If you weren’t a college football fan in the 1970s, you might not have heard of Mark Harmon. You might not have heard of him if you didn’t watch St. Elsewhere in the 1980s or Chicago Hope in the 1990s. But, whether you’re an NCIS fan or not, you’ve probably heard of Harmon and the character he plays, Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs.
Harmon was named the “Sexiest Man Alive” by People Magazine in 1986, and he is undeniably attractive. He’s a good athlete. And he clearly has acting talent. He is also a director and producer. He has been married to actress Pam Dawber for 33 years, proving that he is a devoted husband and father. But his admirable trait of loyalty was evident long before that.
Mark Harmon, a young and devoted man
Harmon was born in 1952 in Burbank, California. He is the son of late Heisman Trophy winner and sports broadcaster Tom Harmon and actress Elyse Knox Harmon, who is now a stay-at-home mom.
He’s got two older sisters. Kristin, the eldest, is an artist and actress who was previously married to late actor and musician Ricky Nelson and appeared on Ozzie and Harriet. Kelly, the middle child, is an actress and model who was married to late auto engineer John DeLorean for a short time.
Harmon graduated from Harvard-Westlake School in high school. During those years, he delivered flowers. A story from that time period reveals that he was loyal from a young age.
He came across a rose order addressed to a girl he knew. A girl with whom his friend had a serious relationship. The flowers, on the other hand, were not from his friend, but from someone else. Harmon threw away the card and replaced it with one inscribed with his friend’s name.
From football to theater,
Harmon received his associate degree from Pierce College in the San Fernando Valley, where he was also a National Junior College Athletic Association All-American. He went on to UCLA, where he became the starting quarterback for the UCLA Bruins, assisting in the team’s dramatic turnaround. He earned a B.A. in Communications with honors. He was also named a National Football Foundation Scholar-Athlete and a second-team Academic All-American.
Despite being courted by the NFL, Harmon was not interested in pursuing a career in football. He considered going to law school but decided against it. He had a taste of acting with a walk-on part thanks to his sister’s Ozzie and Harriet connection and decided to pursue it as a career.
Harmon’s career progressed slowly at first, with mostly unnamed walk-on parts, but he eventually blossomed in his work. His first big break came when he played a soldier named Robert Dunlap in Eleanor and Franklin: The White House Years, for which he received an Emmy nomination. In 1983, he joined the cast of St. Elsewhere as plastic surgeon Dr. Bobby Caldwell. In 1996, he was cast as an orthopedic surgeon on Chicago Hope.
And then came Gibbs
Harmon appeared as a guest on the popular political drama The West Wing in 2002. He was nominated for another Emmy for his role as Simon Donovan, a Secret Service agent tasked with protecting White House Secretary C.J. Cregg, played by Allison Janney. That role piqued the interest of producer Don Bellisario, who was working on his new project, NCIS.
While we’ve established that Harmon is loyal, his alter-ego, Gibbs, is as well. While we’re not sure if there is a specific Gibbs’ Rule for loyalty, his concern for his team and his friends shines through throughout the 17 seasons of NCIS. Gibbs, in case you’re not familiar, has written rules throughout his Naval Criminal Investigative Service career. Those rules were introduced in the first episode of NCIS and have remained a staple ever since.
Harmon has said that he admires his Gibbs character for having standards, as revealed by Showbiz Cheat Sheet in a May 2020 article about Gibbs Rules. “I think it’s important to have some kind of moral compass or character, structure,” Harmon said in an interview. “And I believe that is what Gibbs has. But you’ll never know if I practice them or if I have a favorite.”
We’re pretty sure he follows some of them, and if loyalty is one of them, it started with Harmon and was passed down to Gibbs.
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