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The Real Story Behind Pauley Perrette And Mark Harmon's Relationship

The major catch-22 implicit in any long-running television series' success is that the likelihood of its major cast members departing only ever increases. With each additional season of "Grey's Anatomy," for instance, fans are accustomed to news of another central character making their exit. "Criminal Minds," meanwhile, saw multiple departures over its 15-season run. "Law & Order" too had a revolving door of detectives and prosecutors coming and going over the course of 20 years on the air. In most cases, these actors left because they wanted to pursue new opportunities. This, naturally, seemed to be the case when Pauley Perrette announced she was leaving CBS procedural "NCIS" after 15 years. The truth, however, eventually came to light, unveiling a darker reason for her exit.

One of the original cast members of "NCIS," Perrette plays Abby Sciuto, a forensic scientist known as much for her goth style of dress and interest in the supernatural as her skills in the lab. Over the years, fans developed a strong affinity for her character, which is why many viewers were dismayed to find out that Perrette was leaving the series. The actor confirmed her rumored departure ahead of the show's 15th season in a 2017 tweet. Though she did not give a reason at the time, most assumed the exit was amicable. However, shortly before the Season 15 finale aired, Perrette took to Twitter to hint at the true reason behind her leaving.

Pauley Perrette began to fear Mark Harmon after a dog attack

In May of 2018, Pauley Perrette explained her exit across multiple tweets, first clarifying that she decided to set the record straight in response to tabloids running false stories about her "NCIS" departure. She went on to say that, in an effort to protect the crew and other colleagues, she had initially chosen to remain silent, and that a "very rich, very powerful publicity machine'" was even forcing her to keep mum. In another tweet, Perrette alleged that, while still on the show, she was a victim of bullying and multiple physical assaults.

As reported by The Wrap, it seems the situation involved "NCIS" lead actor and executive producer Mark Harmon and his dog. According to this report, one day Harmon brought his dog to work, where it bit a crew member who then required 15 stitches. In spite of this incident, Harmon continued to bring his dog to work, upsetting Perrette and other members of the "NCIS" team. When Perrette took the issue to CBS' higher ups, the network decided to ban Harmon's dog from set, which consequently created a rift between the two actors.

Pauley Perrette and Mark Harmon worked separately from one another on Season 15

After Mark Harmon's dog attacked an "NCIS" crew member and Pauley Perrette seemingly pushed for the dog's ban from the show's set, Perrette and Harmon proceeded by acting separately from one another. According to an anonymous source The Wrap cites in their write-up about the incident, in episodes featuring both Harmon's Leroy Jethro Gibbs and Perrette's Abby Sciuto, the two actors simply filmed on different days from one another.

This new scheduling requirement, in place throughout Perrette's final "NCIS" run, meant that Gibbs and Sciuto largely remain apart throughout Season 15, which was Perrette's final season with the series. Some viewers may have noticed that certain scenes do, in fact, feature interactions between the two characters in spite of the actors' separation from one another. As it turns out, these too were filmed with Perrette and Harmon in isolation from each other, and only edited together after the fact.

Pauley Perrette doesn't ever want to work with Mark Harmon again

In 2019, apparently in response to discussion of Abby's potential return to "NCIS," Pauley Perrette wrote on Twitter, "NO I AM NOT COMING BACK! EVER! (Please stop asking?) I am terrified of Harmon and him attacking me. I have nightmares about it." She then mentioned feeling perfectly happy with her subsequent project, referring to the CBS sitcom "Broke."

For what it's worth, Perrette remains on good terms with other "NCIS" cast members, including Jimmy Palmer actor Brian Dietzen, with whom she tweeted a photo in June of 2022. Furthermore, in a September 2022 TVLine interview, "NCIS" showrunner Steven D. Binde shared that he would like to strengthen Abby's presence on "NCIS," though that may simply mean references to her character, rather than Perrette filming new episodes herself. In any case, unless she has since changed her position and has yet to say so publicly, Perrette appears to be entirely unwilling to collaborate with Mark Harmon moving forward.