Why Young Jackson Gibbs From NCIS: Origins Looks So Familiar

“NCIS: Origins” focuses on franchise stalwart Leroy Jethro Gibbs (Austin Stowell) at an earlier point in his life, when he’s still on his way to becoming the stone-faced team leader “NCIS” viewers know and love. Of course, some fans might have trouble with an NCIS show featuring a Gibbs who isn’t quite as old and grumpy — but fortunately, “Origins” addresses the issue with Gibbs’ father, NCIS Special Agent Jackson Gibbs.

Jackson, who is a recurring character on the show, is a strange one. He appears on quite a few “NCIS” episodes, but while the older version of the character was played by Ralph Waite (“The Waltons,” “Bones”), the show never managed to lock an actor for flashback scenes. Clint Carmichael, Andrew Lander, and Rob Norton have all played young Jackson, but “NCIS: Origins” takes another approach. Robert Taylor plays the role on the prequel show, and when it comes to portraying an experienced authority figure who’s also the single father of a strong-willed offspring, his CV makes him the perfect actor for the job. Here’s a look at some of Taylor’s best-known roles before “NCIS: Origins.”

The Matrix (1999)

Fans of mind-bending late-1990s sci-fi action may find Robert Taylor’s face familiar — at least if he happens to be wearing sunglasses. In 1999, he made a lasting impact as Agent Jones, one of the three sentient program villains in “The Matrix.” While Hugo Weaving’s increasingly independent and humanity-hating Agent Smith emerges as the film’s primary antagonist, Jones also gets his share of action.

Perhaps Taylor’s most iconic moment is the rooftop fight scene, where his character effortlessly dodges Neo’s (Keanu Reeves) bullets. When Jones returns fire, he forces the protagonist to perform his own backward-leaning bullet dodge. While Neo is not entirely successful in his effort, this power flex shows how strong he has grown, which makes the scene one of the most pivotal moments in the entire Matrix timeline … as well as one of the franchise’s most famous visuals.

Agent Jones only appears in the first movie of the original Matrix trilogy, but a version of the character is seen in 2021’s “The Matrix: Resurrections.” However, likely due to the Agents’ ageless nature, Taylor didn’t return to reprise the role and Amadei Weiland took over.

Longmire (2012-2017)

Before “Yellowstone” became the reigning king of neo-Westerns, Robert Taylor played Absaroka County’s erstwhile sheriff, Walt Longmire. Taylor starred on “Longmire” throughout its six seasons, infusing slow and steady old-timey Wild West charisma into a contemporary setting and solving various cases and issues with the show’s array of charismatic characters like Vic Moretti (Katee Sackhoff), Henry Standing Bear (Lou Diamond Phillips), and Walt’s daughter, Cady Longmire (Cassidy Freeman).

While Walt is a nuanced character whose withdrawn old West stylings partially stem from the trauma of losing his wife, he nevertheless carries himself like such a quintessential Western protagonist that it’s easy to forget that the actor is actually Australian. Of course, if you ask Taylor himself, an Australian has a surprising advantage when it comes to playing a cowboy figure. “Growing up in Australia, the similarities between the American West and the Outback are amazing,” the actor told TV Insider in 2017. “People speak a little differently, but that’s about it.”

Taylor and his co-stars certainly deliver. Both critics and audiences loved the show, and the poignant ending of “Longmire” manages to put the show out to pasture and tease potential further adventures at some point down the line.

Focus (2015)

In 2015, Robert Taylor was in the middle of “Longmire” when he appeared in the comedy-drama “Focus” as McEwen, an Australian race team owner who becomes entangled in a complex motorsport-themed con artist plot. The movie gathers several actors in radically different points of their career. Will Smith’s two previous major movies were the underwhelming “Men in Black 3” and “After Earth,” while Margot Robbie was riding the wave after 2013’s “The Wolf of Wall Street.” Joining them are the likes of Rodrigo Santoro (fresh off the heels of “300: Rise of an Empire”), BD Wong (who ended his lengthy “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” run that year), and Taylor, creating a truly eclectic collection of professional situations.

The end result fits the theme with its decidedly mixed results. On one hand, “Focus” received a lukewarm reception from critics and audiences. However, its cast and certain individual scenes drew praise, and it ended up making a healthy $168 million at the box office against a $65 million budget.

The Meg (2018)

“The Matrix” isn’t Robert Taylor’s only foray into the world of big-budget action. In 2018, he starred with none other than Jason Statham in the massive megalodon-themed disaster movie “The Meg.” Taylor’s Dr. Heller is Jonas Taylor’s (Statham) old teammate who dislikes the protagonist due to an old misunderstanding about a disastrous mission. However, despite his initial animosity, Heller turns out to be a genuinely good and heroic man who doesn’t hesitate to admit his mistakes and protect his teammates. Unfortunately, due to these qualities, there’s a very good reason Taylor doesn’t appear in the sequel, “Meg 2: The Trench.”

In a red — well, blue — carpet interview at the movie’s world premiere, Taylor explained what keeps drawing people to shark movies. “They’re scared of sharks,” he told Bionic Buzz. “It’s their greatest fear. You ever been in a water with a big shark? They get your attention, man.”

Robert Taylor’s other roles

Much of Robert Taylor’s acting work has taken place in his native Australia, where he has appeared on numerous TV shows and in several movies since he started his career. His first role was King in the 1988 Lee Majors drama “Danger Down Under,” and he soon established himself as a reliable journeyman who played small roles in TV movies and shows, usually as a police officer. In 1989, he landed a 21-episode role as Nicholas Walsh on “Home and Away” — the Australian soap opera that was a significant step in Margot Robbie’s transformation from childhood to Barbie. This led to prominent roles on the crime show “Yellowthread Street” and the miniseries “The Paper Man,” among others. In 1993, Taylor landed his biggest role at that point. He starred as Australian Federal Police Superintendent Dave Griffin in the crime drama TV movie “The Feds,” which became a full-on miniseries of 10 movie-length episodes.

Even after “The Matrix” started opening Hollywood doors to him, Taylor continued to appear in Australian works in various capacities. Apart from his usual cop roles, he’s been known to work in genres that range from horror (“Blood Vessel”) to newsroom drama (“The Newsreader”). On the Hollywood front, his hitherto unmentioned roles include Skip Taylor in the 2000 survival thriller “Vertical Limit,” the captain of the research ship Athena in the MonsterVerse kaiju movie “Kong: Skull Island,” and William on Peacock’s star-studded drama miniseries “Apples Never Fall.”

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