Tails, and John Lewis: Get in the Way) and the variety of programs that he's had a chance to work on; on career regrets; on how he'd like to be remembered
Shows

B.L. Stryker

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Charles Floyd Johnson on producing B.L. Stryker in Florida

Baa-Baa Black Sheep

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Charles Floyd Johnson on producing the pilot of Baa Baa Black Sheep

Bret Maverick

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Charles Floyd Johnson on leaving Universal for Warner Bros. to produce the reboot of Maverick called Bret Maverick

Ed Sullivan Show, The aka Toast of the Town

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Charles Floyd Johnson on watching Toast of the Town, which often featured performers of color

First Monday

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Charles Floyd Johnson on working with James Garner on First Monday
Charles Floyd Johnson on working on JAG, NCIS, and First Monday at the same time

Hawaii Five-O

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Charles Floyd Johnson on shooting Magnum, P.I. at the same studio where Hawaii Five-O had just shut down production

JAG

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Charles Floyd Johnson on liking Brock Peters in the film Carmen Jones, becoming good friends with him, and later casting him in Peters' last role, on JAG
Charles Floyd Johnson on producing JAG and changes he made to the show
Charles Floyd Johnson on the relationship between "Harm" and "Mac" on JAG
Charles Floyd Johnson on working with the Navy on JAG, and on notes from Standards & Practices and the Navy
Charles Floyd Johnson on 9/11 occurring while JAG was in production and how it impacted the show
Charles Floyd Johnson on having a recurring on-camera role as "Dr. Bruce Gasden" on JAG
Charles Floyd Johnson on JAG coming to an end
Charles Floyd Johnson on the demographics on JAG

John Lewis: Get in the Way

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Charles Floyd Johnson on executive producing John Lewis: Get in the Way -- the first documentary on Congressman John Lewis

Magnum, P. I.

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Charles Floyd Johnson on getting brought in to produce Magnum, P.I.
Charles Floyd Johnson on working with Don Bellisario on Magnum, P.I., moving to Hawaii, and changes he made to the show - bringing writers to Hawaii, and on working with the cast and crew
Charles Floyd Johnson on writing several episodes of Magnum, P.I.
Charles Floyd Johnson on co-writing the "Limbo" episode of Magnum, P.I. -- at one point it was supposed to be a series finale
Charles Floyd Johnson on the "Did You See the Sunrise?" episode of Magnum, P.I. -- an episode that Standards & Practices and sponsors had concerns about
Charles Floyd Johnson on Magnum, P.I. being a show about Vietnam veterans returning home
Charles Floyd Johnson on Magnum, P.I. crossover episodes with Simon & Simon and Murder, She Wrote
Charles Floyd Johnson on Frank Sinatra appearing in an episode of Magnum, P.I.
Charles Floyd Johnson on Magnum, P.I. ending after eight seasons
Charles Floyd Johnson on the identity of Robin Masters on Magnum, P.I.
Charles Floyd Johnson on the success, popularity, and ratings of Magnum, P.I.
Charles Floyd Johnson on not being consulted on the reboot of Magnum, P.I.
Charles Floyd Johnson on shooting Magnum, P.I. at the same studio where Hawaii Five-O had just shut down production

Murder, She Wrote

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Charles Floyd Johnson on Magnum, P.I. crossover episodes with Simon & Simon and Murder, She Wrote

NCIS

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Charles Floyd Johnson on asking James Garner to play Mark Harmon's father on NCIS
Charles Floyd Johnson on incorporating Marie Kondo into NCIS
Charles Floyd Johnson on incorporating real organizations on NCIS
Charles Floyd Johnson on working on JAG, NCIS, and First Monday at the same time
Charles Floyd Johnson on the domestic and international success of NCIS
Charles Floyd Johnson on how NCIS got its start -- as a backdoor pilot/spin-off of JAG -- and why it was called NCIS
Charles Floyd Johnson on cast changes over the years on NCIS and how that has impacted the show
Charles Floyd Johnson on guest stars on NCIS
Charles Floyd Johnson on planning season arcs on NCIS
Charles Floyd Johnson on the look of NCIS and the "foofs"
Charles Floyd Johnson on Don Bellisario's departure from NCIS and how it impacted the show, and on the producers and showrunners on NCIS over the years
Charles Floyd Johnson on how long NCIS might run for and whether or not the show could go on without Mark Harmon
Charles Floyd Johnson on how he taught students about producing: by dissecting an episode of NCIS from pre to post-production

