Exclusive Full Interview: NCIS’ Mark Harmon On Season 9 Finale and More

Mark Harmon
As promised, here is the full of interview that we conducted with Mr Mark Harmon about the season 9 finale episode, the series in general and his still surprising connection with his character.

Check out what he had to say below and don’t miss him in tonight’s season finale “Till Death Do Us Part” which airs Tuesday, May 15 (8:00-9:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network. Also don’t forget to check out what the NCIS showrunner Gary Glasberg had to say about tonight’s episode as well.

It must be gratifying to get a new season.

Mark Harmon: Well, in this one, we knew early that we were picked up and it helps being the number one show. People can break for the hiatus knowing that they have a job to come back to in July. That’s hugely important. For the last number of years we’ve been in that decision process. So, yeah, it’s nice to know that and it’s nice to know that you’re a part of something successful and it’s nice to know that you’re coming back to work with the same people that you left a month ago.

It feels like over the years the cast continues to bond. Do you see it the same way?

Mark Harmon: I think it’s really like any job and any workspace. It doesn’t happen all the time that you love the people that you’re working with. There’s four of them that have been there from the beginning and then we’ve had changes, in front of the camera at least. We’ve had changes behind the camera, too, that are just as important, but in all cases I think we’ve gotten better and that’s not taking away anything from the people that left.

It just means that the balance that this show has achieved both behind the camera and in front of the camera is rare and because it’s rare it’s appreciated. There are a lot of people on this show, both in front and behind that have done projects not as successful as this and not as pleasurable as this, and therefore they appreciate this one so much more.

You had some great guest stars this season, including Jamie Lee Curtis. How was it having her on set this season?

Mark Harmon: She’s terrific. I’ve known Jamie a long time. She’s a treat to have on set. The rest of the cast loves her and Gary Glasberg has created a role for her that made her want to come and play in the first place, which is rare. But she’s had a great time there and I think she’d tell you that as well. She’s a gift to have on the set and such a rare talent, and as a person, a good person and terrifically good at what she does. So, we’ve enjoyed having her.

Do you feel that Gibbs has had more to play with this season since her character has been an interesting counterpoint to his?

Mark Harmon: Gibbs is an odd guy in any kind of relationship, but her background and what she does professionally, even before they met, kind of put the two of them in to conflict. I think conflict in characters is a good thing and certainly interesting to write and certainly fun to play.

Whether they will end up together or whether this will just be something in passing and part of the ensemble nature of this show, which we’ve done a lot, it brings the character forward. It brings her character forward as well, and then obviously, every other character that comes into this arc, but it’s fun to have.

It’s been fun to play, and I think that Gary has done a really nice job creating that. It’s just one of the added beats that continues to define what the show has been over the years.

What can you tease about the upcoming season finale?

Mark Harmon: I think Gary has worked hard. It’s been like a four show season arc towards the end of the season. It ends tomorrow night. But he’s worked hard to try to create a threat or an arc that is really America based, that really puts the team in the center of trying to solve this and trying to disarm this threat and bring it back towards the Navy and toward the Marine Corps.

In years past we’ve done some of these kinds of arcs, but most of them have been out of the country. This happens here. I think he’s done a nice job with that. That’s what he set out to do at the beginning of the year and he’s kind of brought it here to conclusion tomorrow night. I don’t know that it’ll totally end tomorrow night. I wouldn’t be surprised if this fell into next year as well, but this is an exciting end.

Like many things on this show, maybe it’s not an end, but it’s been a good arc and the audience seems to be agreeing with that.

Every season we learn a little more about Gibbs. Do you ever learn something about Gibbs at this point that you didn’t know before?

Mark Harmon: All the time, and I think that everyone would say the same thing. I’ve never been one to go up to the writers office and sit down and say, ‘What are we doing?’ I much prefer getting a script and reading about what they had in mind. A lot of time we play certain beats blind because you don’t know where they’re going, but that’s also part of the joy of this show.

I don’t believe two hundred and ten episodes in, going into your number one show, no one is bored. It’s still fun to play those roles. It’s still fun to play opposite these people that I get to work with everyday. As long as that maintains, I think that all of us feel the same way. I don’t think that anybody feels like they’re interested in running something into the ground. They would much rather this end on the high side and they all end at some point. Right now there’s nothing but future ahead of us and I think that everyone feels that.

Gibbs is famous for having a specific set of rules. There are websites that have been cataloguing all his rules. What’s your favorite rule?

Mark Harmon: I don’t know. I know there’s supposed to be fifty one rules so far, fifty something rules, right?

The count is at sixty nine, but it’s all over the place.

Mark Harmon: Oh, sixty nine, that’s right. I remember that. I know that there aren’t a complete set. I know there are holes in that and I know that they track those carefully and I know the ones that they let out are careful. I don’t know that I have a favorite personally. I actually find Gibbs rules interesting and his moral structure or compass, the way that he leads himself and where they come from.

I think they’ve established that the rule thing came from his wife, Shannon, and yet, you know what, maybe rules aren’t a bad thing for people. Certainly some of the ones that he’s spouted over the  years here, they make you think a little bit. They’re pretty simple in their genesis, but they’re complex in the way that they’re delivered.

If you had the opportunity to talk to yourself before you started this series what advice would you give yourself?

Mark Harmon: I had plenty of opportunity to talk to myself. As an actor you read scripts and you respond the minute you close the last page, what you think. At the time I was directing and I was doing some features and I was doing some guest stuff and I was not thinking in terms of looking to do a series. I was just looking to play a role like we all are when we read a script, but I was pleasantly surprised in reading this script that I liked the character.

I liked the fact that there was humor. There was a case, yeah, but the case wasn’t what drove it. There were all these characters. So, it interested me at the time to find out who these other characters were going to be, and at the time David McCallum was already cast. Pauley Perette was already cast. When I had my first meeting, they were talking about a young actor named Michael Weatherly. So, that foursome was there almost from day one and that’s the foursome that still remains.

So, what I would’ve said to myself at the time, you know what, actors take a shot. People have said: “did you think back nine years ago that this was going to go two hundred and ten episodes”. I think every actor thinks that. You have to think that the thing you’re doing is a good choice. But I’ve been a part of many shows that haven’t been this successful and certainly played characters that haven’t been Leroy Gibbs.

So, do I appreciate this and what this has become and the way that the audience has stayed with this and the camaraderie that we’ve carved out over the years on this show? People don’t leave this show. This group has worked together for a lot of years and that’s a huge advantage.

If you could guest star on any other TV show, which one would it be?

Mark Harmon: I’d be on the one that I’m on. I would. I’d be on the one that I’m on. That’s important because we have some writers on our show that have written over forty episodes. That doesn’t happen in an hour of dramatic television.  This is pleasant to work on, and people who have come on the set, the guests or whatever, they want to stay. There isn’t a cast member on this show that doesn’t know that it’s important to try to make a guest star miss this show when they leave.

I’ve been on other sets and I’ve been on sets that are close to this and you learn a few things and you go, ‘Wow, it really can happen.’ And I’ve been on some miserable sets, too, like you’ve had jobs probably that are the same way. All in all I’m nothing but appreciative for this opportunity and the people that work on this show and my support of them. So, I’m very happy with where I am, and I’ll tell you that it’s taken a long time to carve this out here. This show has fought for what it’s enjoying right now and I don’t think that anybody is confused about what it took to get here or what it’ll take to stay.

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