In episode 4 of NCIS season 19, “Great Wide Open,” Mark Harmon’s Leroy Jethro Gibbs made an unexpected exit. The 70-year-old was the last remaining original character to say goodbye or step back from the popular CBS procedural after leading it for more than 400 episodes. Harmon, on the other hand, did not want to leave the show for the first time in season 19.
Mark Harmon was more than just the ‘NCIS’ star.
Harmon made his JAG debut as Gibbs in a 2003 episode that doubled as a backdoor pilot for NCIS. Harmon appeared as part of the Naval Investigative Cr1m1nal Service team in the special two-part episode, alongside David McCallum (Dr. Ducky Mallard), Michael Weatherly (Tony DiNozzo), Robyn Lively (Vivian Blackadder), and Pauley Perrette (Abby Sciuto).
Everyone from the backdoor pilot went on to star in NCIS. Except for Lively, who was replaced by Caitlin Todd, Sasha Alexander’s agent.
Harmon, in addition to being the star of NCIS, was named an executive producer when the show first aired. Despite stepping down as the lead actor, he still holds this position.
The other originals have long since passed away.
Alexander, whose character was k1ll3d off at the end of Season 2, was the first NCIS regular to leave the show. Ziva David, from Cote de Pablo, took her place in season 3, but she left NCIS after season 11.
Weatherly left the show after season 13 to star in his own drama, Bull. Perrette left after season 15 due to a squabble with Harmon. McCallum’s character retired as Chief Medical Examiner and became the NCIS historian in 2017, reducing his role.
Sean Murray (Timothy McGee) and Brian Dietzen (Jimmy Palmer) both appeared in the first season. They aren’t considered NCIS OGs, however, because neither was a member of the original full-time cast.
During the fourth season of ‘NCIS,’ Mark Harmon expressed a desire to leave the show.
With all of the changes on the NCIS set over the years, Harmon was the one constant until he retired this season. However, the St. Elsewhere alum was on the verge of leaving NCIS as early as season 4.
Harmon was at odds with series creator and original showrunner Donald Bellisario at the time. On set, there was a lot of squabbling between the series’ star and the EP about deadlines and working hours. At the time, TV Guide reported that the situation was “much worse” than anyone had anticipated.
“Mark has been working every single day, 16 hours a day,” a source said at the time. “Don micromanages everything.” Last-minute script pages are faxed to the set, and Mark is sick of dealing with the huge impact that has on his life.”
CBS had to make a decision between Mark Harmon and Donald Bellisario.
Eventually, things between Harmon and Bellisario became so bad that CBS was forced to choose between them. The network chose to keep Harmon while removing Bellisario from his own show.
CBS abruptly fired Bellisario from NCIS, but retained him to produce other shows for the network. After he was fired, the producer told The Los Angeles Times that Harmon was behind a “full-fledged PR campaign” to force him off the show he created.
Bellisario is convinced that Harmon was behind the anonymous press leaks alleging poor working conditions on set. And he believes Harmon orchestrated everything in order to get him fired.
“I requested that Mark reshoot a scene. “He did it exactly the same way he did it the first time, and he never spoke to me again,” Bellisario explained. “I’m sorry it ended the way it did.”
Mark Harmon implied that it was the ‘NCIS’ creator’s fault that he was fired.
Harmon didn’t say much about Bellisario’s dismissal in public. He did, however, mention that things improved after the creator of NCIS left. He also implied that Bellisario’s ejection was his own fault.
“Just because we’re working 14-hour days instead of 17- or 18-hour days doesn’t mean we’re working any less hard,” the actor said in 2007. “We’re simply more organized.” This has turned into a well-oiled machine. I don’t want to go toe-to-toe with Bellisario in the press… He understands why he left.”
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