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.

NCIS Boss, Mark Harmon Tout ‘Heart-Wrenching’ Two-Parter That Reveals More Of Gibbs’ Past

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.”

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  1. tejas says:

    When I first heard about this project, I immediately picked up the first of the Prey novels. I. Was. Hooked. I *love* these books. I devoured about 7 of them in 10 days.

    I can’t *wait* to see this tonight. I think Mark Harmon will nail Davenport. Yeah, he doesn’t look like the description in the books, but Rathbone/Holmes match ups are rare. I think Harmon will do just fine with the *character*, which is far more important than physical details. He plays dark characters *very* well. (And for those who claim Gibbs and Davenport are the same – check again. Very different characters, different from the soul out.)

    I purposely stopped reading before I got to Certain Prey. :-) I’ll pick it up after I see the movie. :-)

    • Bill says:

      I have read all the prey books and everthing else that John Sandford has written, I was excited when I read about Certain Prey to be a movie. I am also a Mark Harmon fan, but I am disappointed after seeing the movie. The casting of the characters in the book doesn’t match. Mark will never be Lucas Davenport.

    • alan says:

      Cruise as Reacher is a joke. But Harmon as Davenport was just as bad. He was more Gibbs than Davenport which proves he can’t act his way out of a paper bag. Exact same facial expressions and voice intonations. Did absolutely no justice to a character that deserved more.

    • Lrkimo says:

      I have been a “prey” reader for years. I was disappointed. I thought going in that Mark Harmon was too whimpy. The movie confirmed that. Also the script was dry, it was poorly cast, and poorly acted.
      I feel bad for John Sanford. This has tarnished the image of his Long-loved character.

      • Diana says:

        I totally agree!!! I picture someone more “rugged” than Mark Harmon. He’s not even close to whom I picture in my head when I think of Lucas Davenport! I was thinking a younger Tom Sellek or younger Sam Elliot…someone like that. Don’t even know that I’m going to watch it…I’ve read all the books and all the Virgil Flowers as well. Shaking my head…..

    • jan pugsley says:

      Where can I see the movie of Mark Harmon in Certain prey as I missed it in 2011?

  2. shauna says:

    I love NCIS and I LOVE Gibbs (Mark Harmon). I am excited to see Mark Harmon star in a movie. He is an absolutely amazing actor. I am not a person who likes watching things I’ve already seen, but I’ll watch NCIS episodes over and over again. I wish I could have been his wife. She is extremely lucky to be married to Mark Harmon. I am excited to have taken the day off work to watch it.

  3. Kaz says:

    Exactly, Tejas, I think Mark Harmon will be awesome in this role. He loves characters who are flawed, and this one will be perfect for him.

  4. znachki says:

    I’m looking forward to this. I’m a big NCIS fan, but miss seeing Harmon in other roles. Although it is understandable when doing a series. Gotta have some time to recharge.

  5. Margy says:

    I hadn’t heard of the Prey novels until Mark got the role. Now I’m as hooked on John Sandford’s books as I am on NCIS. Lucas Davenport is probably one of the most interesting protagonists in a long, long time. I am hoping “Certain Prey” will be a major success for Mark and USA Network.

  6. Kat says:

    I am still very on the fence on this one. I have loved the character of Lucas for a long time. I feel like Mark H. is a bit old and way too familiar for such a dark and complex guy (also way too short, but I could deal with that). I do like this story and am kind of interested in how they will frame his relationship with his “subordinate” because it was super awkward in this book. I guess anything is better than Tom Cruise as Reacher, so I will check out a later showing.

    • tejas says:

      Almost anything’s better than Cruise in anything.

      Harmon does dark very well. If I had one complaint about the movie it’s that they didn’t go quite as dark as the books, but I can see how even cable would be a little shy of that.

    • kippy12345 says:

      I think is is absolutely ridiculous that Tom Cruise is playing Reacher! It makes me sooo angry!

    • Kate says:

      “too short” . . . Mark Harmon is 6 ft tall.

  7. MonkeyFace says:

    I love the Prey series and really look forward to watching Mark Harmon portray Lucas Davenport. So Excited!

  8. Lillian says:

    Being a huge Mark Harmon and NCIS fan, I picked up the first novel of this series to see if I could get a taste of the character. I absolutely hated him. I’m looking forward to seeing how Mark can play this character and his dark side. It’s not easy walking that fine line and still make the character someone people want to see again, but I’m sure Mark can do it, he’s an extremely talented actor who’s terribly underrated.

