Mark Harmon

Thomas Mark Harmon (born September 2, 1951) is an American television and film actor. He has appeared in a wide variety of roles since the early 1970s. Initially a college football player, his role on St. Elsewhere led to his being named "Sexiest Man Alive" by People in 1986. After spending the majority of the 1990s as a character actor, he played Secret Service special agent Simon Donovan in The West Wing,[1] receiving a 2002 Emmy Award nomination for his acting in a four-episode story arc.[2]

Mark Harmon
Harmon in 2005
Thomas Mark Harmon

(1951-09-02) September 2, 1951
ResidenceBrentwood, Los Angeles, California
Alma materUCLA, B.A. 1974
OccupationActor, television producer, television director
Years active1970–present
Pam Dawber (m. 1987)
College football career
UCLA Bruins No. 7
Career history
High schoolHarvard-Westlake
Personal information
Height6 ft 0 in (1.83 m)
Weight185 lb (84 kg)
Career highlights and awards

Harmon was cast in a similar role a year later.[3] The creator of both JAG and NCIS had seen Harmon in The West Wing and decided to cast him in NCIS.[4] Harmon's character of NCIS special agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs was first introduced in a guest starring role in two episodes of JAG.[3] Since 2003, Harmon has starred in NCIS as the same character.[3]

Early life

Harmon was born in Burbank, California, the youngest of three children. His parents were Heisman Trophy–winning football player and broadcaster Tom Harmon and actress, model, and artist Elyse Knox (née Elsie Lillian Kornbrath).[5] Harmon has two older sisters, the late actress and painter Kristin Nelson, who was divorced from the late singer Rick Nelson, and actress and model Kelly Harmon, formerly married to car magnate John DeLorean. His maternal grandparents were Austrian immigrants.[6]

College football

After graduating from high school at Harvard-Westlake School,[7] Harmon completed a two-year associate degree at Pierce College in Los Angeles.[8] After his sophomore season at Pierce, Harmon received offers from major college football programs,[9] ultimately choosing UCLA over Oklahoma.[10] The Sooners finished second in the nation in 1971, while the Bruins were a preseason top-20 selection and stumbled to a 2–7–1 record, placing last in the Pac-8.

After transferring to the University of California, Los Angeles,[11] he played starting quarterback for the 1972 and 1973 Bruins.[12][13]

During his first game, his UCLA team produced a stunning upset of the two-time defending national champion Nebraska Cornhuskers.[5][14][15] The Bruins were an eighteen-point home underdog to the top-ranked Huskers but won 20–17 on a late field goal by Efren Herrera under the lights of L.A. Coliseum.[16]

In his senior year, Harmon received the National Football Foundation Award for All-Round Excellence.[12][17][18] During his two years as quarterback in coach Pepper Rodgers's wishbone offense, UCLA compiled a 175 record (.773). Harmon graduated cum laude from UCLA in 1974 with a B.A. in Communications.[19]

He was inducted into the inaugural class of the Pierce College Athletic Hall of Fame in 2010.[8][20]


Early career

After college, Harmon considered pursuing a career in advertising or law.[21] Harmon started his career in business as a merchandising director, but soon decided to switch to acting.[22] He spent much of his career portraying law enforcement and medical personnel. One of his first national TV appearances (other than as an athlete) was in a commercial for Kellogg's Product 19 cereal with his father, Tom Harmon, its longstanding TV spokesman. Thanks to his sister Kristin's in-laws, Ozzie Nelson and Harriet Nelson, he landed his first job as an actor in an episode of Ozzie's Girls. This was followed by guest roles in episodes of Adam-12, Police Woman, and Emergency! in mid-1975. He also performed in "905-Wild", a backdoor pilot episode for a series about two L.A. County Animal Control Officers which did not sell. Producer/creator Jack Webb, who was the packager of both series, later cast Harmon in Sam, a short-lived 1978 series about an LAPD officer and his K-9 partner. Before this, Harmon received an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie for his performance as Robert Dunlap in the TV movie Eleanor and Franklin: The White House Years.[23] In 1978, he appeared in three episodes of the mini-series, Centennial, as Captain John MacIntosh, an honorable Union cavalry officer.[24][25]

During the mid to late 1970s, Harmon made guest appearances on TV series such as Laverne & Shirley, Delvecchio, The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries and had supporting roles in the feature films Comes a Horseman (1978) and Beyond the Poseidon Adventure (1979). He then landed a co-starring role on the 1979 action series 240-Robert as Deputy Dwayne Thibideaux. The series centered around the missions of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department Emergency Services Detail, but was also short-lived.[26]

