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THE SUNDAY CONVERSATION

He's not complaining

May 18, 2008|Choire Sicha | Special to The Times

Mark HARMON stars on CBS' "NCIS" -- the two-hour Season 5 finale airs on Tuesday night. He has appeared on "The West Wing," "Chicago Hope," "Moonlighting," "St. Elsewhere" -- and "The Love Boat." He and his spouse, Pam Dawber, have two sons.

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I'm shocked by the network's order for 27 episodes for next year.

This schedule, we've been working six-day weeks since the Second of March. We've done that before here. This group is somewhat used to it. And in some ways, the crew is able to make up some of that lost revenue from the strike, which is good . . . 260 people on a crew who know now they have a job to come back to in June. So that part's important! When you get right down to it for so many here, this is about a job.

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You yourself have had a lot of jobs.

Well, you too probably, huh.

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I'm getting there.

That's what actors do. Different jobs, you know. If you're lucky.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Sunday, May 18, 2008 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 25 words Type of Material: Correction
"NCIS": The Sunday Conversation interview with Mark Harmon in today's Calendar section says that "NCIS" plans 27 episodes for next season. There will be 26.
For The Record
Los Angeles Times Sunday, May 25, 2008 Home Edition Sunday Calendar Part E Page 2 Calendar Desk 1 inches; 22 words Type of Material: Correction
"NCIS": Last week's Sunday Conversation interview with Mark Harmon said that "NCIS" plans 27 episodes for next season. There will be 26.

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So are things running more smoothly there, after what everyone was calling a "showdown" -- very dramatically! -- between you and creator Donald Bellisario?

I never called it that. I think [executive producers] Charles Johnson and Shane Brennan both have done a great job in transition here. Show creators, they move on; they do other things. This show is doing so well, in its fifth year. Better in its fifth than fourth, better fourth than third. This is a big group of very, very talented people who are all doing their job. . . . It's not really important here who's No. 1 on the call sheet. We all do this together. That's the way it works. You couldn't work here if you didn't want to be here. That's held true for everyone. This is a show that'll show actors through the door and has and will again. And the same for crew members. The result is you have a place you like to work.

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You sound like you should be running a set yourself.

No, I'm a team guy. I know what being a team guy is, you know.

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In 2014 are we going to see you pull a third act -- a Clint Eastwood? When a man's kids go off to school, he thinks about new things.

Oh, I don't know. You've got to get there first. I have no idea. I will be part of this as long as it's -- I don't have any plans to ride this into the ground, so to speak, into its last breath, so to speak. You're part of this as long as the work is good.

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You've been playing cops and soldiers and presidents and womanizing doctors for so long. Don't you ever just want to put on a dress for a part?

I haven't yet! I guess if this was 25 years ago we'd be talking about westerns. It runs in genres. I like the challenge of playing different roles, and I've tried to spread that around some.

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Do you have any delicious Angie Dickinson stories from the set of "Police Woman"?

I just remember her being really nice. I just recall her being professional and kind when she had no reason to be -- the first one to come up to you in the makeup trailer and introduce herself. The things she didn't have to do.

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From the outside, we hear about TV sets as places of trauma and horror.

Well, it might not be different from where you work! Some I guess are. But others aren't.

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Many refer to the curse of being People magazine's Sexiest Man Alive. Well, that was back in 1986. Have you been cursed ever since?

I think it made me laugh more than anything. And maybe in 1986 it had a different touch than what it has now. Now it happens every year. Then it was humorous to me. Still kind of is.

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It's pretty weird, right?

Well, it's surprising to me when some people take it a little more seriously than I think they should.

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Do you have any tips for people in exhausting crazy work situations?

I think we're all pretty lucky to have a job. I ask a lot of the actors who're coming on as guests -- I ask them how it is out there. A high 90% are saying this is their first job since the strike.

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It sounds like tough times for actors.

Look, you've got a job too. There's a lot of people who'd like your job.

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Comparing one's life to others is a national pastime.

Yeah. Well, look, this job's no different from yours in so many ways -- you turn on the TV on Tuesday nights and maybe that's a little different. It's a job you try to do well. You try to keep the edge on it. . . . It doesn't make much sense to me that it's busy and we're working hard -- you won't catch me complaining. I spent too many months and years not having a job.

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Oh, I hear that.

In this business, like your business, it ebbs and it flows. You'll have it in both directions -- cooler, warmer, all that. I don't get too worked up. The idea is to be around for a while.

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You've either got a good meditation practice or years under your belt.

I don't know. It's perspective. I think.

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