NCIS is hard to imagine without Mark Harmon as Leroy Gibbs. But why did the creator originally not want to cast him?
NCIS fans love Mark Harmon’s portrayal of Agent Leroy Gibbs on the long-running crime drama. However, it seems not everyone was as convinced by his casting at the beginning with series creator Donald P Bellisario voicing his concern early on.
Why did the NCIS creator not want Mark Harmon to play Gibbs?
Harmon was a relatively big star before he landed the role of Gibbs on CBS’ crime procedural NCIS back in 2003.
He had previously starred in shows like St Elsewhere as Dr Robert Caldwell and had been named People’s Sexiest Man Alive in 1986.
However, when it came to casting him as Gibbs, he was not the first choice for series creator Bellisario.
In an interview with USA today back in 2005, Bellisario was honest about not having Harmon in mind for the role.
He told the publication this was because he remembered him from his earlier roles, which he felt did not fit with the strong sense of honour which characterises Gibbs.
Then it was only after seeing Harmon in a guest role on The West Wing, the creator was convinced by his casting.
He told USA Today: “I said, ‘Oh, my God, he’s Gibbs.’
“He had matured. He’s good-looking in a totally different way than he was as a young guy.”
This was echoed by executive producer Charles Johnson in another 2010 interview with USA Today where he revealed it was Harmon’s West Wing performance which sold them on him.
He told the publication: “We all looked at that work. And everybody said, ‘He’s Gibbs.'”
Much of this was to do with the similarities between the two roles on each show.
As fans might remember, on The West Wing Harmon played a stoic Secret Service agent called Simon Donovan.
He was even nominated for an Emmy in 2002 for the role he played for just a four-episode stint.
What’s more, when he was convinced by Harmon, it seemed Bellisario was extremely happy to have him on board.
In a CBS press conference about the show back in 2003 he reportedly said: “I am so lucky to have Mark Harmon as the lead.
“You have no idea. This cast is gold. Mark Harmon is a Middle American guy, even if he was raised in [Southern California]. His values are exactly the same as mine.”
TV Week also revealed how Harmon agreed with the statement, adding the creator was a main reason he signed on.
He told them: “He would not know how to put a feather spear in your back.
“That’s unusual… I’m here on this project specifically to work with him.”
Harmon’s Gibbs has now been part of the show for 17 seasons and is undoubtedly a fan-favourite on the show.
He has also been confirmed to be coming back for season 18 with Harmon recently renewing his contract with CBS for future outings.
CBS has placed NCIS in its autumn line-up of shows with a September release date expected if filming is able to resume as planned.
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