Mark Harmon Made ‘Such an Impression’ on Sean Murray Long Before ‘NCIS’

Mark Harmon exited NCIS this past season after starring as Leroy Jethro Gibbs for more than 400 episodes. Gibbs led a team that included Sean Murray’s Agent Tim McGee, who joined the series halfway through season 1. And during those nearly two decades, Harmon became a mentor to Murray. But this wasn’t the first time that the St. Elsewhere alum made a huge impression on his co-star. That happened long before NCIS.

Mark Harmon as Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs and Sean Murray as Agent Tim McGee in an image from NCIS
Mark Harmon and Sean Murray | Bill Inoshita/CBS via Getty Images

Mark Harmon and Sean Murray met on the set of a short-lived 1990s TV series

When Murray was just 15 years old, he was working on his very first TV series, a short-lived Western dramedy called Harts of the West. The series was set on a dude ranch in Nevada, and Murray starred alongside Beau Bridges and his father Lloyd. The show ran for just one season on CBS, from September 1993 to June 1994. 

While speaking with Country Living, Murray recalled an episode from his first TV job that was originally supposed to have Beau’s brother Jeff Bridges guest star as a “drunken radio clown.”. But due to a scheduling conflict, The Big Lebowski actor wasn’t available. Who did they find as his replacement? The answer, of course, was Harmon.

“They got Harmon to come and do the part instead… which I’ll never forget,” Murray said. “That’s where I first met Harmon.”

He got the chance to to talk to his future ‘NCIS’ co-star about the acting craft

Murray told the ladies on The Talk back in 2017 that meeting Harmon at such a young age was definitely a memorable experience. Not only did he get to meet a big TV star, but he also got to pick Harmon’s brain about the acting craft.

“He made quite an impression on me when he came on and did a role on Harts of the West,” Murray explained. “I had a few scenes with him, and we talked quite a bit about craft and things. So, being able to work with him again all these years later is just great. And, you know, he’s been a bit of a mentor to me, whether he knows it or not.”

RELATED: How Mark Harmon Is Still a Part of ‘NCIS’ Even After Leroy Jethro Gibb’s Exit

Harmon and Murray didn’t get to spend a lot of time together on the set of Harts of the West, but Murray definitely made it count. When they reconnected on NCIS “after all those years,” Murray says that Harmon still remembered him.

“When we started [NCIS], it was like, ‘Hey man, good to see you again, because you made such an impression on me’ and vice versa back then so we felt we knew each other,” Murray said.

‘NCIS’ Season 20 will be Sean Murray’s first full season without Mark Harmon

Season 20 of NCIS will mark a significant change for Murray — it will be his first full season without Harmon as his co-star. He said on the Culture Pop podcast earlier this year that he knew his final scene with Harmon was coming in season 19 because it was something they had planned “for a while.” But the scene was still quite “emotional” to film.

“If you saw that last episode with Gibbs that took place in Alaska, we really were in Alaska in a really remote area filming all of that,” Murray said, per Express.

“Doing that episode was amazing. First off, being in Alaska to do that goodbye was incredible. Harmon, I worked with for 18, 19 years straight on this show, hand in hand, our characters are like a father and son.”

Murray believes that we will see Gibbs again one day on NCIS. But even if Harmon doesn’t come back for a guest appearance, that won’t affect his relationship with Murray.

“I talked to him last weekend, we were texting back and forth for an hour about just random stuff – I love the guy, he’s family,” Murray said.

Season 20 of NCIS premieres Monday, September 19 on CBS.

RELATED: ‘NCIS’: Season 19 Was Not the First Time Mark Harmon Wanted to Leave the Show