Mark Harmon Opens up About His ‘NCIS’ Exit for the First Time

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Mark Harmon had a good run as Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs.

For the first time since his “NCIS” exit, the 70-year-old actor is sharing details on his departure, as well as his character’s future on the crime drama.

“What has always drawn me here is the character I play and to keep it fresh and to keep it challenging,” Harmon, who portrayed Gibbs from 2003 to 2021, said in a Season 19 DVD featurette shared by Entertainment Tonight. “Plot-wise, this character has taken the path that it did. I thought it was honest and OK with.

“I’m not retired,” the actor added. “The character is living in Alaska as far as I know.”

Harmon was a main character on “NCIS” for 18 seasons, with a limited role in the show’s Season 19. His final episode, titled “Great Wide Open,” aired in October 2021.

In it, Gibbs was on a criminal case in Alaska and when he completed the job, he told partner Tim McGee (Sean Murray) that he wasn’t “going back.”

“This sense of peace, I have not had this since Shannon and Kelly died and I’m not ready to let it go,” he told McGee, adding, “”I could not have hoped for anyone better to watch my back for the past 18 years than you.”

Executive producer Chas. Floyd Johnson added in the featurette that while Alaska was a “very odd place for Gibbs to go,” it doesn’t mean it will be the last of him.

“I thought was a nice way to end the show where the audience felt ‘Were comfortable where he is,’” Johnson said. “But I think the smart thing, we left it to the fact that we didn’t know if Gibbs could return. He didn’t say I’ll never come back. There was sort of a hope that if there’s ever a need, we might see Gibbs again.”

It wouldn't be the first time Harmon's Gibbs character has left the show only to return. At the end of the third season, Gibbs briefly left the agency following a terrorist attack.

As some fans noted after his most recent departure in 2021, Gibbs did not have a last day at the office or a chance to say goodbye to the remaining characters — including a few who have been there since the first season.

So, there's always a chance Harmon's Gibbs will somehow make his way back to the "NCIS."

The CBS show will return for its 20th season on Sept. 19.