TV Guide Magazine‘s November 13-26, 2017 issue celebrates fifteen seasons of NCIS with its star Mark Harmon on the cover.
He’s the no. 1 star on the world’s No. 1 drama on TV’s No. 1 network. But you’d be hard-pressed to find anything showboat-y about Mark Harmon. The veteran actor, currently in his 15th season as Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs on CBS’s NCIS, settles down for a chat at a mom-and-pop diner not far from his home in Los Angeles. This is one of Harmon’s longtime hangouts, and it’s due to go out of business soon—yet another victim of an unaffordable rent hike. That looming event has him feeling nostalgic and a bit melancholy. Like Gibbs, the 66-year-old Harmon is a guy who radiates old-school decency and honesty. He deflects praise. He dodges any talk of status or power. His modesty would be maddening if it weren’t so refreshing. Is it possible for a TV superstar to actually be normal? Probably not. But Harmon comes damn close.
Gibbs returned to work this season severely traumatized after being tortured by terrorists, but there was also a lightness about him, even a twinkle. What’s going on?
“A sense of discovery, maybe? Gibbs is thankful to be alive. He really thought life was over, and for him to admit that is huge, because he’s not that kind of guy. After all this time, the writers still find new places to take him. NCIS was never a show about the crime cases, because sometimes we solve ’em, sometimes we don’t. This is a show about characters. The audience takes real ownership of the people we play.”
Yet, even in Season 15, we still don’t really know Gibbs.
“And I like that. I was never interested in playing him with a big red S on his chest. I’m much more attracted to the underbelly stuff. Gibbs is a loner, with emotional scars a mile deep that run in a million different directions. At work, he’s a leader. But who is he if you take away his job? I play him, and even I don’t know the answer to that.” [Laughs]
NCIS airs Tuesdays at 8/7c on CBS.
Photography: Kevin Lynch