NCIS: Los Angeles

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Charles Floyd Johnson on JAG's "Harm" and "Mac" appearing on NCIS: Los Angeles
Charles Floyd Johnson on his involvement with spin-offs of NCIS -- NCIS: Los Angeles and NCIS: New Orleans

NCIS: New Orleans

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Charles Floyd Johnson on his involvement with spin-offs of NCIS -- NCIS: Los Angeles and NCIS: New Orleans

Night Gallery

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Charles Floyd Johnson on being a production coordinator on Night Gallery

Quantum Leap

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Charles Floyd Johnson on how he came to produce the last season of Quantum Leap
Charles Floyd Johnson on the research on Quantum Leap -- particularly on the episodes dealing with historical moments like JFK's assassination, and on not having permanent sets
Charles Floyd Johnson on the two-part "Lee Harvey Oswald" episode of Quantum Leap and Don Bellisario's connection to Oswald
Charles Floyd Johnson on the series finale of Quantum Leap
Charles Floyd Johnson on a possible reboot of Quantum Leap for Peacock

Rockford Files, The

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Charles Floyd Johnson on being a production coordinator on The Rockford Files
Charles Floyd Johnson on becoming an associate producer on The Rockford Files and giving up his acting career, and on working with James Garner
Charles Floyd Johnson on writing answering machine messages for The Rockford Files
Charles Floyd Johnson on issues with Standards & Practices on The Rockford Files
Charles Floyd Johnson on The Rockford Files winning the Emmy for best drama in 1978
Charles Floyd Johnson on his biggest takeaways from producing The Rockford Files
Charles Floyd Johnson on the legacy of The Rockford Files: humor

Simon & Simon

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Charles Floyd Johnson on working on the second pilot of Simon & Simon
Topics

9/11

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Charles Floyd Johnson on 9/11 occurring while JAG was in production and how it impacted the show

Advice

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Charles Floyd Johnson on what he learned from watching his role models
Charles Floyd Johnson on advice to students who want to be producers

Barack Obama

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Charles Floyd Johnson on the many guest stars on NCIS: Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden

Censorship / Standards & Practices

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Charles Floyd Johnson on the "Did You See the Sunrise?" episode of Magnum, P.I. -- an episode that Standards & Practices and sponsors had concerns about
Charles Floyd Johnson on issues with Standards & Practices on The Rockford Files
Charles Floyd Johnson on notes from Standards & Practices and the Navy on JAG

Civil Rights Movement

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Charles Floyd Johnson on his involvement in the Civil Rights Movement
Charles Floyd Johnson on executive producing John Lewis: Get in the Way -- the first documentary on Congressman John Lewis

Creative Influences and Inspiration

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Charles Floyd Johnson on role models in his career and what he's learned from them

Diversity in Television

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Charles Floyd Johnson on being the sole, or one of very few, associate producers of color when he accepted the job on The Rockford Files
Charles Floyd Johnson on how opportunities for African Americans have changed since he first started in the industry
Charles Floyd Johnson on addressing a racist comment made to him early in his career

Emmy Awards

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Charles Floyd Johnson on winning an Emmy for best drama as a producer on The Rockford Files

Historic Events and Social Change

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Charles Floyd Johnson on being the sole, or one of very few, associate producers of color when he accepted the job on The Rockford Files
Charles Floyd Johnson on Magnum, P.I. being a show about Vietnam veterans returning home
Charles Floyd Johnson on 9/11 occurring while JAG was in production and how it impacted the show
Charles Floyd Johnson on meeting John F. Kennedy, attending his inauguration, and watching his funeral procession
Charles Floyd Johnson on his involvement in the Civil Rights Movement
Charles Floyd Johnson on executive producing John Lewis: Get in the Way -- the first documentary on Congressman John Lewis
Charles Floyd Johnson on how opportunities for African Americans have changed since he first started in the industry
Charles Floyd Johnson on addressing a racist comment made to him early in his career

JFK Assassination and Funeral

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Charles Floyd Johnson on meeting John F. Kennedy, attending his inauguration, and watching his funeral procession

Pivotal Career Moments

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Charles Floyd Johnson on role models in his career and what he's learned from them

Technological Innovation

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Charles Floyd Johnson on how computers and fax machines impacted TV production
Charles Floyd Johnson on how evolving technology has impacted television production

Television Industry

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Charles Floyd Johnson on the "Did You See the Sunrise?" episode of Magnum, P.I. -- an episode that Standards & Practices and sponsors had concerns about
Charles Floyd Johnson on issues with Standards & Practices on The Rockford Files
Charles Floyd Johnson on notes from Standards & Practices and the Navy on JAG
Charles Floyd Johnson on what he learned from watching his role models
Charles Floyd Johnson on how television has changed since he first started in the industry
Charles Floyd Johnson on advice to students who want to be producers

