The Mark Harmon Only We Know: ‘NCIS’ Stars Tell-All

It’s the end of an era! After 18 seasonsNCIS said a tearful farewell to Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs, played by Mark Harmon since the show’s beginning in 2003! After solving a case in Alaska alongside Special Agent Timothy McGee (Sean Murray), Gibbs decides to retire there.

“I’m not going back home,” Gibbs tells his partner, explaining that he feels a “sense of peace” that had eluded him since the deaths of his wife and daughter that he was “not ready to let go.”

Gibbs then bids McGee an emotional goodbye: “I could not have hoped for anyone better to watch my back for the past 18 years than you, Tim.”

Now, Harmon’s NCIS costars are speaking out — and revealing Harmon has played both mentor and friend to them all. They affectionately call him “Papa Smurf” and “Silver Fox.”

“I think both of [those nicknames] are dorky!” the actor laughed. Still, it’s a measure of how much Harmon’s fellow actors love working for — and with — him, as they have for the last two decades.

Murray said his TV boss is “number one.” “We wouldn’t be here … if it wasn’t for Harmon,” Murray said. “Harmon is a very special individual.”

Harmon has starred in the hit CBS series since the very first episode. Back then, Murray was cast as a recurring character, but his part turned into a main role in season 2.

“Mark is a shining example of the way it should be done,” Murray added. “He’s incredibly grounded, works hard and knows that family counts most. He’s a real actor. He goes for the realness of it, the truth of it, you know. That’s what we all strive to do as actors. Boy, is he good at it!”

On their last show together, McGee has to leave Gibbs in Alaska. After hugging, Gibbs says, “I love you, man,” and McGee replies, “I love you, too. Promise me you’ll be okay.” Gibbs says, “I already am.”

Cote de Pablo, who plays Ziva David, has shared a special bond with Harmon. “He’s always been a father figure to me. Obviously, Ziva and Gibbs have that but Cote and Mark have that, too!” she gushed. “We went through something incredible years of working closely. Our relation- ship was forged in fire!’

de Pablo joined the NCIS team after Sasha Alexander’s Kate Todd died two seasons in. She left the series and Ziva was apparently killed off-screen in season 13 but returned at the end of season 16 — brought back from the grave! “And Mark and I picked up right where we left off!” de Pablo says. “He’s a pretty humble man. He does a lot for this show that he will never actually say he does, but we all know [it] … and we love him for it.”


Wilmer Valderrama, who plays Special Agent Nicholas Torres, joined NCIS in its 14th season in 2016. Gibbs became the father Torres never had, and both actors grew close. Valderrama says he’s a huge Harmon fan, adding that he’s “someone that leads with kindness and his energy is beautiful.”

Rocky Carroll, who plays NCIS director Leon Vance, joined the cast in 2008, reuniting with his former Chicago Hope costar.

He said Harmon is the “ultimate collaborator,” and, “We just have fun going back and forth.”

David McCallum is also a big fan. He has played medical examiner Dr. Donald “Ducky” Mallard since NCIS was spun off from JAG in 2003 and calls the show his “Rock of Gibraltar”— mainly due to Harmon.

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