Mark Harmon will not be returning to the set of "NCIS," or at least not as an actor.
His long-standing run with the CBS show came to an end on Monday's episode, during which fans officially said goodbye to Harmon's character, Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs, who was first introduced in the series 18 years ago.
The move did not come as much of a surprise to fans, who have been anticipating Harmon's exit since the Hollywood Reporter first revealed that he had signed a deal to return to the show in Season 19, but at a limited capacity. To help offset his reduced time on-screen, "NCIS" introduced Gary Cole and Katrina Law as series regulars. They will remain in the show along with longstanding cast members Sean Murray, Rocky Carroll, Brian Dietzen, David McCallum, Wilmer Valderrama, and Diona Reasonover.
Harmon will remain with the franchise as a producer. "NCIS" showrunner Steven D. Binder also noted that the role of Gibbs is open for the actor to reprise.
"As an executive producer and dear friend, Mark continues to be an integral part of the fabric of the show," Binder said in a statement. "Our north star has always been staying true to our characters, and that truth has always guided the stories we tell and where those characters go. So regarding the future of Gibbs, as long-time fans of the show may have noticed over the years … never count Leroy Jethro Gibbs out."
Earlier this year, "NCIS" bid farewell to another key character — Ellie Bishop, who had been played by Emily Wickersham since Season 11. The actress confirmed the news in May, following the dramatic end to the Season 18 finale.
"Hangin this hat and jacket up. What a great ride it’s been," she wrote in an Instagram post. "This cast, this crew, are top notch. I can’t say enough kind words about this group that I’ve had the pleasure of working with for close to 8 years now and 172 episodes later."
Wickersham added, "This business is finicky and weird and consistency is a rarity. I’ve been lucky enough to be a part of a show where I got to show up and act and laugh and learn with wonderful people. A moment in time I surely won’t forget. Thank you CBS and NCIS for including me in a part of television history. Time goes fast. Eat it up but chew slowly."
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