Television and the Presidency

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Charles Floyd Johnson on the many guest stars on NCIS: Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden

Underrepresented Voices

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Charles Floyd Johnson on being the sole, or one of very few, associate producers of color when he accepted the job on The Rockford Files
Charles Floyd Johnson on how opportunities for African Americans have changed since he first started in the industry
Charles Floyd Johnson on addressing a racist comment made to him early in his career

Vietnam War

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Charles Floyd Johnson on Magnum, P.I. being a show about Vietnam veterans returning home

War

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Charles Floyd Johnson on Magnum, P.I. being a show about Vietnam veterans returning home
Professions

Producers

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Charles Floyd Johnson on becoming an associate producer on The Rockford Files
Charles Floyd Johnson on becoming a producer on The Rockford Files and what that role entailed
Charles Floyd Johnson on his biggest takeaways from producing The Rockford Files
Charles Floyd Johnson on the craft of producing and what he enjoys about it
Charles Floyd Johnson on how his background as an actor and a lawyer has helped him as a producer
Charles Floyd Johnson on his methods for teaching students about producing
Charles Floyd Johnson on advice to students who want to be producers

Production Professionals

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Charles Floyd Johnson on being a production coordinator at Universal Studios
Genres

Cop/Detective/Mystery Series

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Charles Floyd Johnson on producing The Rockford Files
Charles Floyd Johnson on producing Magnum, P.I.
Charles Floyd Johnson on producing B.L. Stryker

Drama Series

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Charles Floyd Johnson on producing NCIS

Legal Dramas

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Charles Floyd Johnson on producing JAG

News and Documentary

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Charles Floyd Johnson on executive producing John Lewis: Get in the Way -- the first documentary on Congressman John Lewis

Sci-Fi/Supernatural Series

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Charles Floyd Johnson on producing Quantum Leap
People

Sasha Alexander

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Charles Floyd Johnson on Robyn Lively starring in the NCIS backdoor pilot and Sasha Alexander replacing her when the show went to series
Charles Floyd Johnson on Sasha Alexander's departure from NCIS

Scott Bakula

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Charles Floyd Johnson on helping to get Scott Bakula cast on NCIS: New Orleans

Juanita Bartlett

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Charles Floyd Johnson on meeting Stephen J. Cannell and Juanita Bartlett on The Rockford Files

Catherine Bell

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Charles Floyd Johnson on Catherine Bell becoming the new female lead on JAG
Charles Floyd Johnson on the relationship between "Harm" and "Mac" on JAG

Donald Bellisario

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Charles Floyd Johnson on meeting Don Bellissario and getting brought in to produce Magnum, P.I.
Charles Floyd Johnson on working with Don Bellisario on Magnum, P.I. and ultimately moving to Hawaii to produce the show
Charles Floyd Johnson on the two-part "Lee Harvey Oswald" episode of Quantum Leap and Don Bellisario's connection to Oswald
Charles Floyd Johnson on how he came to work on JAG
Charles Floyd Johnson on Catherine Bell becoming the new female lead on JAG
Charles Floyd Johnson on how NCIS got its start: as a spin-off of JAG and changing it from a Law & Order format to solely an investigative show
Charles Floyd Johnson on the look of NCIS and the "foofs"
Charles Floyd Johnson on Don Bellisario's departure from NCIS and how it impacted the show

Maria Bello

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Charles Floyd Johnson on the relationship between "Gibbs" and "Sloane" on NCIS

Jill Biden

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Charles Floyd Johnson on the many guest stars on NCIS: Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden

Steven D. Binder

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Charles Floyd Johnson on the showrunners on NCIS

Steven Bochco

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Charles Floyd Johnson on meeting Steven Bochco

Stephen J. Cannell

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Charles Floyd Johnson on meeting Stephen J. Cannell and Juanita Bartlett on The Rockford Files
Charles Floyd Johnson on working with Stephen J. Cannell on The Rockford Files and Cannell encouraging him to write

Frank Cardea

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Charles Floyd Johnson on the showrunners on NCIS

Rocky Carroll

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Charles Floyd Johnson on Rocky Carroll's summation of the success of NCIS

David Chase

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Charles Floyd Johnson on going to Paris with David Chase and Meta Rosenberg
Charles Floyd Johnson on David Chase joining The Rockford Files and becoming a producer at the same time Charles did

Ossie Davis

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Charles Floyd Johnson on working with Ossie Davis on B.L. Stryker and how much Ossie Davis loved his wife, Ruby Dee

