Mark Harmon has left his iconic role as Leroy Jethro Gibbs on the CBS show NCIS after 18 years as one of the lead characters.

His last episode aired on Monday. Harmon’s character, Gibbs chose not to return to his job at the NCIS office after he and his partner Special Agent Timothy McGee, played by, Sean Murray, were working on a case in Alaska.

Harmon is an executive producer of the show and speculation about his departure has been spreading for several months. Harmon signed a contract with the series to appear in only a few episodes as NCIS prepares for its 2021-2022 season.

Executive producer and showrunner Steven D. Binder released a statement thanking Harmon for his work and touched on the possibility of seeing Gibbs helping with a case in the future.

“As an executive producer and dear friend, Mark continues to be an internal part of the fabric of the show,” Binder’s statement said, “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 have noticed over the years… never count Leroy Jethro Gibbs out.”

Back in 2019, Harmon spoke about what would cause him to leave the role he has had since 2003.

“I’ve always thought if there’s ever a time where the writers are walking into the room and going, ‘I don’t know what to do,’ then I think we all have to look at each other and call it a day,” he told People.

NCIS has become CBS’s longest-running and most-watched current scripted show. Harmon has won two awards for his portrayal as Gibbs. NCIS’s popularity sparked several spin-offs also aired on CBS, such as NCIS: Hawaii, NCIS: Los Angeles, and NCIS: New Orleans.

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