Even if you’ve only seen a couple of episodes of CBS’ long-running crime drama NCIS, you’re likely familiar with the investigative team’s tough and fearless leader, Supervisory Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs, brought to life by actor Mark Harmon.
Harmon knew he had big shoes to fill when he took on the role of Gibbs, in part because he felt a connection to a character with both humor and flaws. As Showbiz CheatSheet notes, the actor told CBS the following about getting the part: “What attracted me to this, initially, was the character and the fact that this show had humor. And that’s what made a difference for me. … I like this character a lot. And like him a lot because I’m greatly attracted to his flaws. And he has so many of them. There are a lot of things he does really well, and there are a lot of things he does horribly.”
Harmon even said to Larry King in 2014 of his character, “[Leroy Gibbs] is complex, which is fun to play. And I’ve always said that I like the underbelly parts of this character more than any of it. I like his flaws… His past is dark.” Still, even hardcore fans might not know the surprising real-life things Mark Harmon has in common with Gibbs from NCIS.
Mark Harmon has a surprising real-life connection to the military that shows up in his NCIS character
Mark Harmon may not be as straight-laced and serious as his character on NCIS in real life, but there is a pretty surprising thing that he has in common with Gibbs.
While Harmon was never in the military himself, per CelebAnswers, someone very close to him was. According to IMDb, Gibbs’ father, Jackson Gibbs (Ralph Waite), is a WWII US Army Air Force pilot, just like Harmon’s father, Tom Harmon, was in real life.
Harmon has described being raised as the son of a seasoned military veteran, and it’s not hard to imagine that those experiences helped shaped the actor’s tough persona. As Showbiz CheatSheet notes, Harmon said in 1986 of his father, “He raised me hard. And when I say hard, I mean hard. I was taught to fight for everything and that the only way to go about getting something was with everything you had.”
Mark Harmon’s real-life carpentry hobby also became part of Gibbs’ character on NCIS
Mark Harmon also passed his real-life love of carpentry on to his onscreen persona, Leroy Gibbs. The NCIS star has been interested in woodworking since a young age, and he’s been able to work in some screen time for personal carpentry tools with a mysterious subplot for his character that focuses on Gibbs’ boat-building project.
In a 2006 interview with Sunset, Harmon opened up about how he grew up learning carpentry from his father. He told the publication, “I used to hang out in my dad’s workshop on weekends. … Later, when I was starting out as an actor, I became a roofer and a framer to make money. But what I really enjoyed was finish work. I like the longevity of it: If you do it right, it will be around a lot longer than you are.”
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