Mark Harmon exits hit series 'NCIS' after 18 seasons: 'I'm not going back'

Actor Mark Harmon attends the photocall at the Bayerischen Hof on May 25, 2010 in Munich, Germany
Photo credit Photo by Hannes Magerstaedt/Getty Images

It's the end of an era. Mark Harmon, 70, is bidding farewell to his longstanding lead detective role on the hit CBS series "NCIS."

Harmon has starred on "NCIS" as Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs' since the show premiered in 2003.

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Monday night’s episode was the star's final moments on the detective/crime series, reports People. In that episode — the fourth of its 19th season – Hamon’s character made the decision to turn in his badge and stay in Alaska indefinitely after solving a case.

"I'm not going back, Tim," he said to Special Agent Timothy McGee, played by cast member Sean Murray, while the two were fishing. "I'm not going back home."

The monumental scene continued with Gibbs telling McGee that he "could not have hoped for anyone better" to work with for his 18 years on the job. The two then shared an emotional hug.

Steve Binder, showrunner and the executive producer of the series, shared some warm words regarding Harmon's departure.

"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,” he said in a statement, according to People.

Binder also hinted that it may not be the last that fans of the show might see of Gibbs.

"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," Binder said.

CBS Entertainment President Kelly Kahl told Deadline last month, "Mark's always been part of the show, Mark's always going to be part of the show. "In terms of his on-air appearances, we're just going to have to see how it plays out going forward."

In May, the show also saw the departure of another main character: Emily Wickersham, who played Ellie Bishop on the show since 2013. “Hangin this hat and jacket up. What a great ride it’s been,” she said on Instagram. She added, “I can’t say enough kind words about this group that I’ve had the pleasure of working with for close to 8 years now and 172 episodes later.”

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