‘NCIS’ Star Mark Harmon and Pam Dawber Share the Secrets to Their Long-Lasting Relationship
Mark Harmon sees a familiar face at the other end of the diner counter in the April 6 episode of NCIS: The actor’s real-life wife, Pam Dawber, who’s making her debut on the long-running CBS procedural, the start of a four-episode arc.
Longtime TV buffs will recall Dawber as a star of the ’70s ABC comedy Mork & Mindy and the ’80s CBS sitcom My Sister Sam. Her NCIS gig, in which she plays Marcie Warren, an investigative journalist, marks a return to the small screen for an actress whose last regular television gig ended in 1998.
Tuesday’s episode also marks a rare glimpse of Harmon and Dawber together. The couple is adamantly private, as Harmon told TV Insider in 2017. “It’s not even a choice,” he explained. “It’s who we are. We stay home. A lot. I’m not a Twitter guy or a Facebook guy. Our sons aren’t into that either. Pam and I have both made a living in this business, and still, there’s a part of that that’s just not natural.”
Dawber talked about her and Harmon’s staying out of the public eye in a 1987 People cover story before they were married (after Harmon landed People’s Sexiest Man Alive in 1986): “We’re not trying to keep something secret, but if you don’t want it totally exploited by the press, you have to.”
She also told the magazine she and Harmon, then famous for St. Elsewhere, were planning a “quiet and personal” wedding. And sure enough, the duo tied the knot later that year before a small group of friends and family in the chapel of Harmon’s alma mater — the Harvard-Westlake School in Studio City, California — according to the Associated Press.
More than three decades later, Harmon told People he credits his and Dawber’s successful marriage to their maturity. “We were both in our thirties when we got married, so hopefully the stupid stuff we did earlier,” he said in 2019. “That’s probably the closest I have to what the key is.”
Harmon also said he likes to make sure he has a band on his ring finger whenever he’s not shooting. “I’m proud to be married, and I’m proud of who I’m married to,” he said. “I’m just so proud of her.”
Dawber and Harmon have two children — 32-year-old Sean, who often plays young Gibbs on NCIS, and 28-year-old Ty — and the couple was also intent on keeping their boys out of the headlines. “Notice you don’t see us in the magazines,” Dawber told Entertainment Tonight in 2016. “When you’re married, that’s real life. And to go and plaster your kids…I’m sorry. I’m not for that.”
And while Harmon continued lighting up the small screen with regular roles on Reasonable Doubts, Chicago Hope, and NCIS, Dawber scaled back on her acting career.
“I don’t think two people can work all the time in show business and stay married,” she explained to ET. “I did everything you can do in this business, and then I had children, and it’s like, ‘I’m not going to chase this fame thing.’ I wanted to drive my kids to school. I wanted to be there for their birthdays and bring cupcakes and donuts and do the school festivals and all that, and I did. … And so, it was a different life then, and I was very happy to do it.”
NCIS, Tuesdays, 8/7c, CBS