Mark Harmon Breaks Down Gibbs, Ziva and the Future of NCIS

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The lead character on TV's #1 show, Leroy Jethro Gibbs, is unlike most - on NCIS or beyond. Gibbs is a strong, silent type in charge of strong, outspoken types.

Tony DiNozzo even described Gibbs as “a functional mute” to a curious terrorist in the Season 7 premiere. While Leroy may utter slightly more words than are necessarily for survival, the point made by his contrastingly mouthy subordinate was well taken.

Luckily, the actor who plays Gibbs, Mark Harmon, while also strong, is a little less silent. In a Q&A with TV Guide, he talks about where the characters on NCIS are headed and how, perhaps not surprisingly, he doesn’t want to know where they’re going.

Like he would tell you anyway. That's classified, people. Excerpts below ...

Mark Harmon Pic

On being called "the #1 show on TV" ... "I don’t know that you get tired about that. This group so deserves it in a business where deserve doesn’t matter. It’s truly odd that we would be in year 7 doing the best numbers we’ve ever done. But I think we’re doing it better than ever, too."

On NCIS shedding the stigma of a "military drama" ... "It takes time and we’re in a business here where sometimes you don’t get time. This show jumped off somewhere in the 30s [in the Nielsen ratings], and that’s where we were for a while. And slowly, with the build of summer reruns, we started getting some more viewers."

On developing characters on a procedural show ... "All of us here signed on to play specific characters. I’ve never been part of an ensemble like this where everybody’s just so happy playing the role they’re playing. You can’t write Abby lines for Gibbs, and you can’t write Gibbs lines for DiNozzo, and you can’t write DiNozzo quotes for McGee, and you can’t write Ziva lines for anybody. Everybody is personally driven by the characters we all play here."

On being Gibbs ... "Breaking Leroy Jethro Gibbs down initially, his life and times as a Marine, and then separating that in some ways from his personal life, are all things that, at one point, were just talked about, as part of the bible that writers have and draw from. And then over seven years, you get more definition and more ability to hang onto certain things. One of the nice things they do here is challenge the characters. Because a lot of times, individually and as a group, we’ll pick up a script and realize that we have read something that we didn’t know."

On being Gibbs surrounded by loudmouths ... "It’s interesting how he fits into the ensemble, since most of the other characters are highly verbal and Gibbs stands in stark contrast to that. You sometimes get the feeling that Gibbs is a guy who almost wishes he could join in the mirth, or that he has a slight air of mischief about him that, as the leader, he feels he can never really afford to exercise too much."

On where the show is eventually going ... "I never have asked. To me it’s kind of like backloading it. It’s kind of like trying to work in reverse, maybe. I don’t know, I’ve never done that here. I don’t know how they’d respond, anyway. But I really don’t want to know."

On Gibbs and Ziva ... "The early episodes were a bit tense - he wanted to embrace her and bring her back into the fold but felt the need to be standoffish. Will he be someone she can trust, implicitly? Absolutely, without doubt. Will he ever be the warm and fuzzy big fluffy teddy bear in the corner? No, not a chance. At the end of the day, Gibbs is a realist."

On the climactic scene in "Good Cop, Bad Cop" where Gibbs whispers to Ziva ... "It’s very specific, what was said. And the reaction and the read on Ziva from what is said is specific as well. Now, what I said or what Cote reacted to or how she found what she found for that, she’s not gonna tell you any more than I am — I don’t think. That’s our secret."

Steve Marsi is the Managing Editor of TV Fanatic. Follow him on Google+ or email him here.

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NCIS Quotes

I'm more of a Super-Mario guy, myself.

Captain Wescott

McGee: All right. Well you should probably know that Abby and I used to date?
Bishop: Ew. Like, each other?
McGee: Yeah.
Bishop: Wait - isn't that a violation of rule 12, never date a....
McGee: It was a long time ago. After we'd broken up, one night I went to her lab. Found a scribbled piece paper; a list. Potential boyfriends had to fulfill certain conditions by a pre-arranged date or else, goodbye.
Bishop: Such as.
McGee: Things started off relatively normal: opening the door for her, flowers, putting the seat down. Then around number 8, it gets uh...
Bishop: What?
McGee: Does she know you have these?
Bishop: Does she know you have these?
McGee: Yeah she wasn't happy when she found out.
Bishop: These are all very specific.
McGee: Yeah.
Bishop: These ideas apply to you?
McGee: No those rules weren't in place when we were together. At least I don't think so.
Bishop: What's with the two month cutoff? Abby's sabotaging herself. I've seen stuff like this before. We have to talk to her.