In 1980, Harmon gained a regular role in the prime time soap opera Flamingo Road, in which he played Fielding Carlisle, the husband of Morgan Fairchild's character. Despite initially good ratings, the series was canceled after two seasons. Following its cancellation, he landed the role of Dr. Robert Caldwell on the series St. Elsewhere in 1983. Harmon appeared in the show for almost three seasons before leaving in early 1986 when his character contracted HIV through unprotected intercourse, one of the first instances where a major recurring television character contracted the virus (the character's subsequent off-screen death from AIDS would be mentioned two years later). In the mid-1980s, Harmon also became the spokesperson for Coors Regular beer, appearing in television commercials for them.[27]

Harmon's career reached several other high points in 1986. In January, he was named People magazine's Sexiest Man Alive.[28] Following his departure from St. Elsewhere in February, he played the lead in the TV movies Prince of Bel Air, co-starring with Kirstie Alley, and The Deliberate Stranger, in which he portrayed the real-life serial killer Ted Bundy. With his career blossoming, he played a role in the 1986 theatrical film Let's Get Harry and the lead role in the 1987 comedy Summer School, again co-starring with Kirstie Alley and alongside future JAG and NCIS alum Patrick Labyorteaux. Returning briefly to episodic television in 1987, Harmon had a limited engagement on the series Moonlighting, playing Cybill Shepherd's love interest Sam Crawford for four episodes. He then starred in the 1987 TV movie After the Promise. In 1988, he co-starred with Sean Connery and Meg Ryan in the 1988 feature film The Presidio, and also opposite Jodie Foster in the film Stealing Home. Despite several high-profile roles, Harmon's film career never gathered momentum and, after a muted reception to his 1989 comedy Worth Winning, he returned to television, appearing in various television movies.

Harmon's next regular television role would be as Chicago police detective Dickie Cobb for two seasons (1991–1993) on the NBC series Reasonable Doubts. In 1993, he appeared in one episode in the role of a rodeo clown on the CBS comedy/western series Harts of the West with future castmate Sean Murray, who plays McGee on NCIS.[29]

In 1995, Harmon starred in the ABC series Charlie Grace, in which he portrayed a private investigator.[30] The series lasted only one season,[31] after which he returned to ensemble medical shows on the series Chicago Hope, in which he played Dr. Jack McNeil from 1996 to 2000.[32] He also portrayed astronaut Wally Schirra in one episode of the 1998 mini-series From the Earth to the Moon.[33]


In May 2002, he portrayed Secret Service special agent Simon Donovan on The West Wing in a four-episode story arc. The role gained him his second Emmy Award nomination, exactly 25 years after his first.[23] Donald P. Bellisario, the creator of JAG and NCIS saw him on The West Wing and had Harmon appear in a guest starring role in two episodes of JAG in April 2003, where Harmon was first introduced as the character of NCIS agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs. Starting that September, Harmon has starred as Gibbs in the CBS drama NCIS, a role which has earned him six nominations at the People's Choice Awards including a win for Favorite TV Crime Drama Actor in 2017.[34] During his time on the show, he was reunited with three of his former Chicago Hope co-stars, Rocky Carroll, Lauren Holly, and Jayne Brook. Since 2008, he has also been a producer and executive producer.[35]

Other career activities

In 2003, Harmon had a supporting role in the remake of the comedy film Freaky Friday.

Harmon has also starred in several stage productions in Los Angeles and Toronto. At the Cast Theatre in Los Angeles, he performed in Wrestlers and The Wager. In the late Eighties he was part of the cast of the Canadian premiere of Key Exchange. Several productions of Love Letters provided him the opportunity to play alongside his wife Pam Dawber.[36]

Harmon received the 2482nd star of the Hollywood Walk of Fame on October 1, 2012.[37]

In 2014, Harmon started a production company called Wings Productions to produce NCIS: New Orleans.[38][39]

As of 2018, Harmon is working as a producer for a new CBS series, based on author John Sandford's best-selling Prey novels,[40] which have sold more than 30 million copies worldwide. The last 10 have reached No. 1 on The New York Times best-seller list.[41]

Television director

Harmon directed two episodes of Chicago Hope in 1999 and 2000.[42] He also directed two episodes of Boston Public in 2002.[42]

Personal life

Harmon is the son of football star Tom Harmon and actress Elyse Knox. His sisters are Kelly, an actress and model, and Kristin, an actress and painter, the latter of whom died of a heart attack on April 27, 2018.[43]

Harmon worked as a carpenter before making a success of his acting career.[44] On NCIS, his carpentry skills are alluded to through his character's hobby of building boats in his basement.

