Mark Harmon still smolders as Navy investigator Leroy Jethro Gibbs on TV’s NCIS. He certainly hasn’t lost his touch in the 33 years since being voted “People‘s Sexiest Man Alive.” And nobody knows this better than his beloved wife of 31 years, Pam Dawber.
After four decades in the industry, Harmon took the time to chat with People and opened up about the things that really matter. For Harmon, it’s marriage, children, and the deep satisfaction of a job well done, which may go a long way toward explaining the actor’s longevous career.
You might know Dawber best from her breakthrough role as Mindy McConnell in Mork & Mindy, having starred alongside the late Robin Williams. Incidentally, Harmon and Dawber were introduced by a mutual friend after Mork & Mindy wrapped up in 1982. At the time, both were 30 years old.
The pair married in a private ceremony at Harmon’s high school alma mater in 1987. Have they remained happy ever after? While life under the glare of the Hollywood spotlight would put a strain on any couple’s quest for a private life, Harmon suggests that he and Dawber have found “the key.” In part, he attributes their happiness to their maturity.
“We were both in our thirties when we got married,” he told People, “so hopefully the stupid stuff we did earlier. That’s probably the closest I have to what the key is.”
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Harmon then went on to reveal an interesting paradox: he and his wife are very different in several meaningful ways, which is likely what has kept them together. In what could have turned out to be a huge disaster for his career, Dawber apparently tried to dissuade Harmon from accepting a role in the 1987 comedy movie Summer School. The movie was a hit, and PE teacher Freddy Shoop, the character that Harmon was offered (and took, despite his wife’s advice!) turned out to be great for his acting résumé.
“I wanted to do it just because I was excited to work with [director] Carl Reiner,” Harmon explained. Summer School fans everywhere are certainly relieved that Harmon followed his instincts. “That was a game changer for me,” he continued: Reiner’s faith in Harmon’s acting skills gave him an invaluable confidence boost. “But Pam said, ‘Don’t do that. Don’t do this movie!’”
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Evidently, a little conflict can sometimes do wonders for good decision making. Maybe Harmon has Dawber to thank for saying “yes” to the role, after all! “We don’t generally like the same thing,” Harmon shared, “and that’s been healthy for us, actually.”
The couple have two grown sons together: Sean, 30, and Ty, 26. They are not often seen in public and tend to value their privacy. “It’s not even a choice. It’s who we are,” Harmon told TV Insider in 2017. “We stay home. A lot.”
Despite eschewing the limelight, it is clear that the family are deeply proud of one another. Harmon even wears a token of pride on his ring finger for all to see: an unusual piece of jewelry in the shape of an eagle.
“We think it was my grandfather’s,” the actor explained. “I like to make sure I have something on my ring finger, because I’m proud to be married, and I’m proud of who I’m married to.”
“I’m just so proud of her.”