    • Peg says:

      Don’t judge Lucas Davenport solely on the first book in the series! I’ve read many of the Prey books and his character evolves quite a bit from that first book. He retains his dark side, but it’s expressed differently, less overtly, with more finesse.

  9. Chapistoo says:

    Great! Looking forward to it & the encore

  10. Amets says:

    I’m hoping the online link I have works to watch the film tonight or rather in the earlier hours of the morning. I’m not familiar with the Sandford novels since I prefer stories of this kind converted into films. I’m sure MH will do a grand job as the protagonist, as he does dark characters very well.

  11. Bonnie Brooks says:

    I have waited a long time to see this show. Mark Harmon is a great actor. He will be great in this show. Mark is a talented actor. I have always loved to watch in act in many movies. You couldn’t ask for a better actor. Mark is not to old for this movie. What do age have to do with it? If we all stay here, we are going to get old someday. This show will be sucessful. I can’t wait to see him in action tonight. Thanks Mark for taking this character, so you can show the world you can act.

  12. Lorie says:

    I love these books, and I love Mark Harmon. Can’t wait to see tonight’s movie. Already hoping for more “Prey” TV movies with Mark.

  13. Brad says:

    Have been a Sandford fan since the prey series started, always wished they had made more movies from the books. The one they made some years back with lasalle in the lead role just did not cut it. He was nowhere near right for the role. And yes, Lucas is one nasty S.O.B when he wants or needs to be, and that’s a large part of his draw as a well educated, laid back, intelligent good guy that can dig down deep into his own viceral neandrethal roots and do that hard thing that society knows really needs to be done, but doesn’t have the guts to do. Always thought Harmon would be perfect for the role and now it’s come to fruition, hope we see a series of them

  14. Antonio anpajo says:

    Am really hyped on this Sanford Movie with Mark Harmon….I am big
    NCIS watcher and LOVE the way the cast ‘plays off each other’ and I
    also have been reading John Sanford Novels for Decades…decimating the
    Library shelves as soon as they showed up. (sorry, I’m fixed income
    old guy from New York and would buy all those Sanford books if I could.
    Lucas Davenport made me feel like their ‘just might’ be detectives in
    this world who had creative interests in their lives (coding TV games
    etc) and who also respected Women and ‘Civilians’ but who could walk
    the dark alleys at night…and find…and ‘off’ the monsters among us.

  15. nina says:

    I was reallyloooking forward to watching this movie…..who was blocking the signal? I am a dishnetwork subscriber and sooooo disappointed in my service tonight. I hope USA will run this program again so that I can watch it im it’s entirety.

  16. Joe says:

    Just finished watching the premier. It’s just Gibbs with a vulgar mouth and less ethics. He should stick with NCIS – better writing!

    • Jan says:

      I thought so too. I am not familiar with John Sanford or the “prey” series, so i had no preconceived view of Lucas Davenport or any of the plot lines. So I saw Gibbs with harsher lighting–making him look older, a really potty mouth, and questionable moral ethics. It was hard to watch the first time around. I did record it so I will attempt to watch it later on at a better time. IMHO, Gibbs is the epitome of the best that man can be. And he brings out the best in his team. I didn’t see that so much in Lucas and his people. I stopped watching it early on, so I’ll start from the beginning on a less hectic day–or night. I guess both Mark Harmon and I need to stretch our experiences.

    • NCIS Fan #87 says:

      I was looking forward to a Mark Harmon film. But Certain Prey was absolutely horrid. And yes, I watched the whole thing, just to be fair. The gratuitous violence and beat-you-over-the-head sexual innuendos were a total turnoff. They were needed, however, to fill the time alloted to the movie. Certainly the essential plot didn’t need all that time.

      The next night I watched the new NCIS episode, and as I expected, the disgust I felt towards the movie, knowing that Harmon produced it, spilled over: I didn’t like Gibbs nearly as much as I did before.

      This movie will have a negative impact on NCIS. We should see Gibbs retire again, but for good this time. A la’ Joe Paterno, Harmon made the wrong decision and will have to pay for it.

  17. Marshann says:

    I have read the whole Prey series within the last 4 years, and love it. I also have started reading the other series that John Sandford has written. I wait for each new story. I loved the movie, I hope that Mark Harmon does do others from the series.