Harmon has been married to actress Pam Dawber since March 21, 1987.[36] The couple have two sons: Sean Thomas Harmon (born April 25, 1988, who played a young Gibbs in five NCIS episodes), and Ty Christian Harmon (born June 25, 1992). They maintain a low profile and rarely appear in public with their children. Harmon was the brother-in-law of Ricky Nelson and John DeLorean and is the uncle of actress Tracy Nelson and singers Matthew and Gunnar Nelson of the rock duo Nelson.

In 1987, Harmon filed for custody of his nephew Sam on the grounds that his sister, Kristin Nelson, was incapable of good parenting. Sam's psychiatrist testified that the thirteen-year-old boy depicted his mother as a dragon and complained about her mood swings and how she prevented him from being with his siblings. Harmon later dropped the custody bid.[45][46]

In 1988, Harmon was part owner of a minor league baseball team, the San Bernardino Spirit, the same season Ken Griffey, Jr. played for the team before his major league call-up to the Seattle Mariners the next season. Harmon used the team and their home field, Fiscalini Field, for the opening and closing scenes of the film in which he was starring, Stealing Home.[47]

In 1996, Harmon saved a teenage boy involved in a car accident outside his Brentwood home. The driver had been able to escape, but the passenger was trapped in the burning car. Harmon used a sledgehammer from his garage to break the window of the car and pulled the passenger from the flames, who suffered burns to 30% of his body.[48][49]



Year Title Role Notes
1978 Comes a Horseman Billy Joe Meynert
1979 Beyond the Poseidon Adventure Larry Simpson
1984 Tuareg – The Desert Warrior Gacel Sayah
1986 Let's Get Harry Harry Burck, Jr.
1987 Summer School Freddy Shoop
After the Promise Elmer Jackson
1988 The Presidio Jay Austin
Stealing Home Billy Wyatt
1989 Worth Winning Taylor Worth
1990 Till There Was You Frank Flynn
Kenny Rogers Classic Weekend Himself
1991 Cold Heaven Alex Davenport
1994 Wyatt Earp Sheriff John Behan
1995 Magic in the Water Jack Black
1995 The Last Supper Dominant Male
1997 Casualties Tommy Nance
The First to Go Jeremy Hampton
1998 Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas Magazine Reporter
1999 I'll Remember April John Cooper
2001 The Amati Girls Lawrence
2002 Local Boys Jim Wesley
2003 Freaky Friday Ryan
2004 Chasing Liberty President James Foster
2009 Weather Girl Dale
2010 Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths Clark Kent/Superman Voice role


Year Title Role Notes
1973 Ozzie's Girls Mark Johnson Episode: "The Candidate"
1975 Emergency! Officer Dave Gordon Episode: "905-Wild"
Adam-12 Officer Gus Corbin Episode: "Gus Corbin"
Police Woman Paul Donin Episode: "No Place to Hide"
1976 Laverne & Shirley Victor Episode: "Dating Slump"
All's Fair Unknown Episode: "Jealousy"
Police Woman Stansky Episode: "Tender Soldier"
Delvecchio Ronnie Striker Episode: "Hot Spell"
1977 Eleanor and Franklin: The White House Years Robert Dunlap Television film
The Hardy Boys Chip Garvey Episode: "Mystery of the Solid Gold Kicker"
1978 Getting Married Howard Lesser Television film
Police Woman Paul Donin Episode: "No Place to Hide"
Little Mo Norman Brinker Television film
Sam Officer Mike Breen 7 episodes
1978–79 Centennial Captain John McIntosh 3 episodes
1979 The Love Boat Doug Bradbury 2 episodes
1979–80 240-Robert Dwayne Thibodeaux 13 episodes
1980 Flamingo Road Fielding Carlyle Television film
The Dream Merchants Johnny Edge Miniseries
1981 Goliath Awaits Peter Cabot Television film
1981–82 Flamingo Road Fielding Carlyle 37 episodes
1983 The Love Boat Rick Tucker Episode: "Julie and The Bachelor..."
1983–86 St. Elsewhere Dr. Robert Caldwell 70 episodes
1983 Intimate Agony (aka Doctor in Paradise) Tommy Television film
1986 The Deliberate Stranger Ted Bundy
Prince of Bel Air Robin Prince
1987 Moonlighting Sam Crawford 4 episodes
After the Promise Elmer Jackson Television film
1989 Sweet Bird of Youth Chance Wayne
1991–93 Reasonable Doubts Detective Dicky Cobb 45 episodes
1991 Dillinger John Dillinger Television film
Fourth Story David Shepard
Shadow of a Doubt Uncle Charlie Oakley
Long Road Home Ertie Robertson
1993 Harts of the West Sam Carver Episode: "The Right Stuff"
1995 Charlie Grace Charlie Grace Main cast
Original Sins (aka Acts of Contrition) Johnathan Frayne Television film
1996 Strangers Mark Episode: "Visit"
E! True Hollywood Story Himself Episode: "Dark Obsession"
1996–2000 Chicago Hope Dr. Jack McNeil 95 episodes
1997 Adventures from the Book of Virtues Ulysses Episode: "Perseverance" (S 1:Ep 13)
1998 From the Earth to the Moon Wally Schirra Episode: "We Have Cleared the Tower"
2000 For All Time Charles Lattimer Television film
2001 The Legend of Tarzan Bob Markham Episode: "Tarzan and the Outbreak"
Crossfire Trail Bruce Barkow Television film
And Never Let Her Go Thomas Capano
2002 The West Wing Simon Donovan 4 episodes
2003 JAG SSA Leroy Jethro Gibbs Episodes: "Ice Queen" and "Meltdown"
2003–present NCIS Lead Role and executive producer
2004 Retrosexual: The 80's Himself TV miniseries
2011 Certain Prey Lucas Davenport Television film
2012 Family Guy SSA Leroy Jethro Gibbs Voice
Episode: "Tom Tucker: The Man and His Dream"
2014–18 NCIS: New Orleans 4 episodes
Executive producer

