A few weeks back I did an episode of NCIS, the CBS show starring Mark Harmon. I was anxious to get there and tell Mark Harmon why he's been a hero of mine for years. So, on my first day, while I'm waiting for my scene to be shot I stroll past him as he's eating his lunch. He immediately stands up and welcomes me to the set, with "Good to meet you. Have you met your wife for the episode? She wants to meet up with you before the scene." I say, "I have a story for you, about you, but it might embarrass you here in front of the group," and he says "Great. Tell me later!"
10 minutes later as I search for a sweet to have with my tea, there stands Mark by himself at the craft service table and he looks at me and says, "Okay, so what's the story?" I tell him this…
Growing up all I ever wanted to be was a baseball player. I love the game. I play in an adult league locally. I love the game.
The Los Angeles Dodgers have a celebrity game at Dodger stadium every year. A publicist friend knowing I loved the game got me invited, and didn't I get to act like a big leaguer. In the clubhouse suiting up in a baseball uniform, taking batting practice ( I hit one to the warning track that made Tommy Lasorda say "Hey, that kid's gotta swing!"), shagging grounders at shortstop and making the throw to first…totally in heaven. Then it's finally game time and the manager (a publicist who organizes the game) reads off the starters and out they go. I end up sitting on the bench. The rules of the game are have fun, and play until the Dodgers game has to start. So we're on a clock and I feel the clock ticking.
After the second inning, I'm in a panic that our game will end because the Dodgers crew is starting to move about the dugout, and gosh if they're prepping, the night game is close at hand. I fear I'm not going to get into this game. The third inning starts and our team again takes the field and I'm trying to calculate the time used if we get three outs quickly and then we bat quickly….and right then Mark Harmon comes back off the field and says to the manager "Hey Jack, I've played two, these guys are waiting, put one of these guys in."
I didn't even wait, I bolted on to the field. I played first base for 2 innings, and by god didn't I live out my big league fantasy. It was heaven. I don't blame any of the other guys for not coming off the field, I'd want to play as many innings as I could too, but Mark Harmon's unselfishness, his understanding of what the game means to all of us out there, his generosity is clearly above the fray.
"Acting is giving," "Great actors are generous", we've all heard these mantra's haven't we? Certainly we always thought it was about being generous when we're in the process of acting with someone. Ving Rhames challenged our understanding of that when he handed his Golden Globe to Jack Lemmon saying "I feel that being an artist is about giving, and I'd like to give this to you." That got us all thinking, eh?
So Mark Harmon, an actor I didn't know, stepped off the sacred ground of a major league baseball field so I could step onto it and I never got to thank him because he left before the game ended. Now, here I was, some 10+ years later, standing on the set of his hit TV show telling him why he's my hero face to face. I was giddy. Did he remember it? He sure did and he was very even about it's significance.
In my world he deserves a hit TV show. He's good to us. All of us. All the time. It's his nature. He's the lead actor of a hit TV show and upon meeting me he tells me to be sure to find the other guest star playing my wife because she told him she would like to meet with me before the scene. Why is that remarkable? I have been on many sets where the lead actor let's you know they are the lead actor for darn good reason. They are chosen, very important, and living on a plane of sophistication that guest stars just can't understand.
When you meet that kind of self important actor, they let you know how generous they are. When you meet a Mark Harmon kind of actor, absorb.
That's why Mark Harmon is my hero. He taught me by example that geneorsity is a full time endeavor, not just a parting gift to the crew or co-star.