‘NCIS’: How Show Co-Creator’s Real-Life Marine Corps Days Inspired Hit Show

by Chase Thomas

NCIS has been a CBS staple for over two decades now. Part of that has to do with the top-notch cast that the show has had, headlined by Mark Harmon, during that time. However, there is more to it than that.

There is more to why the show has worked for so long. Part of that has to do with the real-life stories and how realistic the show comes across to the viewers. Well, there is a reason for that, Outsiders. The NCIS co-creator’s real-life Marine Corps days actually inspired the hit show.

Donald P. Bellisario, a co-creator of the NCIS, actually served way back in the day. His time in the service played a pivotal role in inspiring him to create the CBS show. Because of his background, Bellisario has always been able to put together stories that have not even happened only for similar stories to happen later in life. He knows the territory. So well, in fact, that the FBI reportedly contacted him at one point about the show.

Mark Harmon on ‘NCIS’

Harmon leaving NCIS after twenty years was hard for fans and for Harmon. Still, the show must go on. However, it’s fun to think about the ‘what if’ question in life. For Harmon, what if this role had not come to fruition? What would he be doing instead?

Harmon told Men’s Journal, “[I’d] be a carpenter. I tried to do that, but I just couldn’t get hired. I enjoyed getting up and doing that in the morning; I enjoyed the drive to work. For me it was about materials and doing right. If you did it right, [the project] outlasted you. I still enjoy [carpentry], but I think that’s probably what I would have been trying to do had I not been [acting].”

He did enjoy the work. It would have been fine, but it is actually finding the work that was the problem, similar to a lot of folks who get into acting.

He continued, “I took a job in an ad firm and worked there for about four years. I got a promotion to another ad-based job—a national sales rep position at a shoe company—so I was kind of a shoe salesman for about seven months.”

How wild is that, Outsiders? Harmon had quite the winding road before he landed a career in acting. He worked in carpentry, he worked in a variety of ad-based jobs. Still, it sounds like the career path in advertising was more fruitful. He continued to get promoted and had a whole other career and life before acting became his full-time gig on NCIS.

Harmon left the program after close to twenty years, which was quite the run. You can watch NCIS on CBS.