Mark Harmon will reportedly appear in "a few" episodes of NCIS Season 19. The news comes just days after it was reported that longtime television veteran Gary Cole was in talks for a major role, hinting that NCIS could be looking for a new lead. Harmon has starred as Leroy Jethro Gibbs since NCIS began in 2003 and first appeared as the character in JAG.
Multiple sources told TVLine Monday that Harmon will only appear in a "small number" of episodes of NCIS next season. One insider said Harmon might even appear in less than 10 episodes. "It's going to be in the low single digits," the source said. Another source said Harmon would only be in "a few" episodes. A CBS rep did not comment on the report.
CBS renewed NCIS for a 19th season in April after it was confirmed Harmon would be back. Before the show was renewed, there were multiple reports that Harmon considered leaving, or at least taking a lighter workload. Meanwhile, on Wednesday, Variety reported that Cole will be joining the series and might not be the only new face joining. Cole has appeared in hundreds of television episodes but will be most familiar to CBS viewers for his role as Kurt McVeigh in The Good Wife and The Good Fight.
During Season 18, the NCIS writers began setting up Gibbs' reduced role in the series. In the finale, Gibbs' boat suddenly blew up with him on it, but his "lifeless" body could be seen swimming away just before the episode ended. Before the staged death, Gibbs was suspended after he assaulted a man who abused dogs. He helped a reporter, played by Harmon's wife Pam Dawber, to investigate a serial killer.
Rumors that Harmon might be ready to move on from NCIS bubbled to the surface in February. At that time, The Hollywood Reporter confirmed Harmon's contract was up at the end of Season 18. Sources told the outlet that Harmon was told NCIS would get canceled if he did not return. So, he started talking with CBS and CBS Studios about returning in a limited capacity. THR later confirmed in April Harmon would be back in Season 19.
Harmon also serves as an executive producer on NCIS. He was also an executive producer on NCIS: New Orleans, which finished its seven-season run this year. Harmon is not involved in NCIS: Los Angeles or the upcoming NCIS: Hawai'i. "We take it year by year with Mark, we'd love to have him as long as he'd like to be here," CBS Entertainment President Kelly Kahl told Deadline in May. "Even in this past season, he might have been light in a couple of [episodes], so we're happy to work around his schedule."