‘NCIS’: Why Mark Harmon Believes the Writing for the Series ‘Resonates’ With Its Audience

by Evan Reier
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When it comes to offering the total package, few shows deliver like NCIS does. A blend of drama, suspense and comedy has made the program stand out since its early days.

It helps when you have renown and talented actors like Mark Harmon leading the way. With Harmon’s portrayal, Leroy Jethro Gibbs has become one of the most recognized characters in television.

But as iconic as the actor’s performance has become, it’s only as strong as the people creating the character. A show that goes for 18 seasons can’t exist solely on performance, it requires a level of writing that makes viewers want to come back.

That exact topic came up between Harmon and another legend of TV, Larry King. In 2014, the two sat down for an extended talk about Harmon’s life as well as NCIS. Shortly into the interview, King broached the topic.

“The important thing is the writing, right?” Larry King began. “It’s all the page. Why does this show resonate so well?”

Harmon’s response was somewhat wayward, but got his point across clearly: NCIS isn’t one-dimensional in any way, and it’s crucial for the show’s writing to provide depth.

“I think there was always a story,” Mark Harmon responded. “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.”

For many NCIS fans, the humor and personal storylines are what make the show so enjoyable. Even after 18 seasons, it doesn’t feel like you’re watching simple situations of crime. The context and build behind each cast member is complex and captivates viewers from a variety of angles.

NCIS Star Mark Harmon Speaks on the Complexity of Leroy Jethro Gibbs

Speaking of the complex nature of NCIS characters, Harmon also spoke on the depth that the show brings to Gibbs.

To get the most out of an actor like Harmon, a character needs to have qualities he can sink his teeth into. With Gibbs’ quick-wittedness and intelligence, Harmon is provided the chance to do that. However, it’s the dark side of the character that he likes the most.

“Complex, and that’s what makes it fun to play,” the NCIS star said. “And I’ve always said I like the underbelly parts of this character more than any of it, I like his flaws. And [the writers] continue to do that, they continue to push on that.”

“He’s an uncomfortable sort,” Harmon said of Gibbs. “His past is dark.”

King then prods into that statement, asking what the NCIS actor makes of Gibbs. In classic Larry King fashion, he asked Harmon if Gibbs is a “happy guy.”

“Happy at the job, certainly,” Harmon said. “Alone at night, by himself? Perhaps a little scary, but I like that.”

Outsider.com