‘NCIS’ Star Mark Harmon Once Revealed Best Advice His Father Gave Him

by Josh Lanier

NCIS star Mark Harmon’s dad, Tom, was a legendary football player. He was a Heisman winning tailback for Michigan and later transitioned into broadcasting. So, he knew a thing or two about getting results.

Mark Harmon said his dad instilled in him the value of hard work, but also a sense of what to believe in.

“My dad taught me, if it’s not true, don’t worry about it,” Harmon, 67, told People. “I come from working stock, and I’m proud of that. You have to get up every day and just try hard. That’s what I still wake up willing to do: try my hardest.”

And it seems to have stuck. NCIS is heading into its 19th season, making it one of the longest live-action dramas in television history in the very crowded cop genre. Mark said his dad also told him that if you make it to the top of your field, be humble and generous but stay grounded.

“Work your a– off, and don’t let the effort show,” his dad told him. “Also: Treat people the same, not based on who they are or what they are. Show them common kindness. Don’t be colored by their fame or profession. I don’t get all excited by people blowing smoke up my a–. You have to stay honest.”

Harmon is seen as one of the nicer celebrities in Hollywood and is known for taking time to talk to fans. So, it seems a lot of these lessons stuck for the NCIS star.

But one thing it seems Harmon picked up through osmosis was a work ethic and a need to always improve. He said he learned that from his own time playing sports. He was a standout quarterback at UCLA and could have chased a pro career.

“I’m a practice guy, a repetition guy,” he says. “You can tell me I can’t do something, but I’m likely to take that as an incentive to prove you wrong. I’m a tough guy, I’m a jock, so you can yell at me all day long, and that won’t hurt me — I’m just going to try to get better. In this business, I’ve used that to my advantage.”

Harmon Didn’t Know His Parents were Famous

Aside from his dad’s on-the-field prowess, his mom Elyse Knox was an actress, model, and fashion designer. Though her film career peaked in the 1940s.

Mark Harmon said he didn’t learn his parents were special until he was 8 years old, and they went to his dad’s alma mater.

“My parents kept things real,” he told TV Insider. “I had no idea they were famous. In fact, it didn’t hit me until one day when I was riding in the car with my father in Ann Arbor, Michigan — I was maybe 8 and could barely see above the dashboard—and we stopped at a crosswalk. Suddenly we were surrounded by people who recognized my dad and were really thrilled to see him. [Laughs] I remember looking at this man I thought I knew so well and thinking, ‘Who are you?'”