NCIS debuted on CBS in 2003, following the appearance of the show’s main characters in a backdoor episode of the JAG Naval Justice series, which was also created by Donald P. Bellisario and culminated almost two years after the premiere of the cr1me drama starring Mark Harmon as Leroy Gibbs.
Harmon remained on NCIS for 18 seasons, saying farewell to fans after the fourth episode of the nineteenth season. He does, however, continue to serve as executive producer, a position he has held since the series’ inception. For many, the actor’s departure came as no surprise, as rumors had circulated prior to the season’s premiere that he would only appear in a few episodes.
What NCIS fans probably didn’t realize was that Mark Harmon was set to leave the CBS series during the fourth season due to a behind-the-scenes issue with the show in which the executive producer and creator of the drama was also involved. Mr. Donald P. Belisario.
Harmon has remained consistent in his role as Leroy Gibbs, the leader of the special agent team, since the show’s inception. However, when season 4 arrived, the drama’s main star was determined to leave the set due to disagreements with the show’s creator and showrunner, Donald Bellisario. All of this was due to the actors’ disagreements about the production’s deadlines and working hours. According to a close source at the time:
“Mark has been working 16 hours a day, every day.” Don tries to control everything. The script pages are faxed to set at the last minute, and Mark is exhausted by the huge impact it has on his life.”
In this sense, the CBS network was forced to step in and decide whether Mark Harmon or Donald Bellisario would remain on NCIS. As is well known, the choice was made in favor of the interpreter of Leroy Gibbs, and as a result, the series’ creator was fired from the program, but he remained on the network producing other series.
The issue, which began on the set of NCIS, spread after Bellisario’s departure. The drama’s producer claimed to the Los Angeles Times at the time that Harmon was behind a “full-fledged public relations campaign” to force him to leave the program he created.
While explaining that he had asked the star to re-record a scene, he remade it in the same way that he had done it before and that he never spoke to him again, Bellisario held Harmon responsible for orchestrating the leaks to the dam in which the poor working conditions on the set of NCIS were revealed, and thus causing his dismissal. Harmon, on the other hand, did not assume it and thus implied that the expulsion was the producer’s fault. This is what the NCIS actor said following his abrupt departure in 2007:
“Just because we’re working 14 hours a day instead of 17 or 18 hours a day doesn’t mean we’re working any less hard. Simply put, better organized. This has turned into a well-oiled machine. I don’t want to go public with my criticism of Bellisario… He understands why he left.”
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