‘NCIS’ Stars Gary Cole and Katrina Law Open Up About Moving on Without Mark Harmon

NCIS will return for season 20 this fall without series stalwart Mark Harmon. After playing Leroy Jethro Gibbs for nearly two decades and more than 400 episodes, Harmon left NCIS in Season 19, Episode 4 “Great Wide Open.” 

Fans held out hope that Harmon would return before the season ended, but that didn’t happen. He’s officially done with regular on-screen appearances. And that means the cast — including new NCIS stars Gary Cole (Alden Parker) and Katrina Law (Jessica Knight) — have to move on without him.

NCIS stars Gary Cole as FBI Special Agent Alden Parker and Katrina Law as NCIS Special Agent Jessica Knight
Gary Cole and Katrina Law | Sonja Flemming/CBS via Getty Images

‘NCIS’ Season 19 was a ‘transition year’

Despite Harmon’s exit in episode 4, he remained in the opening credits for the entire season. This led some fans to believe that he would return before the season 19 finale. But CBS entertainment president Kelly Kahl explained that Harmon remained in the credits simply because it was a “transition year.”

When NCIS received its renewal from CBS for season 20, Kahl told TVLine that removing Harmon from the opening is “something we might look at going forward.” 

David McCallum (Ducky Mallard) has remained in the opening credits despite appearing in just a handful of episodes each season. But Kahl says that there are “no plans” at this time for Harmon to return to NCIS as Gibbs.

“Everyone is aware that the door is open if he ever wants to pop in for an episode, or multiple episodes,” Kahl said.

Gary Cole and Katrina Law open up about moving on without Mark Harmon

Both Cole and Law joined the cast of NCIS as series regulars ahead of last season. In the “Cast of Characters” bonus content feature on the recently released season 19 DVD, the duo shared their thoughts about being newbies on the long-running CBS procedural. As well as their take on Gibbs’ famous Rule 15 — “always work as a team.”

“My favorite script so far is the one where we are all in a boat,” Law revealed to Parade. “That was the first time post-Gibbs that you saw the team come together to become what we are now. It was the first time that Alden Parker accepted us and claimed us as his own and put himself at risk for his team.”

Law says that was a “huge moment for the show going forward” because it showed viewers that this new NCIS lineup was indeed a team, and they care about each other.

“It showed ‘Yes, we are a team. We care about each other and, eventually, we are all going to love each other as a dysfunctional little family,’” Law explained.

‘NCIS’ star Gary Cole admits he qualifies as ‘the new guy’

After Harmon’s departure, Cole stepped in as the NCIS team leader. And despite the insistence from the network that Parker wasn’t a replacement for Gibbs, that’s exactly what he turned out to be. 

The veteran actor admits that he qualifies “as the new guy” even though Law is almost as new as he is. He says the cast has a good time together, and they are getting more and more comfortable with each other every day.

“I think we found the right balance of being able to be loose and fun and joke around with each other and then get down to it when we have to get down to it. I think you need both, especially with a season as long as ours. You have to release some of the pent-up anxiety or whatever you call it. I think we’ve achieved that. It’s a fun place to come to work. Let’s put it that way,” Cole concluded.

NCIS: The Nineteenth Season DVD — featuring all 21 episodes plus 45 minutes of exclusive bonus content — is now available in stores. NCIS Season 20 premieres Monday, Sept. 19 on CBS.

RELATED: How Mark Harmon Is Still a Part of ‘NCIS’ Even After Leroy Jethro Gibb’s Exit