  18. Violet says:

    Like most women who watch NCIS I’ve been in love with Mark Harmon for a long time. Lucas is a far cry from Gibbs, but Mark can play any part and make it believable IMHO. Who would have believed he could play Ted Bundy! Saw “Certain Prey” this evening, and it really held my interest all the way through. Have to admit it’s hard to hear “Gibbs” as Lucas saying things like “screwed the pooch” but that’s what the part called for, and I think he’s very believable. As for his being too old to play the part–that’s ridiculous! Whoever did the rest of the casting did a great job, too. Can’t wait for the next Sandford novel to be shown.

    • I’m amused by the comment abt the phrase, “Screw the Pooch,” as BOTH Gibbs and mentor, Mike Franks (Muse Watson) have said it in two separate episodes on NCIS! I’m also disagreeing with MANY of the commenters here that Mark Harmon was TOO OLD, as I did NOT picture Davenport as a YOUNG man. He is a man who has lived quite a few years and has experience in many facets of llfe. A YOUNGER actor would NOT bring Lucas Davenport to LIFE as Mark Harmon has/did. I watch the “dance sequence” over and over–DO NOT know WHY it “sparks” but love it anyway.!!!!

  19. Elle says:

    I have enjoyed the entire Prey series and think future Prey movies are a great idea. I thoroughly enjoyed Certain Prey. Mark Harmon makes a good Lucas Davenport.

  20. Tom Dinardi says:

    Mark Harmon is the man. Hell, he made Summer School a watchable film; it takes skill to make a movie with Kirstie Ally as the love interest into something not-completely-terrible.

  21. myopinion says:

    I was very disappointed. I didn’t expect NCIS Gibbs but I at least expected a law man with honor and integrity. What a joke. I always hate to see a good and decent actor stoop as I did in Mark Harmon in this Certain Prey. Of course I only know Mark Harmon as a High School teacher who taught summer school,a Dr from St Elsewhere and the famous very special agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs. What I didn’t expect was what I got. . . a sorry excuse for a deputy police chief who does nothing but cuss,swear and sleep with anything in a skirt. Now I know to just stick with GIBBS, there is nothing wrong with a Marine with honor and integrity. I just hope that NCIS doesn’t change from the show that it has been for the last 9 yrs?. I love the NCIS cast and for the most part the characters.

    • Certainly no Freddy Shoop.

      I was disappointed with the pacing and editing of the TV movie, but it could have been much worse. Sure seemed like Harmon didn’t want to really get into character.

      By the way, when I think of Mark Harmon I think: Freddy Shoop (Summer School), a Coors pitchman, a libidinous bachelor (Worth Winning), a Chicago Detective working for the DA’s office (Reasonable Doubts), a surgeon (Chicago Hope), a serial killer (Deliberate Stranger), a secret service agent (The West Wing), a libidinous news anchor (Weather Girl), and an NCIS team leader.

  22. Jay says:

    I’ve always enjoyed the ‘Prey’ novels; Sandford does a great job on them; they even make me want to visit Minnesota! Unfortunately (and I missed the TV movie, unfortunately), Harmon will NEVER be Lucas Davenport. From the books alone, I can only imagine one actor giving a decent portrayal of that character, and that’s DENNIS FARINA. From his work in various movies, along with his short stint on ‘Law and Order,’ I am convinced that Farina is ‘the one’ who could pull off all the intricacies that make up Lucas Davenport. Hopefully, even though Harmon had a big hand in getting this movie made, the producers will make any further books-into-movies with Farina at the helm. I think Harmon does a great job in ‘NCIS,’ but Davenport he ain’t!

  23. Marissa says:

    I read the first Prey book the day I got an ARC as a bookstore employee, and while I’ve read the series on and off, I did find Lucas to be an interesting character and the books thought provoking.

    I enjoyed the movie–a LOT! Remember, this isn’t the Lucas from the first book. His edges have been a little blunted and his approach is a bit different. For those who wanted Gibbs and didn’t get him, or who were disappointed because the character wasn’t lily-white, please read the first book.

    I think Mark did a fantastic job! You’re not going to get super-dark Lucas on USA Network, but he gave us some interesting nuances. The pacing was good, there was a great cliffhanger, and while Lucas’ way was mentioned, it was *not* the focus.

    Well done, Mark, and the rest of the people who worked on Certain Prey. Bring on the next installment!

    • Becca says:

      I agree with you 100%. One of the things that makes the novels so interesting is following Lucas’ journey, and this is just about where he should be for this one. Mark Harmon did very well as Lucas and I hope they make many more of these.

      • jacquie says:

        I agree! mark Harmon is brilliant, I do not think there is a character that he has played that was not good! Love NCIS, loved him in Chicago Hope, hope they make this into either another movie or a series.

