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As a television veteran with long-term roles in St. Elsewhere, Reasonable Doubts, Chicago Hope, and NCIS, Mark Harmon continues to cement his status as a household name. Millions of viewers tune in to watch him every week on primetime. Here are a few facts about the charismatic actor with silver-fox good looks:
1. Four decades in Hollywood: Harmon proved himself as a television institution, often in the role of leading man. Although he’s worked steadily for 40 years, Harmon only recently nabbed his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2012.
2. Football quarterback: Harmon played college football. He declined an offer from the University of Oklahoma in favor of playing for the UCLA Bruins. He received the National Football Foundation Award in 1972 & 1973. Harmon was offered the chance to play professional ball for the New England Patriots. He turned down the Pats to complete his degree in communications.
3. AIDS activism: On St. Elsewhere, Harmon played a heterosexual physician who contracted AIDS. The role spread awareness that straight males were as much at risk for the disease as other population segments. Harmon told Entertainment Weekly, “That was an important piece of information to get out, because there was a consensus at the time that AIDS was the result of a certain lifestyle, and that was dead wrong.”
4. Sexiest man alive: In 1986, People magazine bestowed Harmon with the dubious title, thanks in part to his growing notoriety in Moonlighting and St. Elsewhere.
5. Jobs before acting: Harmon once paid the bills as a lifeguard, a flower delivery person, an athletic shoes salesman, an advertising copywriter, and a carpenter. He put his carpentry skills to good use while building a boat in Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs’ basement on NCIS. Here’s a few more facts about NCIS.
6. Still a lifeguard: In 1996, Harmon saved the lives of two teenagers who had an auto accident in front of his home. Without thinking twice, Harmon grabbed a sledgehammer, broke the windows from the car, and rescued the boys from the burning vehicle. To this day, Harmon doesn’t enjoy taking credit for his good deed.
7. Coors endorsement: Harmon filmed over 20 Coors commercials in the 1980s. For his likeness, he was paid $2 million.
8. Fitness enthusiast: During his 20s and 30s, Harmon ran marathons and averaged 60 to 70 mile weeks. He told Men’s Fitness that his current passion is Pilates, which he believes is “twice as hard” as running.
9. The Leroy Jethro Gibbs role: NCIS producer Don Bellisario watched Harmon on The West Wing and knew he’d be a perfect fit: “What I saw was a very controlled presence, a quiet strength. That’s what I was looking for. Leroy is Mark’s kind of guy. Mark has that jock mentality — you tough it out no matter how tough it is.”
10. Doesn’t like celebrating his birthday: On the set of NCIS, Lauren Holly disregarded Harmon’s desire to let his birthday pass unnoticed. She threw him a large party. In response, Harmon wryly promised, “Payback’s a bitch.”