The Truth About Mark Harmon's Marriage To Pam Dawber

You most likely know Mark Harmon as Special Agent Leroy Gibbs on the now-cult TV show "NCIS" and its offshoot "NCIS: New Orleans" — but the actor actually has around 50 years of movie and television credits to his name, and a People Sexiest Man Alive victory to boot. Harmon's wife Pam Dawber is also an actor, who is best known for portraying Mindy McConnell in the TV show "Mork & Mindy" opposite the late Robin Williams, between 1978 and 1982.

Harmon and Dawber's marriage is quite possibly one of the longest in Hollywood — the two tied the knot in 1987, making the current decade their fourth as a married couple, and it sounds like they are just as in love with each other as when they first got together. Because we love love here at Nicki Swift, we're taking you on a deep dive through the actors' harmonious and seemingly uncomplicated marriage. These two take great care to keep their private life private, but we still managed to dig out the juicy details for you. Don't worry, you can totally thank us later.

Mark Harmon came into Pam Dawber's life after she'd had a bad love affair here and there

You know what they say: You sometimes have to kiss a few frogs before you find your prince. This cliché will certainly ring true for Pam Dawber, who once admitted to not having had the best luck in love before meeting her forever man. She had had "a bad love affair here and there," she told People in 1987, and had also struggled with her confidence, something she worked on in therapy. Dawber had drawn up a long list of qualities she would want in a partner — when asked if she had found them in Harmon, she answered, "Well, I guess so," before adding, "He's fabulous." Cute!

As for Harmon himself, he made a promise to himself before meeting his future wife that he seems to have very much kept to. "When I marry, I want it to be everything this town says it can't be," he told People in his Sexiest Man Alive interview in 1986, referring to the City of Angels. "I'm not into catting around."

Harmon and Dawber met through a friend, and the timing was perfect. "We were both in our thirties when we got married, so hopefully the stupid stuff we did earlier," the "NCIS" actor told his trusty People in 2019. "That's probably the closest I have to what the key [to their successful marriage] is."

There were rumors that engaged Mark Harmon and Pam Dawber were secretly married

Secret celebrity wedding rumors aren't just the remit of millennial couples like Miley Cyrus and Liam Hemsworth. While Mark Harmon and Pam Dawber were still engaged back in the 1980s, celebrity gossip was out of control, and the lovebirds were rumored to have secretly gotten married. "It must have been a slow news week," Dawber deadpanned when her People interviewer asked her about it in 1987. "Why would we be secretly married? What would be the point?" Oh dear, nobody tell Anna Faris and Michael Barrett about this interview.

The main reason there was so much speculation about Harmon and Dawber is that, by and large, they kept themselves to themselves just as much then as they still do nowadays. And you know what tends to happen when a couple is rumored to have gotten married? There's also bound to be a whole swathe of fans and commenters willing to bet that they have actually broken up. Sure enough, that rumor also popped up for Harmon and Dawber, something the "Mork & Mindy" actor didn't know. "You're kidding!" she exclaimed upon being told about it. "It's hysterical how starved people are for poop." Savage.

Mark Harmon and Pam Dawber wanted a quiet and personal wedding

Mark Harmon and Pam Dawber may have been seasoned celebrities by the time they tied the knot (for real, this time), but that doesn't mean they wanted all the pomp and circumstance they could have had. In 1987, Dawber told People that their wedding would be "quiet and personal." She had previously been spooked by Julianne and Bruce Springsteen's wedding, which was gatecrashed by a bunch of helicopters. "Granted, we're not talking Springsteen here, but if we choose a big church, everyone will find out about it," Dawber explained. "All of a sudden we'll have Entertainment Tonight out there with microphones."

The two actors said their vows exactly as they had planned, on March 24, 1987. AP News reported at the time that the small and intimate wedding took place in Harmon's old school, Harvard School in the San Fernando Valley, and that the newlyweds flew off to Vancouver for their honeymoon.

During an interview with People in 2019, Harmon wore a band with an eagle head on it on his ring finger. "I wear it or a few others I have because when I'm not shooting, 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," he explained. That's just lovely.

Pam Dawber chose family life over acting full-time

Pam Dawber was a successful actor for many years, but when she met Mark Harmon and they ended up having kids together, she knew something had to give and she would have to prioritize the different areas of her life. "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,'" Dawber told Entertainment Tonight in 2016. "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." She's a devoted mom, and we're glad she made the choices that worked for her.

But choosing to step back from the limelight wasn't just about having enough time to spend with her kids — Dawber was also worried about her career taking precedence over her marriage. "I don't think two people can work all the time in show business and stay married," she said.

And Harmon is really grateful for the work his wife does at home, because he knows it enabled him to act on "NCIS" for so long. "It's the arc of this show over a number of years, where it started and where it is now. She's been part of all that," he told USA Today in 2010. "She's been running the home. It's a time-consuming occupation, and she's done a really good job."

Mark Harmon and Pam Dawber actively keep their kids out of the limelight

Mark Harmon and Pam Dawber have two sons together: Sean, born in 1988, and Ty, born in 1992. Although Sean has an honorable number of acting credits to his name — including seven episodes as the younger Leroy Jethro Gibbs on "NCIS" — per his IMDb page (Ty has one writing credit), they're not household names by a margin. This was purposeful: Their parents didn't want their two sons to be the object of scrutiny. "Notice you don't see us in the magazines," Dawber told Entertainment Tonight. "When you're married, that's real life. And to go and plaster your kids... I'm sorry. I'm not for that."