  24. Kat says:

    I’ve read the entire Prey series and was worried how it would turn out because they usually end up not doing the book justice, and I was proven right last night. I love Mark Harmon but he was the wrong actor to play Lucas Davenport. He was too old for one thing and I couldn’t stop thinking he was Jethro Gibbs. They should have had someone less known to portray the character. Jeffrey Dean Morgan would have been perfect!!! The book was so much better than this movie. Sadly, if they make more Prey movies I won’t be watching….sorry Mark!!

  25. Deedee says:

    loved the movie…am both a fan of Mark Harmon and NCIS also have been reading Stanford novels for quite sometime. I think Mark did a great job. sometimes when novels are made into tv movies they loose a lot NOT this time…I think it was great thank you

  26. Jasmine says:

    I am a big NCIS Fan, love Mark Harmon, and have read all of the Lucas Davenport novels. I really looked forward to the movie, HOWEVER, I was disappointed. For one thing, as cute and sexy as Mark Harmon is, he should have looked a little different from Gibbs. Also, he should have at least looked younger. I think if he had dyed his hair, that would have made him look a little younger, and a little less like Gibbs. I also thought, NCIS’s Tony, Michael Weatherly, would have been better in this role. Sorry, but I had a hard time seeing a difference between our much beloved Gibbs and the exciting Davenport.

  27. Mary says:

    I was so excited when I got a newsletter from TV/Line on Monday morning talking about 1 of my favorite authors John Sanford, favorite series “Prey” & one of my favorite actors Mark Harmon all wrapped up together. Then when I tried to find the movie so I could record it, I discovered that it was on last night! So disappointed! I sure hope it will be on again, but I probably won’t know when & I will miss it again!!

  28. Grannybear says:

    I’ve been a fan of the Prey books since the first one and had hoped they would be movies one day. I’ve learned to divorce the books and the movies. This way I’m not disappointed. If you can’t do that then it’s better not to watch the movie. The actors never match what we expect from the books. Robert Crais is the only author I know of that will not sell his Elvis Cole books to the movies knowing his fans will be disappointed. The authors have their choice. Certain Prey came off pretty good.

  29. Clair says:

    Gabriel Macht is the face of Lucas Davenport not Mark Harmon. Way too old for Lucas. At the time of certain prey he was around forty. I liked the movie ok but can’t see Harmon as Lucas but he is better than Eric LaSalle!!!

  30. Lyndsey says:

    The “Prey” series has been one of my absolute favorites for 20 years (picked up my first when I was 13…too young yes but I got hooked)! I had a ton of doubts about Harmon taking on my favorite fictional detective because he’s become so iconic as Gibbs but he did a decent job. Is he my ideal Lucas? No but if he’s willing to help promote the series with more movies then I’ll take it! The casting of Marcy & Sloan though was dead-on perfect!!!!

    What people unfamiliar with the books have to realize though is that Lucas Davenport is a ridiculously complex character. You can’t judge him solely on one book or TV movie. As someone said earlier, he evolves over the course of over 20 books. He’s wickedly smart (Holmes-level smart) and devilishly charming but he can also be downright nasty when he has to be. He’s extremely flawed but that’s why we love him. He always does what’s right, even if he does it the wrong way. He’s definitely the kind of detective I’d want trying to find my missing child or who killed my loved one!!

  31. Pat says:

    Watched Certain Prey 11/6/11 because I love Mark Harmon…AND NCIS. However, I really felt that was 2 hours of my life I’ll never get back. Sorry.

  32. Amy says:

    First Katherine Heigl as Stephanie Plum, Tom Cruise as Jack Reacher, and now this. I do like Mark Harmon, but he is not Lucas. He’s too old; Lucas is only now in his early 50’s. I don’t see him as charming enough for Lucas.

  33. Paul says:

    I have been a longtime fan of Johns books and the Lucas Davenport series. I watched about 45 minutes of this farse before i could not take it any longer. This has to be the worst adaptation of a book I have ever seen. It was cheesy and fourth rate at best. I hope John has a enough sense not to approve any future trys by this incredibly poor excuse for a production company and Producer Mark Harmon. The casting could not have been worde. I am so disappointed in this as I was sincerely looking forward to someone taking a stab at bring this great book series to the screen..

  34. leona says:

    I must agree, Mark Harmon is no Lucas Davenport. I thought he tried, but only went half way. Lucas is an iconic, tough womanizer that causes women to swoon. I could not get past the Gibbs character. And…..he’s too old. I thought he did not connect with the other characters and did not own the air of success that Lucas portrays in the novel.

