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Why Did Mark Harmon Leave ‘NCIS’? The Truth About Gibbs’ Departure

Why Did Mark Harmon Leave ‘NCIS’? The Truth About Gibbs’ Departure

Mark Harmon got a lot of mileage out of playing Leroy Jethro Gibbs in CBS’ hit series NCIS, but why did he leave the show? Harmon played the lead role, who oversees the NCIS team, for 18 seasons. He’d gotten a lot out of playing Gibbs. Yet he wanted a different challenge.

Actors who stick around too long in shows can get bored. Maybe that’s what happened with Harmon. He left the series to tackle “fresh” and “challenging” material. Mark Harmon talked about this decision in a DVD of Season 19 episodes of NCIS.

He did make it clear that Gibbs had not “retired” so that left the door open for a return. Upon Harmon’s departure, though, showrunner Steve Binder had some thoughts about the departure.

“As an executive producer and dear friend, Mark continues to be an integral part of the fabric of the show,” Binder said. He added, “Our north star has always been staying true to our characters, and that truth has always guided the stories we tell and where those characters go. So regarding the future of Gibbs, as long-time fans of the show may have noticed over the years…never count Leroy Jethro Gibbs out.”

Mark Harmon Absent From ‘Ducky’s Sendoff on ‘NCIS’

Well, NCIS fans were kind of hoping Mark Harmon and Gibbs would show up for a recent episode. The series paid tribute to the late David McCallum, who played Donald “Ducky” Mallard on the show. McCallum died last year, and this was a way for the cast to pay their respects.

Yet there was no Gibbs. Binder told TV Line their thoughts about the possible Gibbs appearance that never happened. “We’re not going to bring him [Gibbs] back for two minutes,” Binder said. But longtime fans did get a great surprise when Michael Weatherly appeared as Tony DiNozzo. His appearance also foreshadowed an announcement that a new NCIS series featuring Weatherly and Cote de Pablo, who played Ziva David, is coming soon.

Now, back to Mark Harmon – he retired from NCIS simply because he was tired of playing Gibbs for so long. Yet what’s interesting to note is that he’s not said goodbye forever. And fans got some great news in January that Harmon will return as Gibbs in NCIS: Origins. This time, he also will be an executive producer along with his son Sean Harmon.

What this new series, which is due to be out in the 2024-25 season, will do is offer some background to Gibbs’ life. Mark Harmon is planning to be the new show’s narrator.

In an announcement shared by Variety, Amy Reisenbach, president of CBS Entertainment, said in a statement, “We are elated and honored to continue the expansion of the NCIS universe in such a unique and unexpected way. “Viewers can look forward to Mark Harmon returning to CBS to narrate the complex and mysterious backstory of Leroy Jethro Gibbs’ early years in NCIS: Origins, which will build on the rich legacy of this character while reintroducing fan-favorite characters and meeting new ones.”

Harmon Appeared in Other TV Series

As an actor, Mark Harmon has been a part of some historic television shows in the past.

Back in the 1980s, he appeared on NBC in St. Elsewhere and the nighttime soap opera Flamingo Road. In the 1990s, Harmon had a four-season run on Chicago Hope and starred in Reasonable Doubts. In 2002, Harmon had a four-episode arc on NBC’s The West Wing.

Mark Harmon has been married since 1987 to actress Pam Dawber, best known for playing Mindy McConnell in ABC’s Mork & Mindy. Dawber finally did appear with Harmon for a multi-episode run on NCIS. But she’s stayed out of the entertainment world for some time, until appearing with Harmon.

NCIS fans can now get their excitement up as Mark Harmon will return as Gibbs, albeit in a new series.