Are ‘NCIS’ Franchise Stars Mark Harmon and Scott Bakula Friends in Real Life?

The success of NCIS transferred over to its southern version, NCIS: New Orleans. Fans of both shows know the credit goes to leading men, Mark Harmon as Leroy Jethro Gibbs in the original, and Scott Bakula as Dwayne Pride in the spin-off. The two have appeared together in crossover events, but are Harmon and Bakula friends in real life or is it just a work thing?

Fans can thank sweeps for the ‘NCIS: New Orleans’ spin-off

Mark Harmon and Scott Bakula
Mark Harmon and Scott Bakula | Skip Bolen/CBS via Getty Images

Not that NCIS needed another spin-off to prove itself, but NCIS: New Orleans came along in 2014 and opened the floodgates of possibility. NCIS: Los Angeles began in 2009 — six years after the original took shape.

The NOLA version, which is filmed on-location, took shape when executive producer and star of the series, Mark Harmon, brainstormed ideas with co-executive producer [the late] Gary Glasberg.

The two were looking for specially-created episodes for sweeps week, which tracks viewership numbers. Shows air “special” episodes in different locations or with celebrity guest-stars to attract new fans and obtain bigger ratings.

Harmon and Glasberg decided to set a couple of NCIS episodes on-location in New Orleans. However, Harmon then had the thought, “those aren’t the sweeps episodes. That’s a series,” according to a previous interview with the Television Critics Association (TCA).

Thus, NCIS: New Orleans was introduced through a two-episode story arc on NCIS “against this wonderfully rich backdrop of music and culture and people and all the things that New Orleans has to offer,” Glasberg said.

Harmon and Glasberg always planned for cross-overs

From the start, Glasberg said fans could expect crossover with “the mothership,” as he referred to NCIS. At the time, he touched on a future episode that involved Gibbs (Harmon), Michael Weatherly, Pauley Perrette, and David McCallum.

“That’s the fun of what we have here,” he added.

Multiple NCIS characters have appeared on NCIS: New Orleans. Some all in one episode, while others sporadically. For instance, McCallum appeared in two episodes, “Musician Heal Thyself” in 2014 and “Sister City Part II” in 2016. Pauley Perrette joined McCallum in 2016 but also showed up in the 2014 episode, “Carrier.”

So far, Harmon’ Gibbs has the lead, appearing in four NCIS: New Orleans episodes between 2014-2018. It’s only fair since he helped create the show and remains an executive producer.

It’s unclear if Harmon plans to re-visit Bakula’s Pride in the back half of NCIS: New Orleans Season 6.

Are Harmon and Bakula actually friends or just co-workers?

In the same TCA interview, Harmon explained how he went about choosing Bakula for the role of Pride — who is based on a real former NCIS agent.

“I’ve known Scott for years, and he’s worked with my wife, and we’ve known the same people and run into each other a bunch of times,” he said.

“I think getting an opportunity to play a role like this, and certainly coming off of a successful show like NCIS is a fairly rare opportunity.”

Bakula agreed noting the pressure for the NOLA series to do well.

“We have big shoes to follow, and the hope is where we’re going and with the characters that we’re getting and that are being developed for us, that we can invest and get an audience to invest with us and we can continue this.,” he said.

He continued, “This is kind of potentially a great partnership of a new show. The ball that’s being handed off is a perfect spiral. And there’s pressure that comes with that also. No question about it.”

Harmon pledged his dedication to the New Orleans series

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Harmon added that, because of his experience and success throughout NCIS‘s run, he’s always willing to help.

“I’ve learned a few things in 12 years, and I’ll be glad to pass any of them on or not,” he said.

Bakula knew going in, his role was a special one, based on an extraordinary career of D’Wayne Swear.

“I’m fortunate to have this great, very rich character that exists, that I can plumb for ideas and experiences.” He stressed the work ahead to garner half as much success as “the mothership.

“We have to earn our place. It’s not a given,” he added.

Harmon and Bakula seem to have deep roots that go back a long time. Now, it’s hard to imagine anyone else playing the role of Pride. Hopefully, fans will see another crossover in the near future.

NCIS: New Orleans returns to SBC on Sunday, February 16.