‘NCIS’ Producers Share Which Character’s Exit They Thought Would Shut Down The Show

Getting to know the behind-the-scenes of your favorite shows always leads to interesting details. Like, did you know that the character who played Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs wanted to exit the show long before he did?

‘NCIS’ Producers Look Back At Mark Harmon’s Exit From The Hit CBS Series

In a recent interview with The Hollywood Reporter, executive producer Charles Floyd Johnson confessed that “NCIS” showrunners were afraid of Mark Harmon leaving because they thought it would be a “death knell” for the show.

For reference, Mark Harmon played agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs for two decades, so you can imagine why he literally was the center of the “NCIS’” universe.

'NCIS' Producers Share Which Character's Exit They Thought Would Shut Down The Show“Coming in at 6:30 a.m., five days a week, and being the major character that was the linchpin — that’s pretty tough, and he did it for 18 seasons,” Johnson said of Harmon, 72.

“He had just gotten to the place where he was getting close to turning 70, and he wanted to spend time with [wife] Pam [Dawber] and his kids.”

He continued: “So he was leading up to it. It started probably [with him dropping hints] around the 15th or 16th season. But he was so loyal to that crew and so supportive of the show. He was very proud of it, and he stayed on longer than he even intended.”

‘NCIS’ Dynamic Changed Following Mark Harmon’s Exit

Director James Whitmore Jr also recalled feeling the fear that the show would have a hard time continuing without Harmon, saying, “When Harmon was talking about leaving, and there was this chance that he might not come back, I said, ‘How are they going to replace this dude?’ And they brought in the one guy that could do it, which was Gary Cole.”

However, Cole joining in season 19 to play Special Agent Alden Park turned out to be the goldmine they didn’t know they needed.

“There were a lot of names bandied about,” he recalled. “When everybody finally decided we’d make an offer to Gary Cole, we didn’t pitch it to him as, ‘He was going to become the new Gibbs.’ We pitched it to him that he was going to come in and wasn’t sure he was going to stay with the team, so that he didn’t have to feel like he was stepping into the shoes of someone who had been there for 18 seasons.”

Gary Cole’s Introduction Changed The Dynamic Of The Show And Gave New Life To The Crime Drama Series.

Executive producer Mark Horowitz said of its new dynamic: When Gibbs was in charge, he was the leader, and everybody was pretty much under him. When the Gary Cole character came in, it loosened up a little bit and allowed McGee (Sean Murray) to become a senior agent, and they have a little bit more authority. So it gave room for other possibilities.”

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