When Cote de Pablo wraps her eight-year run as Ziva David, it will by no means be the first, but rather the latest, of several major shifts that CBS’ NCIS has sustained since debuting almost 10 years ago.
As original cast member Michael Weatherly prepared to film his final scenes with scene partner de Pablo, he shared with TVLine his reflections on all that NCIS and Gibbs’ team have been through.
“I remember being with Cote at the end of Season 5, walking through the Mojave desert and into a diner and seeing Lauren Holly’s wax dummy in a pool of blood,” after Jenny Shepard had been killed by Russian hitmen. “I thought, ‘This is crazy!’” he recalls. “I didn’t see this coming at all. I mean, she’s the director of NCIS!
“And Mike Franks [killed by the Port-to-Port Killer in Season 8]…. Those were major changes,” the actor continues. “[Series creator] Don Bellisario leaving [after Season 4]? A major change. Again and again.”
And yet despite every shake-up NCIS has served up or survived, it stands as the most watched scripted program on TV today.
“We have great writers and a remarkable core DNA that Bellisario created,” Weatherly observes, “and somehow it’s so sturdy that it withstands all of these changes.”
As for how exactly NCIS will write out Ziva soon after its Sept. 24 opener, Weatherly is mum — “I can’t give away all the pinpoints,” he hedges with a smile — “but I found the first two episodes immensely satisfying. I was very surprised by the things I read in those scripts,” he shares.
Might those surprising elements involve some degree of payoff, if not closure, for the forever percolating Tony/Ziva romance? All signs point to yes.
“I think that for DiNozzo and for me as an actor, that ‘holding pattern’ has been incredibly fun to play — I love working with Cote, she’s awesome — but also it’s been eight years, and we haven’t dealt with it. It will be dealt with.” And with a resulting storyline for Tony that his portrayer has hailed as “the most exciting thing I’ve heard in a long time.” Says Weatherly, “I’m looking forward to seeing what the far greater geniuses have in store.”
TVLine has learned that the search for a full-time cast member to fill the void left by departing leading lady Cote de Pablo is currently underway at the CBS hit.
According to just-released casting intel, the new twentysomething female character — named Bishop — “is bright, educated, athletic, attractive, fresh-faced, focused and somewhat socially awkward. She has a mysterious mixture of analytic brilliance, fierce determination and idealism. She’s traveled extensively, but only feels comfortable at home.”
The start date is listed as mid-October, which puts the newbie’s arrival around January or February.
Prior to that, the show will “rotate some fun people” through the agency’s doors. “The first two episodes are all about Ziva’s departure,” EP Gary Glasberg recently told TVLine. “And then in the third episode we introduce, for instance, a woman in her 50s who is a few days away from retirement and just needs to fill the desk time. She, in theory, knew Gibbs all the way back to the days of Mike Franks. So we’re going to bring in people like that and have some fun with different characters. And then, hopefully, when people are comfortable enough, one will walk in and be The One.”
NCIS’ Season 11 bows on Tuesday, Sept. 24.
Executive producer Gary Glasberg confirms to TVLine that the actress’ two-episode swan song (kicking off in the Sept. 24 season premiere) will not culminate with her alter ego’s death.
“It’s not what this character deserves,” Glasberg shares. “Also, [we killed off] Sasha Alexander’s Kate character [back in Season 2] and I like the idea of doing this one a little different and respecting who [Ziva] is.”
To that end, Glasberg promises viewers will get a rare peek at “what makes Ziva tick” in the two-part swan song, adding, “In the second episode we learn why she’s going to make the decision she’s going to make… We put a lot into that storyline, so I hope it works for people.”
TVLine has learned exclusively that the beloved 24 alum has booked a guest-starring role on TV’s most watched drama, playing Sarah Porter, a high-level Navy official, in the second episode of Season 11, titled “Past, Present, Future.”
And though Hope will appear in just the one episode, her role “is one that has tremendous importance in the NCIS world,” show boss Gary Glasberg reports. “I can’t think of anyone I’d rather have joining us at this pivotal time than Leslie. We’re thrilled to have her.”
Famously felled early on during 24‘s eight-season run, Hope’s more recent TV credits include Revolution, ABC’s one-and-done The River and an arc on The Mentalist.
NCIS premieres Season 11 on Tuesday, Sept. 24.
Recent Big Bang Theory player Margo Harshman (aka Sheldon’s assistant Alex) has been cast in the potentially recurring role of McGee’s new girlfriend Delilah, who was alluded to at the end of Season 10.
Playing a smart and eccentric computer specialist in the cyber division at the Department of Defense, Harshman not only has scenes with Sean Murray’s McGee in the season opener, but “there is some terrific triangle stuff that goes on with Abby,” show boss Gary Glasberg tells TVLine. “It’s a lot of fun, and we’ll see what comes of it.”
Harshman’s other recent TV credits include NBC’s tragically short-lived Bent and guest spots on House and Modern Family.
NCIS Boss Opens Up About Cote de Pablo’s Surprising Decision (‘I Really Wasn’t Planning for This’), Hints at ‘Romantic’ Exit Storyline
As caught off-guard as he was by Cote de Pablo‘s decision to walk away from NCIS after eight seasons as Ziva David, showrunner Gary Glasberg recognizes the seriousness of the situation and as such hopes he will do the character justice during her swan song.
On Monday night at CBS’ Television Critics Assoc. summer press tour party, Glasberg spoke with TVLine about the “very” surprising news, how he reacted to it and what “Tiva” fans can expect when Season 11 gets underway Sept. 24.
TVLINE| How surprised were you by Cote’s decision?
