‘NCIS’: How Mark Harmon’s Parents Reacted To Him Pursuing an Acting Career

by Josh Lanier
(Photo by Munawar Hosain/Fotos International/Getty Images)

NCIS star Mark Harmon didn’t always plan to be an actor. In fact, after college, he worked as an ad man. But he felt the call to perform. So he gave it all up for a chance at being in the spotlight. And despite their obvious trepidations, his parents never discouraged him, he said.

Harmon told Larry King in 2014 that since both of his parents were in the public eye, they knew how difficult that life could be. They were likely terrified for their son’s prospects. But they never expressed that, he said. Harmon’s father, Tom Harmon, was a Heisman Trophy-winning tailback from the University of Michigan. And later he was a broadcaster. His mother was actress and model Elyse Knox.

“I did a bunch of different jobs (after college), but I had I had done well enough to buy a small house,” he told King. “And I had an expense account, and I had insurance, and I had those kind of things that come with that job, and this is what I wanted to do. And I think when I decided at some point that I was going to leave that job and try to pursue this full-time, my parents were very supportive. Did they think it was a good idea? I don’t think so, but it worked out okay so far.”

That’s quite an understatement. Harmon had decades of a successful film and television career. He stars on one of the most loved television dramas in NCIS. And he has executive producer credits on all of the NCIS spin-offs.

NCIS’ Harmon Explains Why He Quit His Day Job

In an interview with Men’s Journal, Mark Harmon pinpointed the exact moment he knew he was going to quit his day job. He met a man on a cross-country flight that made him realize that possibly being poor would be less awful than being miserable.

“When I was doing that shoe salesman job. I was coming back from Boston, and I was sitting next to a 33-year-old who was talking about trying to make pension at 65,” Harmon recalled. “He was drinking his second martini by the time we were wheels up. He was miserable in his job and he was trying to maintain the job for another [32] years. I went home, got in my car, drove out to the place where I worked, and gave my notice.”

Mark Harmon has played Leroy Jethro Gibbs on NCIS for 18 seasons. CBS recently picked up the show for its 19th season, making it one of the longest-running shows in television history. Harmon has hinted that he’s ready to leave the franchise behind, but, according to the Hollywood Reporter, the show’s renewal was contingent on his participation. So, he signed on for another year.