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NCIS star Mark Harmon finally breaks silence on why he left drama

Mark headed up the show for 18 years as Special Agent Gibbs

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Mark Harmon left NCIS viewers devastated last year when it was announced that after almost two decades as the naval drama's lead, he was bowing out of the show.

MORE: What is former NCIS star Mark Harmon up to now?

At the time, the 70-year-old star chose not to address the reasons for his exit either in an interview or via a statement, but now, almost a year on, the Leroy Jethro Gibbs actor has finally broken his silence. In a special featurette on the show's season 19 DVD release, Mark sat down to discuss the legacy of his character, as well as his thoughts on how the show wrapped up his storyline.

WATCH: NCIS'  Mark Harmon says goodbye as Leroy Gibbs after 19 years

He said the opportunity to tackle "fresh" and "challenging" material is what kept him returning to the drama every season, alluding to the possibility that he felt that after almost two decades on the show, he no longer felt that was the case.

MORE: NCIS star Mark Harmon almost missed out on the role of Gibbs to this huge Hollywood name

MORE: Where are the stars who left NCIS now?

"What has always drawn me here is the character I play and to keep it fresh and to keep it challenging," he explained, before clarifying that he believes that his beloved character is "not retired". 

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Mark headed up the show for 18 years as Special Agent Gibbs 

"The character is living in Alaska as far as I know," he said before adding that he was happy with how things were handled. "Plot-wise, this character has taken the path that it did. I thought it was honest and OK with."

As viewers will know, in the fourth episode of season 19, Mark ended his 18-year run as the drama's lead, with his character deciding to retire from law enforcement and spend the rest of his days in scenic Alaska, where his last case had led him. 

mark as leeroy

Mark has maintained that Gibbs is not retired

Following Mark's onscreen departure, showrunner Steve Binder released a statement that heavily suggested Gibbs could make a comeback in future seasons.

MORE: Take a look back at NCIS star Mark Harmon's early career – he looks so different!

It read: "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."

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