Mark Harmon, though boasting impressive turns in St. Elsewhere and Chicago Hope, is recognized worldwide for his continued portrayal of Agent Gibbs in the CBS phenomenon NCIS. Embodying the character with a sense of ease and confidence, Harmon has become one with the role.
Gibbs: willful, committed to the cause, admirable, resilient, and the man in charge. He is the agent leading the team, and Harmon is the actor leading the cast – the star representing the entire NCIS franchise. However, Harmon often directs attention to the writers when asked to comment on the show’s success, for he merely carries the work they create. Yet, fans often feel that he’s selling himself short!
During an interview with TV Guide, Mark Harmon sat down to discuss NCIS, his role on the show, and what it means to portray a character fraught with such complexities: he sees deceased former spouses, struggles with pent-up regrets, yet always manages to get the job done.
Mark Harmon on what will remain a constant for Agent Gibbs in ‘NCIS’
Though Agent Gibbs is a respected leader, often seen as the man best-suited to solve the case, he harbors quite a bit of darkness. He is, by all definitions, an internally conflicted character. When commenting on the “ghosts and flashbacks” often confronting Gibbs, Harmon explained:
“His memory of great loss is not something the writers or I or anybody ever expects him to get over. It’s too deep. It’s also what makes him interesting and more fun to play.”TV Guide
As far as Mark Harmon is concerned, if you’re expecting Gibbs to come to terms with all his past trauma, and walk into the sunset with a beautiful retirement on the horizon, you may be out of luck. To Harmon, the ghosts and flashbacks are not incidental to Gibbs’ “bravado,” as TV Guide puts it.
Gibbs’ past is a catalyst to his risk-taking behavior. Without his troubled past and current psychological distress, Gibbs fails to be the agent he is: the man who must put his mind into work to avoid falling into the depths of a darker existence. The ghosts and the flashbacks are integral to the character (and his developing narrative arc), which is the very reason Harmon insists they are here to stay.
Mark Harmon talks personal contributions to ‘NCIS’ storylines
Mark Harmon has said once before that the cast is free to speak on behalf of their respective characters; meaning, if they feel a scene or line isn’t quite a fit, the writers will discuss possible alternatives with them.
Given that Gibbs can be quite challenging to write dialogue for – he says much more with a look than with a phrase – Harmon steps in when needed. For, after sixteen years, he’s quite intimate with the role. However, when discussing his contributions to future storylines, Harmon likes to be surprised. He told TV Guide:
“I don’t go up there and talk about it. I try to leave these [writers] alone. I like being surprised, or somewhat surprised, when they say, ‘Hey, we’re gonna do this.’ It’s fun for me to read it, and question it, and play it, and try to make it work.”TV Guide
Though leaving the stories up to the writers, the communication between all involved in NCIS is reportedly above par, which may be the very reason the show continues to boast such unrivaled ratings.