It might be difficult for NCIS fans to see star Mark Harmon as anyone other than Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs. After all, he’s in his 18th season of the CBS procedural and has appeared in over 400 episodes. But Harmon isn’t anything like Gibbs in real life.
The actor has been happily married for more than 30 years, is the father of two kids, and enjoys his own hobbies and interests. Harmon also has his own guilty pleasure that fans may find quite surprising.
The ‘NCIS’ star ditched football for acting
When speaking with Parade magazine, Harmon reflected on his career that has spanned nearly five decades. He also talked about growing up in Burbank, California, with a Heisman Trophy winner for a dad and TV sitcom stars for in-laws.
Harmon’s dad, Tom, won the Heisman while at the University of Michigan. He shared his dad’s love of football and was the quarterback at UCLA in 1972 and 1973. But instead of pursuing a pro football career, Harmon discovered his love of acting thanks to Ozzie Nelson.
Harmon’s sister Kristin was married to pop star Ricky Nelson, who appeared as a child in his parents’ sitcom Ozzie and Harriet. The Nelsons and the Harmons were close back then. And when Ozzie needed someone to fill in for an actor in his early 70s show Ozzie’s Girls, Harmon jumped at the chance. After following Ozzie around on the set and into the editing room, Harmon was hooked.
“That changed my course,” Harmon notes.
Mark Harmon shares all of his pop culture favorites
Once Harmon got his big break on St. Elsewhere in the early 1980s, he never stopped working. Not only has he starred in numerous films and TV shows, he’s also served as a producer and director.
When he does have some free time, Harmon enjoys spending time with his family. He also enjoys TV, movies, and books. Harmon says he loved watching Breaking Bad because of Bryan Cranston’s performance. He also loves to watch American Pickers.
“Mike Wolfe was on NCIS [as himself on an episode in 2018]. When I was rehabbing my knee and I was lying on the floor, doing my exercises, [his show] was on all the time,” Harmon revealed.
His favorite book is Endurance by Alfred Lansing, which tells the story of Sir Ernest Shackleton and his doomed attempt to cross the Antarctic in 1914. Harmon can’t name just one favorite movie, though, because there are just too many.
“I can’t name just one. My [production] company is named Wings after the 1927 William Wellman movie Wings. That’s the first movie I remember, a silent film, and I just remember sitting there, being drawn into that TV set.”
The ‘NCIS’ star has an interesting guilty pleasure
When it comes to music, Harmon says his favorite song is an “obscure big band thing.” He recalled that Ozzie Nelson had a song called I’m Looking for a Guy Who Plays Alto and Baritone, Doubles on a Clarinet and Wears a Size 37 Suit. He says he “always thought that was a pretty cool name for a song.”
His favorite Sunday activity is barbecuing with the family – his wife, Pam Dawber, and their two sons, Sean and Ty. Even though his kids are grown, Harmon says he usually gets a call on Sunday mornings asking about barbecue plans for the evening.
The 69-year-old stays in shape by working out everyday. He says that in the past few years he’s “turned into a Pilates man.” And, he has a regime that works well for him.
When it comes to guilty pleasures, Harmon had a very unique answer. The actor says he finds joy in “washing my own car.”
Harmon returns in new episodes of NCIS on Tuesday, January 19 on CBS.