Admit it, NCIS fans. In Great Wide Open, aka Gibbs’ great big goodbye, you teared up during the scene at the diner.
Rocky Carroll’s Leon Vance, the NCIS director, met with Mark Harmon’s Gibbs to talk about Gibbs going to Alaska. In this flashback of a scene, Vance brought Gibbs a satellite phone and Gibbs dunked his low-tech flip phone into a cup of coffee. Then Vance and Gibbs did the double-handed handshake and basically said good-bye. It was a lump-in-throat moment. This episode wasn’t going to end well with Mark Harmon fans.
But when the two actors bid farewell to each other in front of the camera, their friendship and respect weren’t fictional. Carroll and Harmon have known each other for decades.
“I was pretty fortunate because I had a pretty long relationship with CBS before NCIS came on my radar,” Carroll told CBS-Los Angeles in a interview earlier in 2021. “I had worked on several CBS shows. (Mark Harmon) and I actually met on Chicago Hope back in the ’90s. We were both members of the cast of Chicago Hope for three seasons.”
For Carroll, Chicago Hope represented his first big network show. He was on Roc, which ran on Fox. But Fox still was relatively new to the prime-time game. He portrayed Keith Wilkes, an ER doctor, on Chicago Hope, from 1996 to 2000.
Meanwhile, in his pre NCIS days, Harmon was known for his doctor roles. He played one on St. Elsewhere in the 1980s. His character contracted AIDS after having sex with a prostitute. Then on Chicago Hope, Harmon portrayed Dr. Jack McNeil.
Here’s Another NCIS Fun Fact in Regards to Chicago Hope
And here’s another NCIS and Chicago Hope coincidence. Lauren Holly portrayed Dr. Jeremy Hanlon on the medical show. She joined the cast of NCIS in 2005. When her character died in 2008, Carroll’s Vance was promoted to her job.
Chicago Hope sported an amazing cast. You can check them out here.
Carroll said he didn’t run into Harmon again until he was auditioning for NCIS.
“The next time I saw him was during the end of season five of NCIS,” Carroll said. “My audition had less to do with me auditioning and more to do with (Harmon) saying, ‘I know this guy, I like him, [and] you should hire him.'”
Carroll still is playing Vance. He’s got 311 NCIS episodes under his belt. For context, Harmon is at 419. But going forward through season 19, Harmon still is listed in the permanent cast.
Vance wanted Gibbs to return. He offered him back his job several times. But he also knew that Gibbs’ mind was made up about leaving.
Now, Vance is trying to make sure than Alden Parker (Gary Cole) takes the job as special agent in charge. After all, it’s what Gibbs wanted. NCIS features a new episode, Nov. 1.