NCIS: Why Mark Harmon, Ziva, and other main characters left the show

Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) is an American police procedural television series that combines elements of the military drama and police procedural genres and revolves around a fictional team of special agents.

The series holds the record of the 7th-longest-running scripted US primetime TV series overall. However, this hasn’t stopped characters from leaving the series. To keep you up to date, we have compiled a list of characters who have left the show, from Mark Harmon to Ziva and others.

Related Article: 10 major characters that left Grey’s Anatomy and why.

Mark Harmon – Leroy Jethro Gibbs

Mark Hamon
Mark Harmon

Mark Harmon starred in NCIS as one of the lead characters, Leroy Jethro Gibbs, for 18 years. His character was introduced in the series in 2003.

Before his exit from the show, which was revealed in the episode that aired on Monday, 11 October 2021, there have been speculations swirling for several months.

Hollywood Reporter noted in June 2021 that Gibbs, who was also an executive producer, had signed a deal to continue with NCIS for its 19th season. However, the deal stated that he was only to return in a limited capacity.

His last episode on the show was the fourth of season 19, and it concluded with Gibbs — who was nearly killed in a boat explosion in the season 18 finale — opting not to return to his job in NCIS.

Specking with Special Agent Timothy McGee (Sean Murray), Gibbs said: “I’m not going back, Tim. I’m not going back home.” He opted to remain in Alaska, where he and McGee tracked down a hitman hired by a mining company.

In a statement by executive producer and showrunner Steven D. Binder, the door to return to the show was left open for Mark Hommer.

The statement reads: “As an executive producer and dear friend, Mark continues to be an integral part of the fabric of the show. Our north star has always been staying true to our characters, and that truth has always guided the stories we tell and where those characters go. So regarding the future of Gibbs, as long-time fans of the show may have noticed over the years … never count Leroy Jethro Gibbs out.”

Cote de Pablo – Ziva David

Cote de Pablo
Cote de Pablo

Cote de Pablo was brought on board as Ziva David in season 3 as a replacement for Alexander but later left in season 10 with her character returning to Isreal.

She was later presumed dead after her compound was bombed—though she made a shock return in Seasons 16 and 17.

Also read: Vanessa Lachey breaks NCIS male dominance with lead role on NCIS: Hawai’i.

In 2013, de Pablo spoke to TV Guide about her leaving the show. She said: “as far as my decision to leave, that’s a personal thing, and I’d rather leave it at that. The idea of leaving was not something I toyed around with for a long time. It was an overwhelmingly hard thing—at times terrifying.

However, in 2016, she opened up on her reason for leaving in Q&A. She said: “I perceived that the character was not being treated with the respect that she deserved…They were going to send her back to Israel and make her an unfortunate, miserable woman.

“I said, ‘What do I leave all the women that have watched and followed the show for so long?’ And I didn’t think it was fair. So I said, ‘Unless someone can really write something fantastic for her, I won’t go back.'”

Maria Bello – Jack Sloane

Maria Bello
Maria Bello

Maria Bello exited the NCIS show in Season 18 after deciding not to renew her initial contract for three seasons. After she departed from the show, she took to her Instagram to talk about what a great time she had while on the show.

She wrote: “I’ve learned many things on this journey for the last three and a half years. I learned about commitment and community. I’ve learned that the woman I am enjoys process over product. I’ve never worked with a kinder, more generous group of people.

Pauley Perrette – Abby Sciuto

Pauley Perrette

Pauly Perrette, who left the show in 2018 after season 15, had the most controversial exit from the show.

The actor made several accusations after she departed from the CBS show, mostly on Twitter. In May 2018, she tweeted about “multiple physical assaults” on the set.

When asked by a fan whether she would return to the show in 2019, she tweeted: “NO, I AM NOT COMING BACK! EVER! (Please stop asking?) I am terrified of Harmon and him attacking me. I have nightmares about it.

In response to these accusations, CBS released a statement that read: “Pauley Perrette had a terrific run on NCIS, and we are all going to miss her. Over a year ago, Pauley came to us with a workplace concern. We took the matter seriously and worked with her to find a resolution. We are committed to a safe work environment on all our shows.”

Michael Weatherly – Tony DiNozzo

Michael Weatherly

Michael Weatherly was a cast member from the show’s first season, but exited in Season 13, before quickly heading up the cast of fellow CBS show Bull.

In August 2016 he told The Hollywood Reporter that the show was part of his reasons for leaving the show. “It really felt like a circle that had gone all the way around and I really felt happy with the resolution of character and my time on the show,” Weatherly said.

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