American actor Mark Harmon was a starting quarterback on the UCLA Bruins before establishing a successful acting career. The son of football star Tom Harmon and actress Elyse Knox first came to the attention of television audiences as one-legged veteran Robert Dunlap on the ABC film “Eleanor and Franklin: The White House Years” (1977), from which he nabbed his first Emmy nomination. But it was his role of a doctor who contracted AIDS on the hit medical drama “St. Elsewhere” (1983-1986) that established the handsome actor as a major heartthrob in the 1980s. On his character, he said, “The character changed dramatically in the third season. He went from caring surgeon to womanizing sleaze ball. Originally, I was going to get Lou Gehrig's disease but Paltrow changed it to AIDS. Bill Daniels' character said to Bobby, 'I didn't even know you preferred guys.' And I said, 'I don't.' That was an important piece of information to get out because there was a consensus at the time that AIDS was the result of a certain lifestyle, and that was dead wrong.”
After leaving the show, Harmon took home Golden Globe nominations for his work in the TV films “The Deliberate Stranger” (1986, as serial killer Ted Bundy) and “After the Promise” (1987) as well as the series “Reasonable Doubts” (1991-1993, as police detective Dickie Cobb). He also received an Emmy nomination for his outstanding guest performance as secret service agent Simon Donovan in “The West Wing” (2002). During 1996 to 2000, Harmon was famous as orthopedic surgeon Dr. Jack McNeil on the Emmy award-winning “Chicago Hope.” TV viewers currently can see Harmon playing Leroy Jethro Gibbs in the CBS series “NCIS” (2003-current).
As a film actor, Harmon is probably best remembered for his performances in “Summer School” (1987), “Stealing Home” (1988), “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” (1998), “Freaky Friday” (2003) and “Chasing Liberty” (2004). He is set to have a starring role opposite Blair Underwood and Jane Lynch in the upcoming comedy “Weather Girl” (2008).
Off camera, Harmon is known as a low-profile family man. He has a happy marriage with his wife of 21 years, actress Pam Dawber, with whom he has two sons. Following the death of Rebecca Schaeffer, Dawber's costar in CBS' “My Sister Sam” and the couple's close friend who was murdered by a trespasser, Harmon and his wife became vocal supporters of gun control. In 1996, Harmon made headlines after saving two teenagers who were involved in a car accident outside of his home. He risked his own life by breaking the car's windows with a sledge hammer and pulling the boys out of their car, which was on fire.
Childhood and Family:
The only son of Tom Harmon, a Heisman Trophy winner and nationally hailed broadcaster, and Elyse Knox, a 1940s film actress, Thomas Mark Harmon was born in Burbank, California, on September 2, 1951. He attended Los Angeles Pierce College, in which he also played quarterback, but later transferred to the University of California in Los Angeles, from which he graduated cum laude with a B.A in communications in 1974. Also a college sport’s star, Mark became the starting quarterback of the UCLA Bruins in 1973 and 1974 and won the National Football Foundation Award for All-Round Excellence in 1973. In his senior year, he befriended TV legend Ozzie Nelson, who gave him a walk-on role on the syndicated series “Ozzie’s Girls” (1973), an experience that ignited Mark's interest in acting. He then began taking acting lessons and by age 24, had decided to follow in the footsteps of his mother as a professional actor.
On March 21, 1987, Harmon married actress Pam Dawber (born on October 18, 1951). They welcomed their first child, son Sean Thomas Harmon, on April 25, 1988. Their second son, Ty Christian Harmon, was born on June 25, 1992. Harmon has two older sisters: actress and painter Kristin Nelson (born in 1945) and actress Kelly Harmon (born in 1948). He is the uncle of musicians Gunnar and Matthew Nelson of the rock group “Nelson” and actress Tracy Nelson.
An award-winning football star, Mark Harmon was introduced to acting in his senior year of college by friend-actor Ozzie Nelson, whom he met through his older sister Kristin. After having a walk-on role on the 1973 television series “Ozzie’s Girls,” Harmon began to study the craft and continued his dramatic training even after he graduated from college. At age 24, Harmon entered the acting world professionally.
Following guest spots in such series as NBC's “Emergency” and “Adam 12” (both 1975), and ABC's “Laverne & Shirley” (1976), Harmon nabbed an Emmy nomination for playing the supporting role of a soldier named Robert Dunlap in his TV film debut, “Eleanor and Franklin: The White House Years” (ABC, 1977). More TV roles followed, including that of Officer Mike Breen on the short-lived series “Sam” (CBS, 1978) and Captain John McIntosh in his miniseries debut, “Centennial” (NBC, 1978). Harmon then broke into the wide screen with the supporting role of Billy Joe Meynert in the Alan J. Pakula Western “Comes a Horseman” (1978), which starred James Caan and Jane Fonda. It was followed by a small part in the 1979 action/adventure “Beyond the Poseidon Adventure” and a costarring role on the ABC series “240 Robert” (1979-1980).
