Why Mark Harmon Set His Sights on Certain Prey: This Guy's As Nasty as Anybody He's Chasing

This Sunday at 9/8c, NCIS star Mark Harmon is again on the trail of bad guys (or gals) — but this time as Minneapolis police chief Lucas Davenport, in USA Network’s TV-movie adaptation of Certain Prey, the 10th in a series of best-selling novels by John Sandford.

The set-up: When a cop is shot after witnessing a murder, Davenport suspects that an elusive hit woman, Clara Rinker (Heartland‘s Tatiana Maslany), is in cahoots on a murderous spree with a high-powered attorney (Criminal Minds‘ Lola Glaudini). The cast also includes Athena Karkanis (The Best Years) as Davenport’s subordinate, Det. Marcy Sherrill.

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A fan of Sandford’s novels, Harmon helped shepherd Certain Prey — an example of the increasingly infrequent TV-movie — to fruition, and was glad to see it land on USA Network versus one of the broadcast outlets.

“This has the benefit of being a different kind of film on cable than it would on network, and that’s good,” he notes. As for being one of the rare in-front-of-the-camera talents to parlay a dream project into a reality, “Maybe the game as an actor all along is to hopefully someday get in a position where you can play the roles you want to play versus the ones you have to play,” he offers.

Harmon acknowledges “certain similarities” between Davenport and NCIS boss Leroy Jethro Gibbs, yet maintains that for the most part “they’re very different people.”

Davenport, well-off from his years as a computer whiz, “dresses nice and drives nice cars and chases the ladies, and yet what he likes more than any of it is just being a cop,” Harmon explains. “And then there’s the other side of it, which is that he’s as nasty as anybody he’s chasing.”

Playing with that “darkness” is “a field day for an actor,” he adds.

Should enough viewers prey on Certain Prey, it’s possible that Harmon and USA will take a stab at another installment in the Davenport series. “Both for the people involved in front of the camera and behind, and certainly for USA as a network, there’s really potentially a stepping off point, should it work, to do others,” says Harmon.

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In the meantime, Harmon is quite satisfied fronting TV’s most-watched drama, a gig that he was originally drawn to years ago “because it was about character, and there was humor. There was a case [each week], but that wasn’t what drove the series.”

Looking back on the past as he surveys NCIS‘ recent, current and seemingly unstoppable success, Harmon says, “In the beginning when we weren’t a hit and we were kind of at the middle line, what moved us along was just concentrating on the work to … figure out a way to do it better every day.”

Even nine seasons in, he points out, “There’s nobody bored here. There’s nobody phoning it in. And that makes this rare, for all of us.”