Mark Harmon, renowned for his portrayal of Leroy Jethro Gibbs on the hit television show NCIS, has become one of those actors whose character is perhaps more famous than the actor himself. Harmon dedicated an impressive 18 seasons to the role of Gibbs, but in 2021, the time came for him to bid farewell to the character. After months of speculation surrounding his potential departure, Harmon confirmed that he would indeed be leaving the show.
Executive producer and showrunner Steven D. Binder, however, hinted at the possibility of Harmon’s return in the future. While Harmon has been involved in the entertainment industry throughout his adult life, the past two decades have predominantly revolved around his role as Leroy Jethro Gibbs on NCIS. This portrayal earned him Emmy nominations and other notable accolades.
Mark Harmon, who was born on September 2, 1951, in Burbank, California, seemed destined for a career in either football or acting from an early age. His father, Tom Harmon, was a former player and broadcaster, and his mother, Elyse Know, was an artist and actress. Surprisingly, Harmon was initially unaware of his parents’ fame, as they kept their celebrity status separate from their family life.
Accompanying his father to broadcasting games as a child, Harmon developed an interest in the entertainment industry. This interest intensified when he spent time with his sister-in-law’s husband, pop star Ricky Nelson, who was acting on the sitcom The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet. Harmon’s exposure to the television set and the behind-the-scenes workings of the show sparked his passion for acting.
Abandoning his aspirations of a professional football career, Harmon decided to pursue acting instead. He received acting lessons and landed his first roles in films and television series. Throughout his career, Harmon had the privilege of working with esteemed actors like Michael Caine and Jason Robards, who became his mentors.
After appearing in various television series such as 240 Robert, Flamingo Road, and making guest appearances on The Love Boat, Harmon found his breakthrough role as a series regular on the drama St. Elsewhere. During this time, he also started his own family. Harmon met actress Pam Dawber, whom he started dating, and the couple eventually tied the knot in 1987. They prioritized privacy as a protective measure, given their celebrity status.
Despite his rising fame as an actor, Harmon began to feel the strain of a demanding career, leading him to reevaluate his priorities. Recognizing the importance of cherishing family moments, he made the life-altering decision to step back from the spotlight. It was during this period that he received the script for a new show called NCIS, which intrigued him with its humor and the compelling character of Leroy Jethro Gibbs.
NCIS premiered in September 2003 and initially took time to gain recognition. However, once it gained momentum, it became a global success, captivating millions of viewers worldwide. The show’s popularity led to numerous spin-offs, including NCIS: New Orleans, NCIS: Los Angeles, and NCIS: Hawaii. Over the years, NCIS received multiple award nominations, including Primetime Emmys, and Mark Harmon himself received accolades and won the People’s Choice Award for Favorite TV Crime Drama Actor in 2017.
While NCIS brought immense fame to Harmon, he admitted that he struggled to grasp the show’s international reach. He found it overwhelming to be recognized by fans wherever he went, particularly at airports. Harmon also had a complicated relationship with his co-star Pauley Perrette, who played “Abby” on the show. Their relationship turned icy, and Perrette left the show in 2017 after 15 seasons.
After a remarkable 418 episodes, the time came for Harmon’s departure from NCIS. His final episode as Leroy Jethro Gibbs aired on October 9, with CBS Entertainment President Kelly Kahl confirming the news. Despite his departure, Harmon’s connection to the show remains strong, and the possibility of his return remains open, as hinted by executive producer Steven D. Binder.
Mark Harmon’s exceptional acting skills and dedication to his role on NCIS have solidified his status as a legendary figure. Fans around the world will undoubtedly miss his presence on the show, but they can eagerly anticipate witnessing his talent in future endeavors.