Leroy Jethro Gibbs is, in many ways, the face of NCIS. He was the first character we met when the show was established as a JAG spin-off, and he guided the show through its first 19 seasons with his quiet intensity and charisma. The notion of doing the show without him seemed preposterous, until the writers and producers were forced to do just that.
NCIS recently celebrated its 20th anniversary on CBS, and as such, we wanted to delve into what happened with the Gibbs character, and why he was ultimately written off the show during the season 19 finale.
Why did Mark Harmon leave NCIS?
It all comes down to the decision of Mark Harmon. The actor notched the role of his career with Gibbs, and had also taken on greater creative within NCIS as an executive producer. When it came time to start prepping season 20, however, Harmon decided that he wanted to step back and spend more time with his family (while still remaining on as a producer).
On the season 19 DVD extras, Harmon hinted at the notion that he had exhausted every possible angle of characterization with Gibbs, and felt that there was nothing left to do with the character besides repeat earlier decisions. “What has always drawn me here is the character I play and to keep it fresh and to keep it challenging”, he noted.
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Fortunately, Harmon has not written off the possibility of bringing Gibbs back at some point in the future. “The character is living in Alaska as far as I know”, he added. “Plot-wise, this character has taken the path that it did. I thought it was honest and OK with… [He’s] not retired.”
There’s a good chance that Gibbs would return for the series finale (whenever it happens), given that Harmon is still involved with the show behind the scenes. He’s missed, but there’s some solace to be had knowing that we will probably get to see him one more time.
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