‘NCIS’ Boss Explains Why Show Kept Mark Harmon in the Credits

by Shelby Scott

CBS aired the season 19 finale of “NCIS” on Monday and now, with the team’s new leader Alden Parker caught in the middle of a murder investigation and on the edge of a massive cliffhanger. Overall though, fans have a multitude of questions—with many surrounding former “NCIS” icon, Leroy Jethro Gibbs actor Mark Harmon.

Yes, yes, we’re very concerned for Parker’s safety. However, as the team’s newest addition, many fans are still adjusting to the shift in character dynamics. And although Parker’s proved himself an ally among the team, he simply doesn’t have the deep roots Mark Harmon’s Gibbs did before his departure.

As we know, Gibbs quit “NCIS” and headed to Alaska earlier this season during the episode, “Great Wide Open.” After more than two decades of anguish following the deaths of his wife and daughter, Shannon and Kelly, we finally saw the longtime special agent experience genuine happiness for, likely, the first time across the entire series.

So, while there’s still potential to bring Gibbs back, why is his actor Mark Harmon still featuring in the opening credits of “NCIS”?

Fortunately, we got some pretty in-depth answers from the series’ executive producer, Steven D. Binder.

As per TV Insider, Gibbs hasn’t featured in “NCIS” since last fall. However, Binder explained the reason why Mark Harmon still appears in the credits is that his presence is still very much felt. Although we haven’t physically seen Gibbs, the remaining cast members often make frequent references to his character. But that’s not all.

The Timeline Regarding Mark Harmon’s Presence in the ‘NCIS’ Credits is Uncertain

While speaking with the outlet, Binder said, “Gibbs put his stamp on the team in a huge way, and it’s gonna take more than a year for that to fade.”

In addition, he explained Mark Harmon’s presence in the opening credits is similar to that of Dr. Donald “Ducky” Mallard actor David McCallum.

More tangibly, Binder said, “that was not anything that was…decided…he remained in the credits because we didn’t kill him.”

That’s what draws the parallel between Harmon and McCallum. “He’s in the same amount of episodes I think David McCallum was in, who’s in the credits.”

If you put it that way, it, logically, makes sense. However, the “NCIS” showrunner shared another detail regarding show execs’ decision to keep Mark Harmon in the credits.

Altogether, he concluded, “[We didn’t remove Mark Harmon] for no other reason than it was just a really difficult season and that would’ve been just another thing to do to make that happen.”

Season 19 Proved Difficult for ‘NCIS’ Showrunners and Cast Members

Difficult is surely an understatement. While the departure of Mark Harmon’s Gibbs earlier this season proved heartbreaking, for both fans and the “NCIS” creators, we saw the departure of another longtime cast member Emily Wickersham who played Special Agent Ellie Bishop.

Wickersham departed the series at the end of last season. So when “NCIS” season 19 premiered, fans met two all-new series regulars, Gary Cole and Katrina Law.

As to Harmon’s removal from the credits, the “NCIS” EP said it’s something that remains to be decided.