Mark Harmon

Mark Harmon Biography

Thomas Mark Harmon (born September 2, 1951) is an American actor. Since the mid-1970s, he has appeared in a variety of television, film and stage roles following a brief career as a collegiate football player with the UCLA Bruins. Since 2003, Harmon has starred as Leroy Jethro Gibbs in the hit CBS series NCIS.

Early life

Born in Burbank, California, Harmon was the youngest of three children. His parents were Heisman Trophy winner and broadcaster Tom Harmon and actress and artist, Elyse Knox (née Elsie Lillian Kornbrath). Harmon has two older sisters, actress and painter Kristin Nelson, the former wife of singer Ricky Nelson, and actress-model Kelly Harmon, who was once married to car magnate John DeLorean. His maternal grandparents were Austrian immigrants.

Following high school graduation in 1970, Harmon spent his first two years of college at Pierce College in Los Angeles. After gaining his associate's degree, he transferred to the University of California, Los Angeles, and was the starting quarterback for the UCLA Bruins football team in 1972 and 1973. In his first game for UCLA in 1972, he engineered a stunning upset of the two-time defending national champion, Nebraska Cornhuskers. The Bruins were an 18-point underdog to the top-ranked Huskers, but won 20-17 with a late field goal under the lights in Los Angeles. As a senior, Harmon received the National Football Foundation Award for All-Round Excellence in 1973. In his two years as quarterback in coach Pepper Rodgers' wishbone offense, UCLA compiled a 17–5 record (). Harmon graduated from UCLA with a B.A. in Communication cum laude in 1974.


Even though he considered "advertising or law" as careers after college, Harmon became an actor and has spent much of his career portraying law enforcement and medical personnel. Other than athletics/sports appearances, one of his first national TV appearances was with his father Tom Harmon, in a commercial for Kellogg's Product 19 cereal, for which the latter was the longtime TV spokesman. As an actor, his first credit came courtesy of his sister Kristen's in-laws, Ozzie Nelson and Harriet Nelson, in an episode of Ozzie's Girls. This was followed by guest-starring roles on episodes of Adam-12, Police Woman, and Emergency! in mid-1975 ("905-Wild" centered on two L.A. County Animal Control Officers and was a backdoor pilot episode for a series, but did not sell). Producer/creator Jack Webb, who was the packager of both series, later cast Harmon in Sam, a short-lived 1977 series about an LAPD officer and his K-9 partner. Also in 1977, 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. In 1978 he appeared in three episodes of the acclaimed mini-series, Centennial, as Captain John MacIntosh,an honorable Union cavalry officer.

During the mid-1970s, Harmon made guest appearances on shows such as Laverne & Shirley and 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.

In 1980, Harmon gained a regular role in the primetime 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 prestigious NBC Emmy-winning 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.

Harmon's career reached several other high points in 1986. In January, he was named People magazine's Sexiest Man Alive. 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 played serial killer Ted Bundy. With his career blossoming, he gained 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. 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 cast mate Sean Murray, who plays McGee on NCIS.

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

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 nomination. Harmon appeared in a guest starring role in two episodes of JAG in April 2003, which introduced the character of NCIS agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs; since 2003, Harmon has starred as Gibbs in the CBS drama NCIS. 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/executive producer. Also in 2003, Harmon had a supporting role in the remake of the comedy film Freaky Friday.

Harmon 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 premier of Key Exchange. Several productions of Love Letters provided him the opportunity to play alongside wife Pam Dawber.

Harmon received the 2,482nd star of the Hollywood Walk of Fame on October 1, 2012.

Awards and nominations


  • 1971: National Junior College Athletic Association All-American
  • 1973: National Football Foundation Award for All-Round Excellence

Acting history

Primetime Emmy Awards

  • 1977: Nominated, Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or Movie " Eleanor and Franklin: The White House Years
  • 2002: Nominated, Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series " The West Wing
Golden Globe Awards

  • 1986: Nominated, Best Actor in a Miniseries or Television Film " The Deliberate Stranger
  • 1987: Nominated, Best Actor in a Miniseries or Television Film " After The Promise
  • 1991: Nominated, Best Actor in a Television Series Drama " Reasonable Doubts
  • 1992: Nominated, Best Actor in a Television Series Drama " Reasonable Doubts
Screen Actors Guild Awards

  • 1996: Nominated, Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series " Chicago Hope
  • 1997: Nominated, Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series " Chicago Hope
People's Choice Awards

  • 2010: Nominated, Favorite TV Drama Actor " NCIS
  • 2011: Nominated, Favorite TV Crime Fighter " NCIS

Personal life

He worked as a carpenter before making a success of his acting career. 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. The couple have two sons: Sean Thomas Harmon (born April 25, 1988, who played a young Gibbs in NCIS Season 6 Episode 4 and Episode 15, Season 7 Episode 16, Season 9 Episode 8 and 15), and Ty Christian Harmon (born June 25, 1992). Harmon was the brother-in-law of Ricky Nelson and is the uncle of actress Tracy Nelson and singers Matthew and Gunnar Nelson of the pop duo Nelson. Harmon dated singer Karen Carpenter in the 1970s. He is also the son of the late Tom Harmon, a star on the University of Michigan football team who won the Heisman Trophy in 1940.

