"We wish Cote well," says Harmon. "But for those of us still here, it's all about moving on: 'This is what we've got, and we're going to find a way to make it even better.'
"I'm not trying to shuck off our success, because it's all earned, every bit of it. By a lot of people."
Thus does Harmon reaffirm his one-for-all-and-all-for-one manifesto.
"I'm not the big dog," he says flatly. "I might be a dog. But there's a lot of dogs."
Now 62, Harmon is an unlikely TV superstar. His manner during a recent interview is friendly but crisp, soft-spoken and firmly self-effacing. With his pretty-boy looks matured in middle age, this is the all-grown-up version of the star quarterback at UCLA who, after brief turns in law school, advertising and selling shoes, set his sights anew on acting and made good.
He forged a solid career in a succession of TV series, including "Reasonable Doubts," ''Chicago Hope" and "St. Elsewhere," where, nearly 30 years ago, he played the first prime-time hero to contract, and die of, AIDS.
His films include "The Presidio," ''Natural Born Killers" and "Freaky Friday."
Still, the man crowned as "the greatest actor who ever lived" by "Family Guy" cartoon aesthete Peter Griffin never reached the top tier of show-biz, even as he weathered accolades like People magazine's "Sexiest Man Alive" in 1986. And, as with most actors, he has also suffered setbacks, such as his ABC private-eye drama "Charlie Grace," which lasted little more than a month in 1995.
So when "NCIS" arrived as a spinoff of the durable but non-flashy military drama "JAG," there was no particular reason to expect fireworks from this new venture.