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NCIS star Sean Murray has played Agent Tim McGee since season 1. He started out as a recurring character, but was quickly promoted to a series regular ahead of season 2. And, he’s remained in the main cast ever since.

Before NCIS, Murray was a teen actor in the 1990s who starred in made-for-TV movies, TV shows, and two feature films — Hocus Pocus and This Boy’s Life. During that time in his career, Murray connected with the two men who would go on to lead the team at NCIS, Mark Harmon (Leroy Jethro Gibbs) and Gary Cole (Alden Parker). 

NCIS star Sean Murray as Agent Tim McGee alongside Mark Harmon as Leroy Jethro Gibbs.
Sean Murray and Mark Harmon | Bill Inoshita/CBS via Getty Images

‘NCIS’ stars Mark Harmon and Sean Murray met on the set of a short-lived 1990s TV series

When Murray was just 15 years old, he was working on his very first TV series, a short-lived Western dramedy called Harts of the West. The series was set on a dude ranch in Nevada, and Murray starred alongside Beau Bridges and his father Lloyd. The show ran for just one season on CBS, from September 1993 to June 1994. 

While speaking with Country Living, Murray recalled an episode that was originally supposed to have Beau’s brother Jeff Bridges guest star as a “drunken radio clown”. But due to a scheduling conflict, The Big Lebowski actor wasn’t available. 

“They got Harmon to come and do the part instead… which I’ll never forget. That’s where I first met Harmon.”

Murray told the ladies of The Talk that meeting Harmon at such a young age was definitely a memorable experience.

“He made quite an impression on me when he came on and did a role on Harts of the West. I had a few scenes with him, and we talked quite a bit about craft and things. So, being able to work with him again all these years later is just great. And, you know, he’s been a bit of a mentor to me, whether he knows it or not,” Murray explained.

Sean Murray has a similar connection with Gary Cole

After more than 19 seasons and 400 episodes, Harmon retired from the NCIS cast in the fall of 2021. Veteran actor Gary Cole came in as his replacement, Alden Parker. And it turns out, Murray has a similar connection to Cole that he does to Harmon.

“I remember when Binder told me a year and a half ago that Gary was going to be coming on board, I was very excited. I actually did a movie of the week with him back when they did those Hallmark Hall of Fame movies,” Murray recently told Parade.

“We did one called For My Daughter’s Honor and Gary starred in it. He was a high school teacher who was having an affair with one of the students, and I had a smaller part in the movie.”

The ‘NCIS’ star says Gary Cole’s character is not a replacement for Gibbs

Murray remembered Cole as a “terrifically nice guy” on set and an acting pro he enjoyed working with. So, when he found out that Cole was joining the cast after Harmon’s exit, Murray said that he was looking forward to working with him again. 

He also insisted that it doesn’t feel like Cole is a replacement for Harmon “in any way,” despite the fact that Parker filled the position left by Gibbs. He says that the dynamics are different and they play differently, as they should. 


Sean Murray Is Not the Only ‘NCIS’ Star Who Considers Mark Harmon a ‘Mentor’

“It shouldn’t be the same thing. If we tried to carbon copy what we were doing with Mark then we’re like, ‘Why am I even showing up for work?’” Murray said.

Season 20 of NCIS premieres Monday, September 19 on CBS.