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

In 1996, Harmon saved two teenage boys involved in a car accident outside of his home. Harmon used a sledgehammer from his garage to break the window of their burning car, then pulled them free from the flames. Harmon and his wife are also outspoken activists for gun control.


Year Title Role Notes
1973 Ozzie's Girls The Candidate Unknown episodes
1975 Emergency! Officer Dave Gordon Episode: "905-Wild"
1975 Adam-12 Officer Gus Corbin Episode: "Gus Corbin"
1975 Police Woman Paul Donin Episode: "No Place to Hide"
1976 Laverne & Shirley Victor Episode: "Dating Slump"
1976 All's Fair Unknown Episode: "Jealousy"
1976 Police Woman Stansky Episode: "Tender Soldier"
1976 Delvecchio Ronnie Striker Episode: "Hot Spell"
1977 Eleanor and Franklin: The White House Years Robert Dunlap Television movie
Nominated"?Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie
1977 The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries Chip Garvey Episode: "Mystery of the Solid Gold Kicker"
1978 Sam Officer Mike Breen 7 episodes
1978 Getting Married Howie Lesser Television movie
1978 Little Mo Norman Brinker Television movie
1978 Comes a Horseman Billy Joe Meynert
1978"1979 Centennial Captain John McIntosh 3 episodes
1979 Beyond the Poseidon Adventure Larry Simpson
1979"1983 The Love Boat Doug Bradbury 3 episodes
1979"1980 240-Robert Dwayne Thibideaux 13 episodes
1980 Flamingo Road Fielding Carlyle Television movie
1980 The Dream Merchants Johnny Edge
1981 Goliath Awaits Peter Cabot Television movie
1981"1982 Flamingo Road Fielding Carlyle 37 episodes
1983 Doctor in Paradise Tommy
1983"1986 St. Elsewhere Dr. Robert Caldwell 70 episodes
1984 Tuareg " The Desert Warrior Gacel Sayah
1986 Prince of Bel Air Robin Prince Television movie
1986 The Deliberate Stranger Ted Bundy Television movie
Nominated"?Golden Globe Award for Best Actor " Miniseries or Television Film
1986 Let's Get Harry Harry Burck, Jr.
1987 Moonlighting Sam Crawford 4 episodes
1987 Summer School Freddy Shoop
1987 After the Promise Elmer Jackson Television movie
Nominated"?Golden Globe Award for Best Actor " Miniseries or Television Film
1988 The Presidio Jay Austin
1988 Stealing Home Billy Wyatt
1989 Sweet Bird of Youth Chance Wayne Television movie
1989 Worth Winning Taylor Worth
1990 Till There Was You Frank Flynn
1990 Kenny Rogers Classic Weekend Himself
1991 Dillinger John Dillinger Television movie
1991 Fourth Story David Shepard Television movie
1991 Long Road Home Ertie Robertson Television movie
1991 Shadow of a Doubt Uncle Charlie Oakley
1991 Cold Heaven Alex Davenport
1991"1993 Reasonable Doubts Detective Dicky Cobb 45 episodes
Nominated"?Golden Globe Award for Best Actor " Television Series Drama (1991-92)
1993 Harts of the West Sam Carver Episode: "The Right Stuff"
1994 Natural Born Killers Mickey Knox Uncredited
1994 Wyatt Earp Sheriff John Behan
1995 Original Sins Johnathan Franye Television movie
1995 Magic in the Water Jack Black
1995 The Last Supper Dominant Male
1995 Charlie Grace Charlie Grace 6 episodes
1995 Acts of Contrition Johnathan Frayne Television movie
1996 Strangers Mark Episode: "Visit"
1996"2000 Chicago Hope Dr. Jack McNeil 95 episodes
Nominated"?Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series (1996"97)
1997 Adventures from the Book of Virtues Ulysses Episode: "Perseverance"
1997 Casualties Tommy Nance
1997 The First to Go Jeremy Hampton
1998 From the Earth to the Moon Wally Schirra Episode: "We Have Cleared the Tower"
1998 Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas Magazine Reporter
1999 I'll Remember April John Cooper
2000 For All Time Charles Lattimer
2000 The Amati Girls Lawrence
2001 Crossfire Trail Bruce Barkow
2001 And Never Let Her GO Thomas Capano Television movie
2001 The Legend of Tarzan Bob Markham Episode: "Tarzan and the Outbreak"
2002 Local Boys Jim Wesley
2002 The West Wing Simon Donovan 4 episodes
Nominated"?Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series
2003 JAG Leroy Jethro Gibbs 2 episodes
2003 Freaky Friday Ryan
NCIS Leroy Jethro Gibbs 234 episodes
Nominated"?People's Choice Award for Favorite Television Drama Actor
Nominated"?People's Choice Award for Favorite Television Drama Crime Fighter
2004 Chasing Liberty President James Foster
2009 Weather Girl Dale
2010 Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths Superman
2011 Certain Prey Lucas Davenport Television movie
2012 Family Guy Leroy Jethro Gibbs Episode: "The Man and His Dream"

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