Mark Harmon: What Fans Don’t Know About The ‘NCIS’ Star

Mark Harmon has built quite the career for himself as the star of television’s most popular crime drama, NCIS. While Harmon has enjoyed a big resurgence in recent years, his acting career spans back to the 1970s. In fact, Harmon was named People’s Sexiest Man Alive way back in 1986. With Season 17 of NCIS about to start production, here are some facts about Harmon that might surprise you.

'NCIS' star Mark Harmon
Mark Harmon | Photo by Hannes Magerstaedt/Getty Images

Inside his successful family

There is no debating that Harmon is one of the hardest working individuals in all of television. Along with his acting duties, Harmon serves as an executive producer on NCIS and NCIS: New Orleans and he is currently a producer on a brand-new show on CBS.

Although Harmon brings plenty of hard work and talent to the table, he definitely got some major help along the way. Harmon’s father, Tom Harmon, played football at the University of Michigan, took home the Heisman Trophy in 1940, and was drafted into the NFL a year later.

Harmon’s late sister, Kristin Harmon, was the wife of Rick Nelson, who is a well-known rock star and actor. Nelson had his biggest role on The Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet. Kristin tragically passed away from a heart attack at the age of 72.

Harmon’s other sibling, Kelly Harmon, made a name for herself as a spokesperson for the candy company, Tic-Tacs. Mark Harmon, of course, added more celebrity to the family name when he tied the knot with Pam Dawber in 1987. Dawber starred on the hit sitcom, Mork & Mindy, before retiring to raise her family.

Acting was not Mark Harmon’s first choice

Although he grew up in a family full of entertainers, Harmon’s first choice of work was not acting. Mark Harmon only turned to acting after he failed at a number of different careers. The NCIS star’s first job was as a carpenter. But after failing to get employment at that craft, Harmon tried his hand as a shoe salesman. He was even hired as a sales rep for a major brand and the work required a lot of traveling.

During one of his road trips, Harmon realized that being a traveling shoe salesman was not something he wanted to do until he retired. After a conversation with a fellow co-worker, who was absolutely miserable at his job, Harmon put in his two weeks’ notice.

While Mark Harmon would eventually go on to become a successful actor, he struggled a lot during the early days of his entertainment career. Things, of course, eventually worked out for Harmon, who is now one of the most successful actors in the business.

Harmon was almost a football star

Before he made waves in the acting world, Harmon followed in his father’s footsteps and was almost a star football player. Harmon enjoyed several successful years as a quarterback for UCLA, leading the Bruins to two winning seasons.

His play attracted some attention from NFL scouts, though Mark Harmon ultimately turned down the opportunity to finish school. Harmon graduated with a degree in communications, something he put to good use in Hollywood.

Mark Harmon struggled in the TV world

When he was first starting out, Harmon was constantly being cast as the lead in television projects, but many of his shows failed to get past the first season. His first breakout part was on NBC’s medical drama, St. Elsewhere, in which Harmon played the part of Dr. Robert Caldwell.

While Mark Harmon got a lot of attention for the role, he had a slew of shows that never panned out, including Emergency!, Reasonable Doubts, Charlie Grace, and Sam.

With his TV career at a standstill, Harmon briefly turned to the film industry. But after one of his movies took him away from home for months on end, Harmon realized that the larger pay checks were not worth missing out on quality family time.

This is one reason why Mark Harmon never made the jump to the big screens and settled with various television shows in the Los Angeles area. With NCIS heading into its 17th season, it’s safe to say that Harmon’s strategy paid off.