Mark Harmon of ‘NCIS’ Fame Reveals Life Lessons from His Late Father

Decades as Gibbs Makes Mark Harmon’s Life Philosophy Rule-Ready

For nearly two decades, Mark Harmon has inhabited the character of Leroy Jethro Gibbs on NCIS. The lines between actor and character have blurred for fans, making Harmon’s recent life advice in People magazine all the more interesting.

But that’s a good thing. Harmon’s quotes echo the wisdom dispensed by Gibbs’ own moral compass, his famous list of rules, and even the gruff but kind demeanor of his on-screen father (played by the late Ralph Waite).


The 67-year-old actor credits his late father, Tom, for shaping his outlook. “If it’s not true, don’t worry about it,” Harmon advises, echoing a core Gibbs principle – a focus on truth and authenticity. Another motto resonates with Gibbs’ dedication: “Work your tail off, and don’t let the effort show.” It reflects the character’s tireless work ethic and understated competence.

Harmon’s emphasis on treating everyone with respect, regardless of status, aligns perfectly with Gibbs’ gruff but fair leadership style. “Treat people the same,” he says, “not based on who they are or what they are. Show them common kindness. Don’t be colored by their fame or profession.”

Fans will also recognize a Gibbs-ism in this gem: “I don’t get all excited by people blowing smoke up my rear. You have to stay honest.” It speaks directly to Gibbs’ disdain for flattery and his unwavering commitment to integrity.

Speaking of rules, Gibbs recently tore up a rule on NCIS, the one against getting personally involved in cases. Perhaps there’s room for a new rule on his famous list, inspired by Mark Harmon himself: “Stay true to your values, no matter the case.”

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