In the early 1980s, Harmon's career gained a boost thanks to his role of Fielding Carlyle in the NBC prime time soap “Flamingo Road” (1981-1982). This led to his breakout role of plastic surgeon Dr. Bobby Caldwell on the well-liked, hospital-set NBC drama “St. Elsewhere.” Starting his tenure in 1983, the California native left the Emmy-winning show in 1986 when his character was diagnosed with AIDS following an unprotected heterosexual encounter. The plot line was considered one of the first in the history of television in which an important character contracted the disease.
“That's what excites me about being an actor, the idea that I can get up every morning and try something new and grow and change. I'm not worried about image. I wouldn't have done the AIDS storyline if I weren't. I'm an actor.” Mark Harmon
Harmon, who was named “People” magazine's “The Sexiest Man Alive” in 1986, took another challenging role, that of serial killer Ted Bundy in the two-part NBC TV-film “The Deliberate Stranger” (1986). For his fine acting job, he received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Performance by an Actor in a Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for TV. He revisited series TV the following year when he had a recurring role on the ABC comedy/drama “Moonlighting,” portraying Cybill Shepherd's love interest, Sam Crawford. Also in 1987, he headlined the Carl Reiner-comedy/romance “Summer School,” opposite Kirstie Alley and took home a Golden Globe nomination for his portrayal of Elmer Jackson on the based-on-true story “After the Promise” (TV). Harmon next costarred with Sean Connery in the thriller “The Presidio” in 1988 and delivered one of his noted dramatic performances in the little-seen drama “Stealing Home” that same year. He closed out the decade by starring alongside Elizabeth Taylor and Madeleine Stowe in a TV remake of “Sweet Bird of Youth” and in the comedy film “Worth Winning “
A starring role in the drama “Till There Was You” was Harmon's opening work in the 1990s before he starred as bank robber John Dillinger in the ABC TV film “Dillinger”(1991) and the favorite uncle, Charlie, on the TV movie “Shadow of a Doubt” (1991), adapted from the 1943 Alfred Hitchcock movie of the same name. He also picked up his next regular television role and gained some recognition as Chicago police detective Dickie Cobb on the NBC drama “Reasonable Doubts.” After the show ended in 1993, he played the title role of a Los Angeles private investigator in the short-lived ABC series “Charlie Grace” (1995). In between, Harmon had small roles in such movies as Lawrence Kasdan's “Wyatt Earp” (1994), Liver Stone's “Natural Born Killers” (1994) and the Cameron Diaz vehicle “The Last Supper” (1995).
1996 saw Harmon join the cast of the CBS series “Chicago Hope.” Playing orthopedic surgeon Dr. Jack McNeil, he established a reputation as a reliable prime time anchor and jointly nabbed two Screen Actors Guild nominations in the category of Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series (1997, 1998). Harmon stayed with the David E. Kelley-created show until it was canceled in 2000. In the meantime, the busy actor could also be seen in the independent thriller/drama “Casualties” (1997, starred with Caroline Goodall), the Terry Gilliam-directed adventure “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” (1998) and the family drama “I'll Remember April” (1999, starred Haley Joel Osment). He also appeared as Astronaut Walter Schirra on the Golden Globe-winning miniseries “From the Earth to the Moon” (1998).
After the cancellation of “Chicago Hope,” Harmon was cast in the 2000 Anne DeSalvo drama “The Amati Girls” and supported Tom Selleck in the 2001 Western TV film “Crossfire Trail.” In 2002, he played the recurring role of secret service agent Simon Donovan on four episodes of the popular drama series “The West Wing.” The role brought Harmon his second Emmy nomination. Back to the big screen after a long hiatus, he played the supporting roles of Ryan in Lindsay Lohan's “Freaky Friday” (2003) and President James Foster in Mandy Moore's “Chasing Liberty” (2004).
Since 2003, Harmon has starred as Supervisory Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs, a one-time marine sniper and interrogation expert, on the CBS drama series “Navy NCIS: Naval Criminal Investigative Service,” which is now in its fifth season. The show won an ASCAP award for Top TV Series in 2006.
Harmon will star as Dale in the comedy film “Weather Girl” (2008), directed and penned by Blayne Weaver. Among his costars in the film are Jane Lynch, Jon Cryer, Blair Underwood and Marin Hinkle.
Golden Boot: 2005