Sometimes good interviews result in bad stories. For example, I think it was in 1978 that Mark Harmon called to promote a television show. It might well have been "Centennial," the 26-hour adaptation of the James Michener novel. Harmon was featured in three episodes a Capt. John McIntosh, an Army officer who refused to participate in an Indian massacre ordered by his superior, Col. Frank Skimmerhorn (Richard Crenna).
Harmon came across as an upright, world class person. We talked a bit about his sister, Kristen, who had been married to Rick Nelson. Their divorce had become final the year before, and Harmon was concerned about the welfare of his sister's four children. (Years later he would go to court to get custody of Sam, the youngest child, claiming his sister was incapable of taking care of him. Harmon eventually yielded to her.)
I can find no copy of the story I wrote afterward. This was early enough in his career that many doubted whether he was serious about acting. He had followed in the footsteps of his famous father, Michigan all-American football player Tom Harmon, and played quarterback at UCLA in 1972 and 1973. He said he was determined to become a good actor. That he certainly has done, though it was several years before a lot of people were convinced. Being named People magazine's "sexiest man alive" in 1986 tended to trivialize his standing as an actor.
However, that year he starred as serial killer Ted Bundy in the TV movie, "The Deliberate Stranger," delivering a solid performance. The next year he married Pam Dawber, and in 1996 made headlines when he rescued two boys from a burning car.
His career really went into high gear in 2003 when he became Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs on the CBS series, "NCIS," which so far is probably the most popular television program of the 21st century.
Despite the show's success, Harmon himself has been able to maintain a surprisingly low profile. He bumped heads with"NCIS" creator Donald P. Bellisario in 2007, quietly forcing Bellisario out of the job as executive producer. Bascially, Harmon won where David James Elliott had failed when Elliott and Bellisario clashed during what turned out to be the final season of "JAG," which gave birth to "NCIS" in a two-part episode that season.
Harmon was named by some as the villain when Pauly Perrette, who played colorful forensic scientist Abby Sciuto, left "NCIS" after 15 seasons. Perrette had been victimized by a stalker for several years, and had spoken out about it many times. However, her problem with Harmon concerned his pet dog, a pitbull, that the actor brought to the set of his program. After the dog bit a crew member, Harmon continued to bring the animal to work, which upset Perrette, who reportedly had asked him to leave the dog at home. Upset her enough to quit her job. Or so the story went.