Mark Harmon has endeared fans through his numerous roles, but none more so than as Leroy Jethro Gibbs on the hit series NCIS. Harmon has essentially been a star almost his whole life, and from football to commercials to becoming a Hollywood star, he has done nothing but find success and, along the way, has made himself millions of loyal fans. Despite all of the love from fans, and a lot of fame, he is also down-to-earth and rarely in the media, so, here are 8 things not widely known about the talented actor:
8. Actual Hero
While fans are used to Harmon due to his role as Gibbs on NCIS, it turns out the actor isn’t that dissimilar from his popular character. In 1996, Harmon risked his own life to save two teenage boys when their car crashed near his Brentwood, California home. The actor reportedly got a sledge hammer from his garage and broke the window of the burning car in order to pull the two boys free before they burned to death. He also had preparation for saving lives when he worked as a lifeguard as a summer job at Laguna Beach.
7. Early Life
Thomas Math Harmon was born on September 2, 1951 in Burbank, California, as the youngest child and only son of Tom Harmon and Elyse Knox. From a young age Harmon pursued both sports and academics, and following his graduation from high school, he attended Pierce College and then transferred to the University of California, Los Angeles. In his final year in 1973, Harmon received the National Football Foundation Award for All-Around Excellence, and graduated cum laude in 1974 with a B.A. in Communications.
While Harmon had a lot of talents, it was very clear that he was especially skilled at football growing up, and he quickly became the star quarterback of the UCLA Bruins after transferring to the school. Thanks to his success, Harmon was offered the opportunity to go pro with the NFL’s New England Patriots, but he ended up rejecting the offer. Harmon thought that he wasn’t good enough to be in the pros, but also explained that his college career was about getting an education and using it, not about creating a career out of sports.
5. Famous Family
Mark Harmon has had a lot of familial connections to fame and fortune, starting with his parents as his father Tom Harmon is best known as a Hesiman Trophy winner and sports broadcaster while his mother was an actress. Meanwhile, his sister Kristin Nelson married actor and musician Ricky Nelson, but the pair divorced in 1982, three years before he died in a plane crash in Texas. Mark’s other sister, Kelly, married automobile mogul John DeLorean, the founder of DeLorean Motor Company. For awhile, Mark was often identified as Ricky Nelson’s brother because of their strong resemblance, making it more awkward that they were in fact just brothers-in-law.
4. Before He Was Famous
After turning down an NFL career, citing the need to use his education, he instead thought of going into a career in either advertising or law, and eventually began a job as a merchandising director. During this time, he also worked on his hobby, carpentry, and worked as a carpenter while trying to get his acting career to take off. Now, his skills as a carpenter are alluded to through his NCIS character’s hobby of building boats. “I used to hang out in my Dad’s workshop on weekends. Later, when I was starting out as an actor, I became a roofer and a framer to make money. But what I really enjoyed was the finished work. I like the longevity,” he said of his interest in carpentry.
3. On Fame
Although he has found incredible success as an actor, Harmon is one of those celebrities who prefers to keep his name and face out of the media, and remains one of the most down-to-earth actors out there, which is just another reason fans love him. He has often talked about his success, and always states that becoming an actor was not for the money. “It’s funny, the fame and money part isn’t even in the top 10, to be honest. It’s important to have a job you like going to, for me. And it’s important to know I have a hand in making sure that the 400 people who work on this show know they have a job to come back to. That’s something I don’t take lightly,” he said in an interview.
2. Personal Life
As a handsome former athlete and actor, Harmon had no trouble finding dates, and in the late ’70s, he was linked to singer Karen Carpenter before dating Heather Locklear in the early ’80s. In the mid-’80s Harmon met actress Pam Dawber and the two were married on March 21, 1987. The following year they welcomed their first son, Sean Thomas Harmon, in April, and then in 1992 welcomed their second son, Ty Christian Harmon. The same year Harmon and Dawber married, the actor filed for custody of his nephew Sam, claiming that his sister, Kristin Nelson, was not a fit parent. Despite testimony from Sam’s psychiatrist, Harmon later dropped the custody case.
1. Net Worth
Whether he went into football or acting, Harmon was destined for success, and as fans know his acting career has treated him very well. In 1973, he landed his very first on-screen acting role on the series Ozzie’s Girls thanks to his sister Kristen’s in-laws who were Ozzie and Harriet Nelson. Harmon continued landing roles, but he got his big break when he got a starring role on Flamingo Road in 1980 and then went on to star in St. Elsewhere from 1983-1986. Now, he has had numerous television and film roles and has an incredible estimated net worth of $120 million.