‘NCIS’: Here’s How Mark Harmon Describes Show’s Major ‘Change’ When Characters Leave

by Joe Rutland
(Photo by Robin Marchant/Getty Images)

Characters have come and gone while NCIS has been on the air for 18 seasons on CBS. What happens on the show when one leaves?

Mark Harmon, who plays Jethro Gibbs on NCIS and is one of the show’s executive producers, discussed this in a 2014 interview with late talk-show host Larry King.

“A character leaves and you’re different in behaving toward whatever character’s going to replace it,” Harmon said. “So in that way, it’s forced change.

“It is difficult? Sometimes,” he told King. “Is it healthy? Maybe. Does it change the footprint of the show a bit? Absolutely.”

‘NCIS’ Star Says, Based On Show’s Success, Characters Leaving Is Good Thing

Harmon asks metaphorically if that’s been a good thing. “Well, based on the success of the show at the moment (2014), I’d say probably yeah,” he said.

For instance, a couple of examples include Pauley Perrette and Maria Bello. First, Perrette leaves NCIS after the 2018 season, spending 15 years playing the quirky-but-smart Abby. Second, just after the show wraps up its 18th season, Bello leaves. Jack Sloane, her character, told Gibbs that she’s leaving NCIS and possibly moving to Costa Rica.

However, Bello may have left to do other projects, according to a Good Housekeeping article.

As the show enters its 19th season coming up in the fall, NCIS might face the possibility of other characters leaving in the future. Through 18 seasons, Harmon, David McCallum, who plays Donald “Duckey” Mallard, and Sean Murray, who plays Timothy McGee, remain from the first season’s full-time cast.

CBS Hit Show’s Writing Appeals To Its Core Audience Of Fans

Any successful TV show obviously has strong writers behind it. Loose scripts will be sniffed out by viewers.

That’s one reason Harmon feels like NCIS hits home runs with the show’s fans, even after 18 seasons on the air. Therefore, King says to Harmon that he sees writing as the most important thing and emphasizes his statement with “Right?”

In addition, King asks why the show resonates so well with viewers. Harmon said that NCIS isn’t one-dimensional in any way. Plus, he says it’s key for the show’s writing to have some depth to it.

“I think there was always a story,” Harmon said. “Sometimes we solve a crime, sometimes we don’t. I think you can be a writer and come on the show and write great case history and not survive as a writer. You have to be able to write characters and you have to be able to write humor.

“That’s the part that remains and what makes it somewhat different,” he said.