  35. Nick K says:

    Brave Mark Harmon! Great job in the role, I have long hoped someone would start making these books into a sort of movie of the month series, maybe making 3 or 4 movies a year, somethings are too big to be a one hour series. I have long thought when reading the books that Mark Harmon would be perfect as Davenport, though physically he is a little shorter still in my mind he looked close enough and I thought his acting could handle the dark complex character.
    I have read most of the Prey novels, and love Sandford’s work as I have read many of his other books as well. I loved the way the Davenport character evolved through the books and his style his darkness yet his high moral code about justice, to do what’s right even when it seems wrong, the ends do justify the means sometimes.
    I hope more movies are made, would love to see Winters Prey and Silent Prey made, what a story. Just dont cop out and go soft and PC please!

  36. Linda Thompson says:

    Love the show only one thing I tape it and my tape ran out I missed the last part. Will we have a re run?? I loved Mark he did a great job.

  37. Jayellbee says:

    Thought Harmon was excellent. Would much rather see the Flowers character from Sanford made into movie. Flowers is much more diverse than davenport. If you dont know who I’m talking about, no need to comment on this string.

  38. shipmuse says:

    Mark Harmon. Really. Could there be anyone less like Lucas Davenport than Mark Harmon.

    What a shame that for the second time a movie was finally made out of a Prey novel and it was as big a joke as the first one. As someone who has read all of the Prey books and most of the Virgil Flowers novels as well, I am stunned at how far removed from the Davenport character last nights movie was.

    Unfortunately for Mr. Harmon he delivered a tired, old, crabby, badly dressed, dog of a cop in his creation of Lucas Davenport for the small screen.

    I blame part of my distaste for this project on the direction which caused flow of the story to seem jerky and disjointed. If you have not read the book, I don’t know how one would follow the story line. More importantly, unless you knew who Mark Harmon was supposed to be you would not have guessed in a million years. Nothing of Lucas Davenport came through last night.

    I hope John Sanford had the smarts to not watch this one and it is awful beyond words that USA has the rights to 20 of these novels. What a shame.

    I was so hoping that I would be wrong about the casting

  39. Larry Laporte says:

    Mark Harmon Is a very good Actor,I seen the Movie Certain Prey would like to have that movie.

  40. mary hill says:

    i have been a fan of john sanford’s prey books from the begining. i don’t know that i would’ve picked mark harmon to play davenport but i thought he did a great job. one of the most important aspects to the show was just a hint of humor, just like the books. it may be sarcasm but a bit of lightness is needed in crime dramas. i say this because i was a great fan of robert parker’s jesse stone novels. the first one or two shows were great but when tom selleck took over in the production of them, they became so dark and depressing that i quit watching them. so mark, keep up the great work and i am really looking to more prey movies.

  41. Penny Palmatier says:

    I love the Gibbs character that Mark plays and I watch the reruns daily when I can. Gibbs character, by his very silence, is a character of mystery and humor that is very interesting. You want to get to KNOW him. But the Davenport character lost a lot of that attraction for me… he just said too much, talked too much. There was no mystery in him. The story was good, the plot, the ending… I’d watch any other movies made from the books, but only out of curiosity. I’m sure Mark played the character well for the way it was written… I just think that the Gibbs character is a more interesting character than the Davenport Character. Mark is a hunk in anything he plays. And add to that, he’s just gotten better as he’s gotten older… Kind of like Sean Connery… Yummmm… !!!

  42. Steve Tod says:

    Good casting, great story, good writing and excellent acting – OK, Mark Harmon is probably about 15 years too old for an exact match, but how many books-to-movie adaptations are an exact match? Peter Jackson confessed that he had to turn J.R.R. Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings” trilogy inside out in order to create a better story with “The Two Towers” as contrasted with “The Fellowship of the Ring.” I was relieved to see that Mark Harmon did not indulge in a host of method acting tics like dying his hair, etc. Women in the movie were pretty hot, and sardonic humor sashayed with dynamic action scenes. Mysterious. Suspenseful. Looking forward to many more such ventures.

  43. richeady says:

    I’m hooked…does anyone know when it will air again?

  44. Tim says:

    Longtime reader of Sandford books. Rules of Prey is still one of my favorite reads. Wish movie makers would’ve started there with anybody but Mark Harmon playing a pyscho with a badge aka Lucas Davenport. Think Christian Bale would have been perfect.