‘NCIS:’ Mark Harmon Reveals His Famous TV Mentor

Mark Harmon has been the face of NCIS since the show first premiered in 2003. While the episodic series, recently renewed for a seventeenth season, is now the most-watched show on television, Harmon has remained as grounded and committed to the show’s ingenuity and success as he was day one. A talented actor who cites his work ethic as the driving force behind his success, Mark Harmon is one of the most-loved faces to grace primetime.

Mark Harmon
Mark Harmon | Photo by Jean-Paul Aussenard/WireImage

Before starring on NCIS, Mark Harmon had recurring roles on St. Elsewhere and Chicago Hope. The actor boasts two Emmy nominations for his work in The West Wing and Eleanor and Franklin: The White House Years. A successful actor with multiple hit TV shows under his belt, and a few roles in major blockbuster films, Harmon is still the cream of the crop (at 67 years young).

Harmon sat down with TV Insider to discuss NCIS’s 15 years of continued success, living in the limelight, and how he feels to be a part of a show with such a devoted and widespread fan base. During his interview, he also revealed the famous actor that he views as a mentor and a source of career inspiration.

Mark Harmon named James Garner as his mentor

During his interview with TV Insider, Mark Harmon was asked, “St. Elsewhere. Chicago Hope. The West Wing. NCIS. You’ve had a remarkable run on TV. What advice do you give to newbies?”

Mark Harmon told the interviewer that he would suggest that aspiring actors “choose [their] mentors carefully” before proceeding to say:

“A big one [mentor] for me was James Garner. That was the kind of career I wanted. Jim would always say, “I don’t care who’s the No. 1 guy in the business right now. That doesn’t last. I just want to be in that Top 10 for 30 years!” For him, it was all about the long haul. I never forgot that.”

TV Insider

It’s no surprise that Mark Harmon names Jamer Garner as a mentor, for the actor boasts a long and successful, yet slightly understated, career. Though not always in direct limelight, Garner was always working.

Harmon has cited his father’s dedication to hard work as the basis of his own determined personality; thus, Garner and Gibbs seem like quite the personality match. Harmon has stated (many a time) that he wants to show up, work hard, and be proud of what he’s doing. Such goals have less to do with star power and more to do with longevity concerning career fulfillment.

Inside James Garner’s TV and film career

James Garner, though starring in a few Hollywood blockbusters, including The Notebook, The Great Escape, and Space Cowboys, is most widely known for his recurring roles on TV (given Mark Harmon’s career trend, this should come as no surprise).

James Garner starred in The Rockford Files from 1974 – 1980, Maverick from 1957-1962, and Bret Maverick from 1981-1982. The Rockford Files followed James Garner, an ex-con and private detective, falsely convicted of a crime he did not commit. However, he uses his ex-con pals to help him solve cases. Maverick stars James Garner as Bret Maverick – one of four gambling men who choose to make money playing poker instead of working hard.

Throughout his life-long career, James Garner won three Golden Globes awards for his performance in Barbarians at the Gate, Sayanora, and Decoration Day.  He also won two Primetime Emmy awards for his roles in The Rockford Files and Promise. James Garner was active in the entertainment industry for as long as he could be before passing on in 2014. This unwavering dedication to his work is an attribute Mark Harmon will always admire and likely continue to emulate.