‘NCIS’: The Sweet Reason Mark Harmon Has Never Left the Show

NCIS is one of the longest-running scripted primetime television series in the United States. It debuted on September 23, 2003, on CBS and has been going strong ever since. It’s in its 16th season and has served as the basis for two spin-offs: NCIS: Los Angeles and NCIS: New Orleans.

The crime drama follows an NCIS Major Case Response Team stationed in Washington D.C. that springs into action whenever word of a crime involving Navy or Marine personnel reaches their ears. The spectacular team is led by Leroy Jethro Gibbs, played by the unforgettable Mark Harmon

Mark Harmon has been a part of the ‘NCIS’ team since 2003

With 16 seasons under its belt, actors have come and go but not Harmon. According to IMDb, the NCIS’ frontman has appeared in a whopping 372 episodes. That’s including episodes that have been filmed but haven’t been aired yet. Harmon is an iconic part of the team, so it’s no surprise he has remained on the roster this long. 

Sure, it would be easy enough to write him off should he choose to leave. They could script a transfer, a retirement, or even have him bravely killed in the line duty. One thing is for sure though; the series would not be the same without Harmon at the helm. He is so dedicated to the franchise that he has even appeared on NCIS: New Orleans several times between 2014 and 2018. 

With over 15 years on the show, what has kept Harmon from making a change to something different?

Mark Harmon prefers television roles

Harmon certainly has the acting chops to take on movies, but he adores working on the small screen. The NCIS star’s first role was on the TV series Ozzie’s Girls in 1973. It was a singular appearance, but it was the beginning of his lifelong relationship with TV acting. It took just four years for Harmon to land his first leading role — Officer Mike Breen in Sam. While it was only seven episodes long, Sam was the show that put Harmon onto the joys of law enforcement acting.

Harmon did appear in several movies and even portrayed the iconic serial killer Ted Bundy with great success. However, a movie acting career meant jet setting around the world, but that didn’t work well for Harmon because he’s a tried and true family man with a 31-year-old marriage to brag about! 1986’s Sexiest Man Alive truly enjoys seeing his family at home every day instead of flaunting his acting chops worldwide. 

The realization came when he left home to do a movie in New Guinea. His oldest had just taken his first steps on the day he left. When he returned three months later, the young boy got out of the car and walked up to him all by himself. Harmon refused to miss the big family moments just to land big one-off paychecks.

Harmon loves acting in dramas

It’s Harmon’s family man personality that keeps him tied to the small screen, but what is it about NCIS specifically that has Harmon entranced? Harmon is a lover of the drama genre, evident by him sticking by NCIS so long and the other parts he has taken on throughout his 40+ year career. 

Harmon has starred in several roles outside of his breakout lead in Sam that foreshadowed his long run with NCIS. He appeared in Police Woman, Police Story, The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries, Centennial, 240-Robert, Reasonable Doubts, Chicago Hope, The West Wing, Certain Prey, and plenty of other series that fit the bill.

It’s clear from Harmon’s resume that he doesn’t just love drama, he has a penchant for crime-based scripts as well. He’s even signed on to be the mastermind behind another crime drama called Prey. Clearly, the seasoned actor has no plans on slowing down on acting in his favorite medium any time soon, though this new project on the horizon may lead to him cutting back just a bit on NCIS