Pam Dawber on her NCIS debut: No, she didn't join to be a love interest for Gibbs
Warning: This article contains spoilers for Tuesday's episode of NCIS, "Gut Punch."
Pam Dawber, the real-life wife of NCIS star Mark Harmon, finally made her debut Tuesday on the CBS procedural as Marcie Warren, described by the show as "a seasoned investigative journalist who uses her savvy wit and down-to-earth people skills to aid in her tireless pursuit of truth." Though the show has been running for 18 seasons, this is the first time Dawber, who's been married to Harmon since 1987, has appeared on NCIS.
The Mork & Mindy actress, 69, talked to EW about the start of her four-episode arc and how viewers are already caught up in the romance of her appearing opposite Harmon. "Trust me, I've been answering a lot of questions about that within my own friend group," Dawber tells EW. "I was like, no, this is not going to be romantic."
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Mark Harmon has done the show for so long. Had it become a regular occurrence, people asking you when you were going to appear on NCIS?
PAM DAWBER: 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." I just haven't been interested in, you know, chasing the business. At this age, that's what you do. You'd have to really want it. I just don't want to put myself out anymore. You know the old song, "I haven't got time for the pain." Then I guess they had created this character Marcie. Mark didn't tell me about it. Suddenly I have an email from my agent and I was like, "Oh, poor Harry, my poor agent, here we go again. I'm going to turn him down." And he goes, "Well, you might want to read this." I guess they were running names for who they could bring in for it and Mark said, "You should be talking to my wife about this character." The character is so good. I just fell in love with what they wrote. And then I had anxiety like, "Oh my God, am I going to do this?"
What was making you nervous?
Well, how everybody has a large-screen HDTV. I can't say I was ever delighted when I saw my episodes with Robin Williams, you know, how many years ago? All of the fear bubbles to come up. Can I even remember lines anymore? What if I suck?
Let's talk about your story line.
It's a continuing story where Gibbs [Harmon] gets himself in trouble. He beat up a guy who tortured and killed dogs, so he gets thrown off [his job]. My character is a journalist. She's like Robin Abcarian at the Los Angeles Times. We've become pen pals. I actually stole one of her lines that we inserted into the script. So anyway, my character heard about what happened to the lead agent at NCIS, but nobody will talk to her about it. So she's trying to figure out what happened, because there's a big lawsuit now with the guy. She found out where Gibbs hangs out and tried to cozy up to him because she wants information.
Did you make it clear to the writers you didn't want it to evolve into a romance?
I talked to the writers and the producers before I signed on and said, "If this is a romantic interest, I'm not interested." They said not at all, that's not where we're going with this.
What was it like working with Mark in that moment? Did he dare give you any feedback?
My husband is so supportive of me. He's just a giving, great guy. He just gives me attagirls, you know? It's fun because Gibbs grunts out a lot of lines. He doesn't give a lot. So they go toe-to-toe. He frustrates the hell out of Marcie. So they've got this oddball relationship where they're checking each other out. She doesn't understand whether is he a truth teller. Is this guy for real? And he's thinking sort of the same thing about her.
Do you know your way around set because you've heard Mark talk about it for so long?
Oh, I've been around that set. I've done tours for everybody that comes in from out of town. After 18 years, all the same people are there.
Do you feel like you have a fiduciary duty to be a fan of the show?
Honestly, I used to watch it all the time and somehow it's just gotten away from me. But I have refused to see any of the DVDs they've sent [of her appearance] because I'm not gonna get hung up on how old I look or how much I hate my hair.
But your hair looks fabulous!
It's called COVID-19 platinum.
There's been speculation that your appearance means Mark is getting ready to leave. Like this is a final love letter for fans.
That has nothing to do with anything. This is just a good storyline. I'm not going to go tip the hat on anything, but they don't think like that over there. A good story line is a good story line, and honest to God, we don't even know how it's going to end.
So is this arc a one-time thing?
I'm not sure it's over!
NCIS airs Tuesdays at 8 p.m. ET/PT on CBS.