‘NCIS’ Star Mark Harmon Emotionally Detailed How Ralph Waite Tribute Episode Came to Be in 2015

by John Jamison
(Photo by FOX Image Collection via Getty Images)

Fans of classic television will remember the late, great Ralph Waite as John Walton from “The Waltons.” But the prolific actor continued working all the way up until a few years ago. Unfortunately, he passed away in 2014. Not before he played Gibbs’ father on “NCIS” over nearly 10 episodes, however.

Mark Harmon, the actor behind Gibbs and an executive producer on the long-running crime drama, is a powerhouse. He has appeared in all 414 episodes of the hit show and isn’t showing signs of stopping. Working on a show for so long, however, Harmon has seen people come and go.

Among that group is Ralph Waite, who joined “NCIS” in 2008. He played the role of Jackson Gibbs, Leroy’s father, and appeared in 8 episodes of the show before he died in 2014. When he passed away, “NCIS” decided to dedicate the entire Season 11 finale to Ralph Waite’s memory.

In an interview with Assignment X in 2015, Harmon recalled how the show handled Waite’s departure.

“Well, I think it was a fitting tribute to Ralph, and done in a very different way, and certainly for us, a different kind of season ending,” Harmon said. “But again, you’ve got to give tribute to [writer] Gina [Lucita Monreal] and Gary and their idea to put that together like that, because it was an interesting year. We had a lot of different things going on this year that were handled very well and I think that’s great.”

‘NCIS’ Star Said That There Was No End in Sight. It All Depends on One Thing

The interview took place in 2015. And here we are six years later, with “NCIS” still on the air. According to Mark Harmon, the sky is the limit for the show. But there is one major caveat.

“I have the great pleasure every morning to get up and enjoy that drive to work and look forward to the people I work with, and I think many of us share that, and I think that’s rare,” he said. “I’ve been in this business long enough and worked enough jobs to appreciate that. And so as long as this creative process is growing and people are excited by that, as we are at the moment, we’ll be doing it.”

So as long as the cast and crew are happy with the creative work they’re doing, “NCIS” will likely stick around. That’s a rare situation for a TV show to find itself in.