‘NCIS’: Is Mark Harmon the Reason Pam Dawber Doesn’t Act Full-Time?

NCIS star Mark Harmon has played Leroy Jethro Gibbs for 18 seasons and more than 400 episodes. At the same time, his wife — Mork & Mindy alum Pam Dawber — has avoided the spotlight.

She does act occasionally, but since the late 1990s she’s only done a few cameos. Is Harmon the reason Dawber doesn’t have a full-time acting career?

NCIS star Mark Harmon with his wife Pam Dawber in 2013
‘NCIS’ star Mark Harmon with his wife Pam Dawber | David Livingston/Getty Image

Pam Dawber is currently guest starring on ‘NCIS’

During the April 6 episode of NCIS titled “Gut Punch,” Dawber finally made her debut on NCIS as “seasoned investigative journalist” Marcie Warren. Producers had tried to get her on the show for years, but the timing was never right. This time, though, they sent her a character and script she couldn’t refuse.

“They had created this character Marcie. Mark didn’t tell me about it. Suddenly I have an email from my agent and I was like, ‘Oh, poor Harry, my poor agent, here we go again. I’m going to turn him down,'” Dawber told Entertainment Weekly.

“And he goes, ‘Well, you might want to read this.’ I guess they were running names for who they could bring in for it and Mark said, ‘You should be talking to my wife about this character.’ The character is so good. I just fell in love with what they wrote.”

The ‘Mork & Mindy’ star hasn’t acted full-time in 20 years

Four decades ago, Dawber was the star of one of the highest-rated sitcoms on network TV. She starred alongside Robin Williams in the Happy Days spinoff Mork & Mindy, from 1978 to 1981.  From 1986 to 1988, Dawber was the star of her own sitcom, My Sister Sam.

But after finding massive success in television, Dawber’s priorities changed when she became a wife and mom. She and Harmon tied the knot in 1987. They welcomed sons Sean and Ty in 1988 and 1992, respectively.

In the 1990s, Dawber starred in a handful of TV movies. She was also a cast member of the short-lived sitcom Life…and Stuff. And she did voice work for 101 Dalmations: The Series. But since 1999, Dawber has made just two TV cameos before her four-episode arc on NCIS.

Is ‘NCIS’ star Mark Harmon the reason Pam Dawber doesn’t act full-time?

According to OK! Magazine, Dawber “loved” her experience on NCIS so much that she “can’t wait to land more gigs.” But according to an insider, Harmon doesn’t want his wife of nearly 35 years to get any ideas about going back to work full-time.

RELATED: ‘NCIS’: Pam Dawber Admits She Was Nervous About Returning to TV — ‘What If I Suck?’

Harmon was “looking forward to finally kicking back with his wife” when he officially retires from NCIS, the source claims. But, Dawber feels “this could be her big shot to get back out there.”

“She’d like to have Mark’s support,” the insider says. “But friends think she’ll follow her heart on this one.”

Pam Dawber is not chasing fame

Despite the insider’s claims, Dawber has made it clear that it was her choice to put her acting career on the back burner.

“I was in a number one show. I had my own deal. I got to do Broadway. I got to do musical theater. I got to do cartoon voices,” Dawber told Entertainment Tonight in 2016. “I did everything you can do in this business, and then I had children and it’s like, ‘I’m not going to chase this fame thing.'”

Dawber explained that she wanted to drive her kids to school, and be there for birthdays. She wanted to “bring cupcakes and donuts and do the school festivals and all that,” and that’s exactly what she did.

Will Pam Dawber return to ‘NCIS’ in season 19?

Dawber just made her debut on the long-running CBS procedural, but it’s not a guarantee that these four episodes are it for her character. When asked if the current story arc was a one-time thing, Dawber replied, “I’m not sure it’s over!”

She also made it clear that her appearance on NCIS after all this time was not Harmon’s “love letter for fans.” Dawber was telling the truth, as CBS just announced they’ve renewed NCIS for season 19, and Harmon will be coming back.

“That has nothing to do with anything. This is just a good storyline. I’m not going to go tip the hat on anything, but they don’t think like that over there. A good story line is a good story line, and honest to God, we don’t even know how it’s going to end,” Dawber said.

NCIS airs Tuesdays on CBS.