In 1984, 35-year-old Philip Michael Thomas got the biggest break of his career when he was cast as Detective Ricardo Tubbs on Michael Mann’s new NBC drama, Miami Vice. Previously, Thomas had mostly had bit parts on television shows including Starsky and Hutch, Wonder Woman, and Roots: The Next Generations; his biggest job had involved playing a PCP-addicted musician in the 1978 exploitation film Death Drug. In an interview with the Associated Press to discuss Miami Vice, Thomas talked about his plans for future success, which he summarized in four letters: EGOT. “That stands for Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony,” he told the reporter, Jerry Buck. “Hopefully in the next five years I will win all those awards.”
Thomas believed so ardently in EGOT as a manifestation of his dreams that he had the letters engraved on a gold pendant, which he wore around his neck. EGOT was a symbol of achievement in the performing arts, yes, but also of Thomas’s fierce ambition. That duality of talent and thirst—a burning desire to demonstrate exceptional ability on every stage imaginable—encapsulates how the acronym is understood now in popular culture, more than three decades later.
“I really want that Oscar ... I need that EGOT,” Cyndi Lauper told a reporter late last month. Kate Winslet, in a February interview with Reuters, revealed that her 12-year-old son, who is “obsessed with records,” has urged her to chase EGOT status. In a segment filmed for the 2015 BET Hip-Hop Awards, the Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda raps, “Got a Grammy, got a Tony, got an Emmy, goddammit homie, somebody show me the way to the Oscars.” If Jessica Lange wins a Tony Award on Sunday for her role in Long Day’s Journey Into Night, she’ll be three-quarters of the way to “the coveted EGOT,” which Entertainment Weekly pointed out several months before the show was even in previews.