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Mark Harmon Actor

Mark Harmon

Mark stars as "Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs" on CBS's series "Naval Crimminal Investigative Service"(NCIS). Harmon's acting talent has earned him multiple Emmy Award and Golden Globe Award nominations. On television, he was nominated for an Emmy for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series for "The West Wing." Prior to that, he earned an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Special for the movie "Eleanor and Franklin: The White House Years." He received two consecutive Golden Globe nominations for his work in "Reasonable Doubts" and received two additional Golden Globe nominations for Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture Made for TV, one for "After the Promise" and the other for his role as serial killer Ted Bundy in "The Deliberate Stranger." Along with his costars in "Chicago Hope," on CBS, Harmon received two SAG Award nominations for ensemble work, and he also directed episodes of the series. His other television credits include the mini-series "From Earth to the Moon," the CBS mini-series "And Never Let Her Go," the movie "Sweet Bird of Youth," and the series "St. Elsewhere" and "Moonlighting." Harmon appeared in two recent feature films, a remake of "Freaky Friday" and "Chasing Liberty." His other feature-film credits include "Comes a Horseman," "Wyatt Earp," "Stealing Home," "The Presidio," "Summer School," "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas," "Natural Born Killers" and "The Last Supper." On stage, Harmon has appeared in "Key Exchange," "Wrestlers," "The Wager" and several productions of "Love Letters" with his wife, actress Pam Dawber. Harmon was born and raised in Southern California, where he attended UCLA and quarterbacked the football team to several winning seasons, for which he was awarded the National Collegiate Football Foundation Award for All-Around Excellence. He is a cum laude graduate of UCLA with a degree in communications. His father, Tom Harmon, was a Heisman Trophy winner and nationally acclaimed broadcaster. His mother is former actress Elyse Knox. Thomas Mark Harmon was born on September 2, 1951. in Burbank, California.

Harmon has been married to actress Pam Dawber since 1987 and they have two sons, Sean and Ty. His sister, Kristin Harmon, was married to former pop idol Ricky Nelson and so Harmon is the uncle of actress Tracy Nelson and her brothers, Gunnar, Matthew and Sam. Harmon was chosen as People Magazine’s Sexiest Man Alive in 1986. He is also a real-life hero, having saved the life of a 16-year-old boy who was in a car accident just outside of his home in 1996. His wife heard the crash and after alerting him, ran to call 911. Harmon found a dozen onlookers, all just watching the car burn, so he broke out the window and pulled the boy, who had been trapped upside down in his seat belt, to safety moments before the car exploded.

The CBS television show NCIS (2003), about the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, marked Harmon’s return to series television, while on the big screen, he played the fiancé of Jamie Lee Curtis’ character in the Disney remake Freaky Friday (2003), followed by a lead role as the President of the United States (and the father of Mandy Moore's character) in Chasing Liberty (2004). Harmon lives in Los Angeles with his wife and their two sons.


Mark Harmon: Go To Top

Mark Harmon, who plays the off-putting orthopedic surgeon Jack McNeil on the Wednesday night drama Chicago Hope, was between scenes on his first day of directing an episode when he made good on his promise to call me. Because it was the third time we talked, I knew Harmon to be easy-going, loquacious -- but most of all, thoughtful. With his warning that he might have to run back to the set at any moment, we jumped right into it.

Is this your first time directing anything? Well, I'm just beginning to direct where I'm now a guild member, yeah.

What does that mean, you were illegally directing before? (Laughing) No, no. Just that for all intents and purposes this is the first time for me.

So do you like it so far? It was something I needed to try to do and this is certainly the group to try to do it with. (The Hope cast) are terrific people both in front and behind the camera and they are all friends. I'm thankful to get the opportunity and I hope I don't mess it up.

Some people would say it's scarier to direct the people you work with; that'd be easier to be in charge of strangers. Not me, I'm a team guy. You don't battle egos on this show. It's always been about the work. I've survived my first day, so ...

Is it the way you want to go from here? For me it's always been about learning new things, growing, establishing some longevity. The fact that I've been doing this for 20 years is in some ways invigorating for me. I like this work a lot. What I like most about it is that you can grow and change. I've always known that you don't do that without risking things, without pushing the limits. This is the time to try this. I always thought if the opportunity presented itself i should take it.


A lot of our readers ask about your other career plans -- meaning movies. Part of the reason I looked forward to Chicago Hope is that before I was in New Mexico or in New Guinea or Australia or France and we have a young family and I was missing chunks of it. The location stuff is a different deal. I didn't enjoy it as much. Basically that's what (an actor's) life is- - you pack a bag, you go where the work is. But, for me, I realized you don't get that time back. I like this job for a number of reasons but one of them is, most days I have a chance to make breakfast and take 'em to school or to read 'em a bedtime story. It's almost like a normal life.

How old are the kids now? 10 and 6.

You and I talked once when you were doing (the detective drama) Charlie Grace, which I liked. I'm not sure we got much of a chance. It was the first show I had any part in producing. It was a real learning experience -- a good one, a positive one.

You were -- and are -- an athlete. It's the one similarity you and your character have. McNeil and I are very different people. That was the one thing (the producers) said they'd do when they talked to me about joining the cast. They said, "We don't even know what kind of surgeon he is. All we know is that he wears clogs." McNeil is the guy you hope does your surgery but not the kind of guy you wanna have dinner with.

