Mark Harmon Was Not Who ‘NCIS’ Creator Don Bellisario Wanted to Play Agent Gibbs
It’s hard to imagine anyone other than Mark Harmon as Agent Gibbs in the iconic series NCIS. He’s not just a character on the show; he’s become the very face of the franchise.
However, the journey to this casting was far from straightforward. Believe it or not, Harmon wasn’t even in the original casting plans conceived by NCIS creator Don Bellisario.
Mark Harmon was not originally on the shortlist to play Agent Gibbs on ‘NCIS’
Harmon and his portrayal of Leroy Jethro Gibbs have become so intertwined that it’s hard to envision one without the other. The actor’s portrayal has been so compelling that he’s essentially become the face of the NCIS franchise, an unforgettable imprint in its history.
But there is a fascinating story behind Harmon’s casting. As hard as it may be to believe, he almost didn’t land the role.
The actor, already well-known for his work throughout the ’80s and ’90s, wasn’t even in the initial pool of candidates that NCIS creator Bellisario was considering.
Remarkably, Harmon did secure the role, embodying Gibbs across 19 seasons of the show.
However, when he was originally conceptualizing the character, Bellisario had a totally different actor in mind for Gibbs—a revelation that might leave fans scratching their heads in wonder.
‘NCIS’ creator Don Bellisario had this actor in mind to play Agent Gibbs
Though Harmon ultimately claimed the role of Gibbs on NCIS, Bellisario initially had his eyes set on Hollywood A-lister Harrison Ford.
Renowned for his roles in cinematic landmarks like Star Wars and Indiana Jones, Ford had the opportunity to add another legendary character to his career.
However, as noted by One Chicago Center, he wasn’t particularly keen on entering the realm of television at that time and declined the offer.
Ford has since ventured into television, receiving praise for his work in shows like Shrinking and 1923.
Adding a layer of intrigue to the Gibbs casting saga, Bellisario initially had reservations about Harmon taking on the role. He questioned whether Harmon could convincingly portray a stern military figure on the crime drama.
Yet, Harmon’s impressive audition quickly laid to rest any doubts Bellisario may have had.
Don Bellisario once claimed Mark Harmon was the reason he got fired
Throughout his time on NCIS, Harmon became an undeniable powerhouse behind the scenes. In the show’s nascent years, a rift developed between him and Bellisario, eventually leading to the latter’s exit.
As season 4 wrapped up in the spring of 2007, the atmosphere on set was increasingly tense. According to TV Guide, the situation was graver than most people assumed.
“Mark’s been working every single day, 16 hours a day,” a source reported. “Don tries to micromanage everything. Script pages get faxed to the set at the last minute, and Mark is tired of dealing with the huge impact that makes on his life.”
CBS eventually severed ties with Bellisario on NCIS but retained him for other productions within the network.
Post-departure, the ousted producer expressed his belief that Harmon orchestrated a comprehensive media strategy to push him out.
According to Bellisario, Harmon was the source behind off-the-record media tips. These reports depicted an unhealthy work environment, all aimed at getting Bellisario removed from the project.
Harmon has never publicly commented on his fallout with the NCIS creator.