In 2003, I was appointed as the assistant agent in charge at the NCIS Los Angeles Field Office. NCIS HQ called, instructing me to meet with producer Donald P. Bellisario for a potential show about our work.
Our mission: ensure accurate names and portrayals but never cast us as the villains. With those guidelines, I embarked on the task.
Meeting Don at his studio, I encountered a larger-than-life personality. He shared that despite years of attempting to collaborate with the Navy for an NCIS show, he found success with JAG instead. This explained the thematic overlap in his portrayals of JAG and NCIS agents.
After briefing Don on our agency’s focus-highlighting our identity as a small yet formidable organization dedicated to uncovering the truth-he ushered me into a conference room with ten writers.
For the next couple of hours, I shared NCIS stories and insights into our work, emphasizing cases that best represented our organization’s values.
Don asked me to brief Mark Harmon on how an agent thinks and acts. The next day, Mark unexpectedly visited my house to get to know me in my environment.
Despite being late for work, he patiently waited in his car. Mark proved to be both likable and genuine, even commenting on my casual outfit, contrasting the usual expectation of agents in suits.
While I was aware of Mark’s curiosity in my observations, I also sensed his genuine compassion for others.
Mark listened intently and displayed curiosity about the details of each assignment as I described my experiences and abroad deployments spanning both coasts and Washington, D.C.
The following day, I organized a trip for Mark to the Camp Pendleton Field Office to experience an NCIS headquarters on a Marine Corps base.
During the drive, it felt like we were just friends on a road trip a testament to Mark’s ability to connect with people on a personal level despite his celebrity status.
Mark genuinely and respectfully engaged with the agents and support staff at the Camp Pendleton office. On the drive back, he praised the virtues of NCIS and its personnel, marking the start of a valuable relationship in my life.
During the first season, I spent a lot of time on set with Mark and the rest of the group. Mark, ever indulgent, let me show components of law enforcement that he most likely already knew. Most significantly, I treasure Mark’s admiration for our organization and its work, which struck a chord with me.
After a few months, my work as the show’s technical adviser collided with my non-negotiable responsibilities at NCIS. A friend and mentor, Leon Carroll Jr., was proposed as the full-time replacement. Leon, headquartered in Los Angeles, was retired from NCIS as the special agent in command of the Northwest Field Office.
He proved to be a calm and knowledgeable fit. Mark and Leon hit it off right on, and their solid partnership has been vital in the show’s success. Leon remains as technical consultant, and Mark’s faith in him is critical to the show’s success.
Mark and I have stayed friends over the years, and he continues to be the kind, caring person of integrity I first met. It’s rewarding to have someone like Mark Harmon representing the great men and women of NCIS. The success of the show lies in the commitment of people like Don, Mark, and others who ensure our name is portrayed accurately and never cast us as the villains.
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