No kidding. He's like the worst boyfriend in America, the kind of guy you just bristle at -- which is not the kind of guy you usually play. But I'm in the business to push it. I'm not likely to be attracted to characters I've already done. I have to be almost frightened by the possibility of taking it on. Over the years I realize I must enjoy walking that edge, I keep doing it. It's why I like what I do. The only other job I've ever had that provides....that time in the morning where you're going to work and you can't wait to get there and the sun's rising and you're moving toward something you look forward to getting up and doing every day was being a carpenter. And it was because you're doing something different every day.

You and Harrison Ford. Harrison was a contractor and I never was a contractor. I've always been a hammer and nail guy and I did some finish work. What I enjoyed about it is if you do it right, it lasts.

Mark, one of our readers noted your courage in saving two teens from a car fire a few years ago. She notes that you must be awfully brave. Or stupid. I think there's a fine line. I don't think it has much to do with thought, I really don't. I think it has more to do with some sort of moral character you were raised with by your parents.You either take part or you don't. Certainly there were people there who could have (gotten to the boys) before I did. And I'm not questioning them. I'm just saying it didn't have to be as close as it was. These are lucky kids. Who else has a 12 pound sledge hammer in their garage? None of it would have happened had my wife not got there first. She was the one who started the process. I think it changed and affected thought processes, and perhaps even lives, of everyone who was involved in it that night. Certainly it did my wife and mine and the two kids involved and perhaps every neighbor who was standing outside watching. The bottom line is the kids got a second chance and part of the great gift of all this is that it happened to them at 16 years old. As time passes they more fully realize what they were given back. That's a gift. That's about luck.

What seems meaningful is that you think it's instinctive; I'd like to think it would kick in like that fore me but I don't know. That was part of the outpouring we heard from parents ...

You know, you were 16, too, and you did things that were stupid. That's the other side of the story. They were going 85 miles an hour in a residential zone through a double stop light and never hit the brakes. No drinking was involved; they were just going too fast. How many times have you been on the freeway and had someone fly by you at 100 mph then end up two cars ahead of you at the off ramp? What's the point?

One of the kids crawled out of the accident on his own ...I never saw him till after the accident but you realize that if you don't get the kid out who's on fire, and he perishes, you destroy the other kid's life, too. There were a tremendous number of issues in play. A year after this happened both of them showed up at our door. Both of them had gotten tattoos commemorataing the evening. That's 16. But they're now doing well. They have lives -- and they know it. They know it.

Mark Harmon stars on the NCSI

In Step With...Mark Actor Mark Harmon was late calling me on a Saturday morning because, as he said apologetically, “We worked all night, and I just got in the door.” Harmon is on CBS’s Tuesday-night hit Navy NCIS, and he told me he works an average of 18 hours a day.

“It’s OK,” he said. “I didn’t take this job for the days off. The series is doing well, and we’re proud of it. And with CBS extending it to a full season, we may not even get a hiatus.”

That last part may be a joke. But the series—created by Don Bellisario, a former Marine who’s also the idea guy behind the TV show JAG—is anything but a joke. It deals with a maverick criminal-investigating unit within the Navy. Harmon is Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs, the chief investigator—also a former Marine. David McCallum (remember him?) is the unit’s medical examiner, “Ducky” Mallard.

I asked about McCallum, who played Illya Kuryakin on the hit ’60s series The Man From U.N.C.L.E. “He’s the best,” Mark said. “When we first met on the set, I greeted him as ‘Illya,’ and he just laughed. ‘Man, that was 39 years ago!’ he said. He’s a gift of a professional.”

Harmon hasn’t been around quite as long as McCallum, but he’s got an impressive résumé. He’s been nominated for four Golden Globes, he was on Chicago Hope, St. Elsewhere and Moonlighting, and in 2002 he received his second Emmy nomination for his role as Secret Service Agent Simon Donovan on NBC’s The West Wing. Harmon also has done stage work, and this winter he portrayed the President in the film Chasing Liberty.

In 2001, Mark played the “heavy” in a fine TV Western of a Louis L’Amour story called Crossfire Trail, starring Tom Selleck. “I didn’t know you could be that nasty,” I told the affable Harmon.

“It was just fun to do,” he said. “We need more great Westerns.”

Mark Harmon's great story

Mark Harmon lives in the mountains high above Santa Monica with his wife, actress Pam Dawber (Mork & Mindy), and their two sons. Is Pam acting these days? “She gets offered stuff all the time,” Harmon told me, “but she turns it down. She does a lot of concerts, singing Sondheim songs with a full orchestra behind her. And she’s teaching art.” Harmon’s bloodlines are impressive: His mother is the former Hollywood beauty Elyse Knox, and his father was the All-American running back Tom Harmon of Michigan. Before Mark went into showbiz, he too played college football. “My father was broadcasting UCLA games at the Coliseum,” he recalled, “and I ran copy for him when he was on the air. I used to look down at the field and fantasize about coming out onto the grass from the players’ tunnel.” So when Mark was 21, he did just that. “I was standing with the team in that tunnel,” he said, “waiting to take the field, with 97,000 people watching.” How many Americans have a story like that?

 


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