Actor Mark Harmon returned to prime-time TV last fall, starring in the CBS drama " Navy NCIS." The series follows Navy NCIS Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs and his team as they investigate crimes that are connected to Navy and Marine Corps personnel. On Tuesday night, the show wraps up its first season at 8 p.m./ET.
A former sportscaster, Early Show co-anchor Hannah Storm says she was thrilled to interview Harmon, who was a famous UCLA quarterback and winner of the National Collegiate Football Foundation Award for All Around Excellence.
You may also remember Harmon from the early days of medical drama in "St. Elsewhere," in which he played lady's man and surgeon Bobby Caldwell for three years. The role made him a national sex symbol. He was voted People magazine's Sexiest Man Alive in 1986. He also played Dr. Jack McNeil on CBS's Emmy-winning "Chicago Hope."
Today, he tells Storm he is happy not to be in scrubs. Instead, he sports
the Marine haircut and notes he is very proud of being part of the show and what it represents. NCIS stands for Navy Criminal Investigative Service, a unit that has existed since World War II.
"What they do is pretty fascinating work," Harmon says about the real unit. "They've been since Sept. 11 at the very tip of counterterrorism work in the world. Their jurisdiction is the world. They're a civilization agency, federal. What they have done, they've done underneath the bar of public scrutiny for many, many years.
"The show changes some of that for the field agents, but it's remarkable job. I'm proud to be involved with them and trying to portray the stories and who they are in a way. And the show's done as well as it has in the first year."
The show has been described as "Jag" meets "CSI." But Harmon does not believe that is accurate.
He says, "From the very beginning, I came to this show because of Don Bellisario who created it and he is involved with us every day, which is how he wanted it and I wanted it. And we worked very hard this last year, and now people are watching it and enjoying it. But I think what I admired about him from the very beginning is his shows are character driven. They're strong, a lot of humor in this show."
Bellisario has done "Quantum Leap," "Magnum PI," and "Rockford Files." And, Harmon notes, the content of the show is ripped from the headlines. "Some of the stuff that we put out there each week is stuff that people should be thinking about," he says.
An average workday for Harmon is 17 to 18 hours long, but says he really enjoys spending that time with the cast and crew. "We all like each other and we all work hard and sometimes a good laugh is as important as anything," he says.
When he gets home to his wife, he says, sometimes he gets to make breakfast and take his two teenage boys to school. Harmon is married to actress Pam Dawber from "Mork and Mindy."
About his children, he says, "They're very busy and that's a full-time thing, keeping up with that schedule. But she's done a great job. And a lot of this now, with this schedule that I have, is now kind of gone on her shoulders and she's teaching art three times a day and doing a bunch of other things and doing them really well."
On the big screen, Harmon recently played the president of the United States in the Warner Brothers' film "Chasing Liberty" with Mandy Moore. He also was seen opposite Jamie Lee Curtis in the Disney hit remake of "Freaky Friday." He made his feature film debut in Alan Pakula's "Comes a Horseman."
Additional credits include Lawrence Kasdan's "Wyatt Earp," "Stealing Home," with Jodie Foster, "The Presidio," and Carl Reiner's smash hit, "Summer School." He also made memorable cameo appearances in "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas," "Natural Born Killers," and "The Last Supper."