Mark Harmon’s Career Chronicle: What Was He Doing Before NCIS

Mark Harmon is best known for his iconic role as Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs on the CBS hit show “NCIS.” Harmon starred in the series from its inception, and after nearly two decades, he departed from “NCIS” just four episodes into the 2021 season, according to Vanity Fair. Although Harmon signed on for the 19th season, he was only booked to appear in a limited capacity, as reported by The Hollywood Reporter.

In a 2019 interview with People, Harmon mentioned that he wasn’t planning on leaving the show at that time but indicated he would recognize when the time came. “I’ve always thought if there’s ever a time where the writers are walking into the room and going ‘I don’t know what to do,’ then I think we all have to look at each other and call it a day,” he told the magazine.

“But we’re not there yet.” As the face of the show and an executive producer, Harmon expressed his gratitude for being part of a long-lasting series. “That commitment is part of what I signed up for; I know when this show ends that’s it — there won’t be anything else like this for me.”

While fans may find it hard to believe that Harmon did anything before playing Agent Gibbs, he actually had a diverse career before “NCIS,” and it wasn’t initially in acting.

Mark Harmon learned carpentry from his father and developed a passion for it. In an interview with Sunset, he shared, “I used to hang out in my dad’s workshop on weekends.” To make ends meet, he became a roofer and a framer. “What I really enjoyed was finish work,” he said. “I like the longevity of it: If you do it right, it will be around a lot longer than you are.”

Throughout his career, Harmon held various odd jobs, including working as a shoe salesman and at several ad firms, according to Men’s Journal. Although he enjoyed these roles for nearly five years, carpentry remained special to him. He admitted that if he hadn’t pursued acting, he likely would have had a successful career as a carpenter. “I enjoyed getting up and doing that in the morning,” Harmon told the magazine. “I enjoyed the drive to work. For me, it was about materials and doing right.”

According to The Famous People, Harmon played quarterback for UCLA’s football team and later graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Communications. Soon after, he found himself in front of a camera, unaware that this would mark the beginning of his acting legacy.

Mark Harmon made his national television debut in a commercial for Kellogg’s Product 19 cereal alongside his father, according to Outsider. Shortly after, his brother-in-law Ricky Nelson and his parents, Ozzie and Harriet Nelson, played vital roles in jumpstarting his acting career. The family, known for their musical background and the 1950s sitcom “The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet,” offered Harmon a chance to act when Ozzie asked him to fill in for an absent actor on their 1970s spin-off show “Ozzie’s Girls.” “That changed my course,” Harmon told Parade.

Harmon began his acting career with minor television roles in shows like “Laverne and Shirley,” “Emergency!” and “Police Story,” as noted by IMDb. However, his role as Dr. Robert Caldwell in the medical drama “St. Elsewhere” significantly boosted his career. From there, Harmon continued to secure prominent roles in television and movies. His career reached new heights in 2003 when he landed the role of Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs on “NCIS.”

Reflecting on his decades-long career in the entertainment industry, Harmon told People in 2019, “This choice, this career, requires you to be all in. Your job is to be prepared for the opportunity — it will come, you just won’t know when.”

Mark Harmon’s journey from a carpenter to an iconic television actor demonstrates his versatility, dedication, and passion for his craft. His legacy on “NCIS” and his contributions to television will be remembered for years to come.