'NCIS': Does Mark Harmon Think He's 'the Big Dog' on Set?

Mark Harmon has been at the center of NCIS since 2003. As Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs, he leads the NCIS Major Case Response Team, with a firm hand and a great deal of quieted compassion. Though many actors come and go — using NCIS as a springboard to other ventures — Harmon has remained committed to the series for almost two decades. 

Michael Weatherly, Pauley Perrette, and Cote de Pablo (who recently returned) all left NCIS, yet the show continues to thrive. It rolls with the punches, bringing on new cast members to forge unique dynamics. Yet, some would argue that, without Harmon, the show would crumble. 

Not only is Harmon the show’s leading man, but he also works diligently behind the scenes as an executive producer. Yet, what does Harmon think of all the credit the public awards him for NCIS? During an interview with The Seattle Times, Mark Harmon commented on the idea that he’s the show’s “big dog.” 

Mark Harmon talks about his, and others’ contributions to ‘NCIS’ success 

Harmon does not try to “shuck off” the show’s success, he explains to The Seattle Times. However, he refuses to distribute that success solely to himself, as many viewers often tend to do. He told The Seattle Times: 

I’m not trying to shuck off our success, because it’s all earned, every bit of it. By a lot of people.

I’m not the big dog. I might be a dog. But there’s a lot of dogs.

Harmon explained that he believes many individuals have contributed to the show’s success. It’s managed to stay on the air for so long because of him, and also because of the incredible team working alongside him and behind the camera. Harmon also dives into why the show had a bit of an advantage, getting a lucky start that many procedurals of its kind do not receive. 

Mark Harmon talks about the early days of ‘NCIS’

Harmon believes that, while NCIS has grown into a narratively strong show with unbelievable ratings, it has done so because it had some time to find its footing. He said: 

We were able to keep it afloat a couple of years because we weren’t good enough to get all the attention and we weren’t bad enough to get canceled…And the biggest thing: We shoot in Santa Clarita…Nobody from the network wanted to drive out there!

Harmon explains that NCIS skated by at the start. They filmed 30 miles out of LA and merely had to be good enough to float under the radar. In its early years, the show worked out its nooks and crannies without too much oversight from the network, cementing the foundation for the procedural’s current unbridled success. 

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