Mark Harmon Almost Didn’t Star In ‘NCIS’ Because Of One Specific Detail On The Show’s Script

Dec 01, 2023 by apost team

Actor Mark Harmon has been a fixture on television for over 50 years. Most known for his role as special agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs on “NCIS,” who he played for 18 full seasons of the show, Mark has also appeared on a host of other well-loved TV shows. These include “The West Wing,” “St. Elsewhere” and “JAG,” where his “NCIS” character was originally introduced.

Born on Sep. 2, 1951, in Burbank, California. Harmon initially followed in his father’s footsteps and played college football. In 1972 and 1973, he played as a quarterback for the UCLA Bruins. However, he stopped playing football at that level after he graduated in 1974 with a degree in communications.

After he finished his studies, Mark began a career as a merchandising director, but he decided to give acting a go, so he switched to following in his mother’s footsteps. Since his sister Kristin was married to the Nelson family — of “The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet” fame — Mark was lucky to land his first job on the show “Ozzie’s Girls.” 

By the mid-’80s, Mark made an impression in Hollywood thanks to his time on “St. Elsewhere,” and was even named People’s Sexiest Man Alive. He continued to have a solid career as a character actor, but his biggest role only came after he reached his 50s. 

In April 2003, Mark played the role of Leroy Jethro Gibbs for the first time on “JAG,” during a two-episode character arc. Soon after “NCIS” started with Gibbs as a core character and the rest as they say is history.

Following his long-time stint with the show, as he appeared in hundreds of episodes, he revealed in an interview that he almost didn’t take the role. Continue reading to find out what the problem was and what convinced him to accept it.

Mark Harmon (1984), (Ron Galella/Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images)

Mark Harmon has become one of the most iconic actors in the field of television thanks to his role as Leroy Jethro Gibbs, who appeared in over 435 episodes of “NCIS.”

Unfortunately, the actor couldn’t play the character for the rest of his career, so he decided to exit on season 19, episode 4, titled “Great Wide Open” in September 2021. 

Even though the actor was not a part of the cast anymore, actress Diona Reasonover, who plays the role of Kasie Hinds, revealed in an interview with Entertainment Tonight that Harmon didn’t leave the show entirely as he is a significant part of the crew. In addition, he would also visit the set to interact with his former co-stars while filming.

“Mark is still very involved and he still is an [executive producer]... He still comes up to set. He actually came up to tell me how much he loves the script, such a sweetie,” she said as she wrote an episode for season 20.

Many people believed that when Harmon decided to leave the show, the entire series would also end, with even some of the producers of the TV classic coming to believe this.

Charles Floyd Johnson, a producer of “NCIS,” spoke in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, where he shared his feelings:

“We thought [Harmon leaving] was the death knell. Coming in at 6:30 a.m., five days a week, and being the major character that was the linchpin—that’s pretty tough, and he did it for 18 seasons,” he said.

Mark Harmon (2004), (Chris Weeks/FilmMagic via Getty Images)

One of the main reasons why he wanted to leave the program, as explained by the producer, was because he was getting old and wanted to spend more time with his kids.

Initially, Harmon planned to leave around the 15th or 16th season, but Johnson said, “he was so loyal to that crew and so supportive of the show. He was very proud of it, and he stayed on longer than he even intended.”

In November 2023, Harmon sat down with Entertainment Tonight to promote his book titled “Ghosts of Honolulu: A Japanese Spy, A Japanese American Spy Hunter, and the Untold Story of Pearl Harbor.” During the conversation, he discussed the time when the role was offered to him, and he noted that he initially didn’t expect to like the show at all.

“I didn’t expect to like the script as much as I did when I first read it,” he confessed. 

At the time, the actor admitted that he was trying to stay at home as much as possible because he had a “young family and I wanted to try and be home more.” 

However, the reason why he agreed to play the role was because of the name of the lead character, Leroy Jethro Gibbs.

“‘Huh, I like that name,’... And then for a brief second when I decided that I liked the idea of the project, the name changed,” he recalled.

Harmon said the name was changed into something very common like “Bob Johnson,” which he disliked greatly. He insisted that it was going to be a deal-breaker for him even though the creator told him he couldn’t play a role named Leroy Jethro Gibbs, implying that the uncommon name would put audiences off.

Fortunately, something finally convinced the creator to change it, and the actor was “happy about it” and gladly accepted the now iconic role.

Mark Harmon (2014), (Steve Granitz/WireImage via Getty Images)

What do you think of Mark Harmon’s role as Leroy Jethro Gibbs? Do you think the show wouldn’t be the same had he not played the character in the first place? Let us know your thoughts, and make sure to pass this on to your friends and family.

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