Dawber isn't particularly interested in sharing her previous work with Sean and Ty, who as of 2016 had never watched her act; she would rather they share their work with her. "I'm just their mom," she told Entertainment Tonight. "They don't care about what I did. They care about what they are doing. They want their parents to care about what they are doing."

As for how fame affected Mark Harmon's parenting, he shared a heartbreaking story with TV Insider in 2017. "I was in the jungles of New Guinea making a not-very-good movie when my firstborn child took his first steps," he told the publication. "No job is worth missing life's important moments." That's a man who knows his values.

Mark Harmon and his wife tried to get custody of his nephew

Mark Harmon's sister, Kristin Nelson, was once married to singer Ricky Nelson. Together, they had four children: Tracy, Gunnar, Matthew, and Sam, according to New York Daily News. Kristin and Ricky divorced in 1982, then Ricky died in a plane crash in 1985. He was 45. In 1987, Mark Harmon and Pam Dawber sought custody of Sam, then 12 and the only minor among his siblings, because they felt that his mother wasn't fit to take care of him.

Harmon had previously convinced his sister to check into rehab to treat her drug dependency, which she did. During that time, Sam was in his and Dawber's care, after which they sought permanent custody. "​​I was feeling very proud and happy because I had just very successfully completed a program to help myself," Kristin said of learning the news (via AP News). "Suddenly, I had two hours to find a lawyer who would help me keep my son. At first, I thought it was a joke, and I wondered, 'Where's the punchline?'"

Soon afterward, though, Harmon gave up on the bid for custody. "Sam's coming home," Kristin said simply when walking out of court with her brother (via the Los Angeles Times).

Pam Dawber joined Mark Harmon on the set of NCIS

Pam Dawber has taken long breaks in her acting career to concentrate on taking care of her husband and sons — she didn't act at all between 2000 and 2014, for example, according to her IMDb page. In 2021, though, she well and truly broke that long dry spell by joining her husband on the set of his cult show "NCIS."

Dawber was initially cast for four episodes as Marcie Warren, "a seasoned investigative journalist who uses her savvy wit and down-to-earth people skills to aid in her tireless pursuit of truth" (via Entertainment Weekly). However, she ended up appearing on no fewer than seven episodes of the show in 2021, so it was back to TV with a bang for Dawber.

Speaking to Entertainment Weekly about why it took her so long to make her debut on "NCIS," Dawber explained in her characteristic no-beating-around-the-bush manner, "The show has been on for a hundred years, and they have come at me a few times. Either I just didn't want to do it or I didn't appreciate what it was they wanted me to do. Or it was near Christmas and it was like, 'I can't do this. I've got my parents coming into town.'" Gotta love the honesty.

Mark Harmon is 10 times richer than Pam Dawber

Mark Harmon has a reported net worth of a jaw-dropping $100 million (via Celebrity Net Worth), which is an unapologetic 10 times more than Pam Dawber's still impressive $10 million. As for how Harmon came to amass such an amount of money, he apparently gets paid $525,000 per episode of "NCIS." Even if he didn't make that much for every one of his — wait for it — 425 episodes and counting, that's still a whole lot of dough. As well as his role on "NCIS," Harmon notably cut his teeth on "St. Elsewhere" in the 1980s, and has since appeared on "The West Wing" and in movies such as "Freaky Friday," "Chasing Liberty" and "Weather Girl," according to IMDb.

Dawber's four-year run as title character Mindy McConnell on the TV show "Mork & Mindy" remains her most iconic role to date, but she has also appeared in a slew of other TV and movie projects, according to her IMDb page. She played Samantha "Sam" Russell in "My Sister Sam" in the late '80s, and appeared in various TV movies and series after that, culminating with her stint on "NCIS." However, according to Celebrity Net Worth, she has also tried her hand at modeling, singing, and business, among other ventures — which, together, have added up to a handsome sum.

Mark Harmon and Pam Dawber are pretty private people

OK, so the Harmon-Dawbers are not the Springsteens. But still, with several decades of acting under their belts and a hit show on television since 2003, the spouses are certainly not not famous. With that in mind, they have pretty amazingly managed to stay out of the spotlight all these years.

They don't necessarily do it on purpose, according to Harmon; it's kind of just their nature. "It's not even a choice," the actor told TV Insider in 2017. "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." Although Harmon feels like keeping up their privacy as a family comes naturally, his wife may be inclined to disagree: She told Entertainment Tonight that it was very clearly a choice she made for her family.

Mark Harmon and Pam Dawber are reportedly different but complementary

There is not just one secret to a great and lasting marriage, or we would all know what it is. Sometimes, though, a pairing just makes sense — and that seems to be what Mark Harmon and Pam Dawber have found in each other. "They are a truly solid, no-drama couple," a friend of theirs revealed to Closer. "They are best friends who respect and are truly devoted to each other."

That doesn't mean that the lovebirds are carbon copies of each other, however, but their differences are part of what makes them work. "Pam is more outgoing than Mark, who's shier," Closer's source added. "But they are both similar in their priorities. They don't argue a lot, they love their quiet and value hard work and honesty. They are truly decent people."

Speaking to People about taking a role in the 1987 movie "Summer School," Harmon seemed to reinforce the idea that where he diverges from his wife is actually what ends up bringing them closer. "I wanted to do it just because I was excited to work with [director] Carl Reiner," he told the publication. "But Pam said, 'Don't do that. Don't do this movie.' We don't generally like the same thing, and that's been healthy for us, actually."