Mark Harmon reveals how the name of his NCIS character led him to sign the deal: ‘Huh, I like that name’

Mark Harmon NCIS
Credit: Deadline

What’s in a name? A man’s career solidified for 19 long years!

According to People, Mark Harmon’s decision to join the NCIS franchise and to become its figurehead for 19 years was ignited by the name of his character, Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs.

In an interview with Entertainment Tonight, acquired by People, Harmon said, “I didn’t expect to like the script as much as I did when I first read it,” adding, “I was reading other things and I was also trying to stay home — young family, and I wanted to try and be home more.”

His decision to join the NCIS team was fuelled by the name ‘Leroy Jethro Gibbs’ that the producers thought would suit him.

He continued his statement, explaining, “I read ‘Leroy Jethro Gibbs’ and thought, ‘Huh, I like that name,'” adding, “And then for a brief second when I decided that I liked the idea of the project, the name changed.”

The change in the name did not sustain his interest in the project, and he expressed his concern about changing the name back to Gibbs.

Reportedly, he told them, “I went, ‘No, no, it’s gotta be Leroy Jethro Gibbs.’ The creator said, ‘No, you can’t play a guy named Leroy Jethro Gibbs,’ and I said, ‘Why not?'” he explained, “And then it went back and I was happy about it.”

His satisfaction with the name is what caused him to strike a deal with CBS.

Harmon recently shared with People the second factor behind his choosing to work with NCIS.

He said it allowed him to be home for Saturday breakfast with his children and wife, Pam Dawber. He explained, “It was important to be able to make pancakes on Saturday morning,” adding, “And there were some times where that meant not sleeping. You just came home took a shower, and came back down. And yet I look back at it and I don’t miss the sleep,” he continued, “I still missed things,” concluding his statement with, “I was working, but I’ve been part of their lives.”

According to People, in a special featurette on the show’s season 19 DVD release in 2022, Harmon spoke on him leaving the crime procedural in the fourth episode of season 19 when his character decided to stay in Alaska indefinitely after solving a case. He stated, “What has always drawn me here is the character I play and to keep it fresh and to keep it challenging,” adding, “Plot-wise, this character has taken the path that it did. I thought it was honest and OK with.”

He further adds that he is of the opinion that his character, Gibbs, does not entirely retire from service in Alaska, adding, “The character is living in Alaska as far as I know.” Additionally, he speaks about his character’s return to ET, “He’s probably sitting in a stream up in Alaska fishing. Is he going to get out of the stream? I don’t know. But if he is, I don’t know about it.”

NCIS airs on Mondays at 9 p.m. ET on CBS.