Ruby Dee

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Charles Floyd Johnson on working with Ossie Davis on B.L. Stryker and how much Ossie Davis loved his wife, Ruby Dee

Philip Deguard

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Charles Floyd Johnson on working on the second pilot of Simon & Simon, written by Philip Deguard, and learning about location shooting

Kathleen Dowdey

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Charles Floyd Johnson on executive producing John Lewis: Get in the Way -- the first documentary on Congressman John Lewis

David James Elliott

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Charles Floyd Johnson on the relationship between "Harm" and "Mac" on JAG

James Garner

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Charles Floyd Johnson on working with James Garner on multiple TV shows

Gary Glasberg

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Charles Floyd Johnson on showrunner Gary Glasberg's death and how it impacted NCIS

Mark Harmon

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Charles Floyd Johnson on Mark Harmon as "Leroy Jethro Gibbs" and how Harmon works with the cast on NCIS
Charles Floyd Johnson on the relationship between "Gibbs" and "Sloane" on NCIS
Charles Floyd Johnson on how long NCIS might run for and whether or not the show could go on without Mark Harmon

Roy Huggins

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Charles Floyd Johnson on being a production coordinator on The Rockford Files (and on Huggins' shows Toma and Alias Smith and Jones)
Charles Floyd Johnson on tensions between Meta Rosenberg and Roy Huggins on The Rockford Files, Roy Huggins' leaving the show, and Charles getting hired as an associate producer

John F. Kennedy

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Charles Floyd Johnson on meeting John F. Kennedy

Angela Lansbury

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Charles Floyd Johnson on working with Angela Lansbury during a crossover episode of Magnum, P.I. and Murder, She Wrote

John Lewis

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Charles Floyd Johnson on executive producing John Lewis: Get in the Way -- the first documentary on Congressman John Lewis

Robyn Lively

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Charles Floyd Johnson on Robyn Lively starring in the NCIS backdoor pilot and Sasha Alexander replacing her when the show went to series

Leslie Moonves

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Charles Floyd Johnson on Catherine Bell becoming the new female lead on JAG

Rita Moreno

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Charles Floyd Johnson on working with Rita Moreno on B.L. Stryker and The Rockford Files

Michelle Obama

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Charles Floyd Johnson on the many guest stars on NCIS: Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden

Lee Harvey Oswald

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Charles Floyd Johnson on the two-part "Lee Harvey Oswald" episode of Quantum Leap and Don Bellisario's connection to Oswald

Cote de Pablo

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Charles Floyd Johnson on Cote de Pablo joining NCIS and on "Tiva" - the pairing of "Ziva," played by Cote de Pablo, and "Tony," played by Michael Weatherly, and on "Ziva's" return over the years

Pauley Perrette

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Charles Floyd Johnson on Pauley Perrette's departure from NCIS and bringing on Diona Reasonover

Brock Peters

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Charles Floyd Johnson on liking Brock Peters in the film Carmen Jones, becoming good friends with him, and later casting him in Peters' last role, on JAG

Diona Reasonover

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Charles Floyd Johnson on Pauley Perrette's departure from NCIS and bringing on Diona Reasonover

Burt Reynolds

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Charles Floyd Johnson on working with Burt Reynolds on B.L. Stryker in Florida

Meta Rosenberg

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Charles Floyd Johnson on going to Paris with David Chase and Meta Rosenberg
Charles Floyd Johnson on tensions between Meta Rosenberg and Roy Huggins on The Rockford Files and Roy Huggins' leaving the show
Charles Floyd Johnson on working with Meta Rosenberg on The Rockford Files

George Schenck

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Charles Floyd Johnson on the showrunners on NCIS

Tom Selleck

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Charles Floyd Johnson on working with Tom Selleck and becoming close friends
Charles Floyd Johnson on joining Tom Selleck's production company
Charles Floyd Johnson on working with Tom Selleck as an Executive Producer on B.L. Stryker in Florida

Frank Sinatra

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Charles Floyd Johnson on working with Frank Sinatra on an episode of Magnum, P.I. -- his last dramatic role before he died

Wilmer Valderrama

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Charles Floyd Johnson on Wilmer Valderrama joining the cast of NCIS and the relationship between "Bishop" and "Torres"

Michael Weatherly

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Charles Floyd Johnson on Cote de Pablo joining NCIS and on "Tiva" - the pairing of "Ziva," played by Cote de Pablo, and "Tony," played by Michael Weatherly
Charles Floyd Johnson on Michael Weatherly's final episode of NCIS and leaving to star in Bull

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