Awards and nominations

YearAssociationCategoryNominated workResult
1977 Primetime Emmy Awards Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie Eleanor and Franklin: The White House Years Nominated
1987 Golden Globe Awards Best Actor – Miniseries or Television Film The Deliberate Stranger Nominated
1988 After the Promise Nominated
1992 Best Actor – Television Series Drama Reasonable Doubts Nominated
Viewers for Quality Television Best Actor in a Quality Drama Series Nominated
1993 Golden Globe Awards Best Actor – Television Series Drama Nominated
Viewers for Quality Television Best Actor in a Quality Drama Series Nominated
1997 Screen Actors Guild Awards Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series Chicago Hope Nominated
1998 Nominated
2002 Primetime Emmy Awards Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series The West Wing Nominated
2011 People's Choice Awards Favorite TV Crime Fighter NCIS Nominated
2013 Prism Awards Male Performance in a Drama Series Won
2014 People's Choice Awards Favorite Dramatic TV Actor Nominated
2016 Favorite Crime Drama TV Actor Nominated
2017 Favorite Crime Drama TV Actor Won


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  4. Lynette Rice (February 28, 2006), "The long and winding career of Mark Harmon", Entertainment Weekly, retrieved 13 November 2016, The answer came when Bellisario saw Harmon's Emmy-nominated 2002 arc as Agent Simon Donovan on The West Wing. 'What I saw was a very controlled presence, a quiet strength,' says Bellisario. 'That's what I was looking for. Leroy is Mark's kind of guy. Mark has that jock mentality—you tough it out no matter how tough it is.'
  5. "The Son of 'Ole 98'". Life. November 10, 1972. pp. 72–4.
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  20. Pierce College 2010 Hall of Fame inductees Archived 2013-10-09 at the Wayback Machine
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  29. "Hollywood stars ride with 'Harts of the West'". Television. The Times Leader. Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. September 6, 1993. p. 6B. Retrieved August 10, 2019 via Mark Harmon ... appears as ex-rodeo star Sunset Sam in the second episode. Harmon plays a down-on-his-luck. once-champion rider who teaches the Harts a few lessons about taming the West ... Nevertheless Hart, wife Alison ... and their three children Zane (Sean Murray), L'Amour (Meghann Haldeman) and Duke (Nathan Watt), all named after heroes of the old West....
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  37. "Mark Harmon to Receive Walk of Fame Star". 26 September 2012.
  38. show end credits
  39. "Variety: Mark Harmon". Retrieved 9 October 2014.
  40. John Sandford (19 November 2018). "CBS Developing Crime Drama From Mark Harmon".
  41. "Mark Harmon in 'John Sandford's Certain Prey' - Review". 26 September 2018.
  42. "Mark Harmon". Retrieved March 2, 2015.
  44. Mark Harmon on IMDb
  45. Bashe, Philip (1992). Teenage Idol, Travelin' Man: The Complete Biography of Rick Nelson. New York: Hyperion. ISBN 1-56282-969-6.
  46. Selvin, Joel (1990). Ricky Nelson: Idol for a Generation. Contemporary Books, Inc. ISBN 0-8092-4187-0.
  47. Brock, Mullins (August 21, 1988). "League's Ownership Includes Some Heavy Hitters". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2014-11-13.
  48. "Actor Harmon Pulls 2 Youths From Burning Car". Los Angeles Times. 4 January 1996. Retrieved 2012-02-03.
  49. "NCIS Star Mark Harmon: A Real-Life Hero To One California Man". May 21, 2013. Retrieved May 29, 2018.
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