I was very, very surprised. I think it was you that I told at some point, that I was “very confident” that this was going to work out. And I was very confident. This is not what I was planning on. As [CBS Corp. CEO Les] Moonves said earlier [Monday], everyone really wanted this to work. She’s a part of this family and a part of this team, and the efforts were being made by everyone.
TVLINE | Was it, like, a matter of Cote wanting to re-up for just one year versus multiple years…?
It wasn’t even the specifics. It was clear at the end of the day that this was her decision. And we have to respect it. Someone asked me if I was planning for this, but I really wasn’t, so basically the minute that this became real, I had to throw out a lot of what I was planning to do and start from scratch. But what came out of it is a really terrific [season-opening] two-parter that I think people are going to be really blown away by.
TVLINE | You previously said that we would find out what Ziva and the others were up to during the four-month time jump. Will Ziva’s story now be different?
Basically, the Ziva story sort of intertwines with where we left Gibbs off at the end of the season, with the sniper rifle. That whole story arc unfolds through the first episode, and then Cote/Ziva plays very prominently in the second one. There’s a really significant Tony/Ziva payoff — everything I hope the Tiva fans have been waiting for.
TVLINE | Oh, but I can’t imagine it’s much better than heartbreak for those fans and for Tony.
It informs her in ways that I think the fans will enjoy. It gives us some insight into this decision that she’s going to make. It’s exciting. And it’s romantic.
TVLINE | Is Tony the first person she shares this “decision” with?
Oh yeah. Look, it’s a storyline that I took very, very seriously — I felt like I had to, for the fans. I recognize what this means to them, and I recognize what her absence is going to mean. Someone asked me what I plan beyond this, and I can’t replace her. I can’t even use the word “replacement” for Ziva and what she means to this team. The only thing I can try and do down the road is come up with another character who feels organic and fills a void of some kind.
TVLINE | Because at the end of the day, Gibbs’ team will be down a man.
Exactly. That desk, at the end of the day, is going to be empty.
TVLINE | So, what are we talking as far as the timeframe for filling that void? November sweeps? February…?
It’s going to be a little while, and I really don’t know who that character is yet. But that’s something we’re talking about right now.
The first clue about how NCIS plans to write out departing leading Cote de Pablo was parsed out by CBS on Monday, and it appears the beloved character will not be given a permanent send-off.
In a Season 11 logline released by the network, the network confirmed that Ziva will vacate her NCIS post.
Former Mossad agent turned NCIS Special Agent Ziva David leaves the team in an emotional episode. Several unexpected twists will occur related to the personal lives of Palmer, McGee and Vance, and the team will face one of the most dangerous adversary’s they’ve ever encountered. Also, this season the series will mark its 250th episode.
Season 11 of NCIS kicks off on Tuesday, Sept. 24 at 8/7c.
Cote de Pablo is invoking Gibbs’ Rule No. 11 — “When the job is done, walk away” — and has decided to leave CBS’ NCIS.
The actress, whose contract expired at the end of Season 10, will appear at the start of Season 11 (premiering Sept. 24) to conclude Ziva’s story.
“I’ve had eight great years with NCIS and Ziva David,” the actress shares. “I have huge respect and affection for Mark, Gary, Michael, David, Rocky, Pauley, Brian, Sean, all of the team and CBS. I look forward to finishing Ziva’s story.”
In a statement, CBS said, “We respect Cote’s decision, thank her for being an important part of the NCIS team, and for eight terrific years playing Ziva David. Cote and CBS share a great respect for the NCIS audience, and we look forward to working with her and the producers on appropriate closure in this chapter of Ziva’s story.”
News of De Pablo’s departure comes at the proverbial 11th hour, since NCIS is due to resume production next week. Her future with the show has been conspicuously in question since the spring, when her character of Ziva was steered into a dangerous mission of vengeance, at one point winding up in a (seemingly) brutal car crash.
After emerging from that episode-ending cliffhanger surprisingly unscathed, by season’s end Ziva and others had resigned from NCIS — and then the season ended with a four-month time jump, the disenfranchised agents thus far unaccounted for.
Show boss Gary Glasberg maintained back in April, when de Pablo stood as the only cast member unsigned for Season 11, “I’m confident that things will work out, and we’ll present the best finale that we can and go from there.”
That Agent Ziva David has embarked on a dangerous, season-ending mission to avenge her father’s death while portrayer Cote de Pablo is the only cast member not yet set to return to NCIS in the fall is pure coincidence, says showrunner Gary Glasberg.
“I have absolutely no qualms telling you that this storyline” — launched by the double murder of Eli David and NCIS director Leon Vance’s wife Jackie — “is something I was talking about last spring,” Glasberg asserts to TVLine.
“No, that’s not a game that I play,” putting a character in jeopardy when an actor’s status is TBD, he adds. “My job is to creatively keep the show going and do the best job that I can, and let other people work that stuff out. I’m all about the show.”
When last we tuned into TV’s most watched drama, Ziva had covertly set out to find Ilan Bodnar (played by Oded Fehr), the man she holds responsible for the deadly assault on Vance’s home. When the show returns next Tuesday to uncork the final four episodes of Season 10, “We send Ziva off, with Tony, on a clue trail that leads them to Berlin,” Glasberg previews. As things unfold, “This arc connects into the story that becomes the season ender and dovetails into what will propel us into Season 11.”
But will de Pablo be around for the already renewed next cycle? When series lead Mark Harmon inked a new deal for Season 11 back in February, it left the actress as the only series regular in limbo. (The last time de Pablo entered contract talks, in 2011, she didn’t re-sign until late April.)
“I actually have had very little input and interaction with [negotiations],” says Glasberg. “We knew that we had this whole Bodnar arc for the second half of the season, and we’ve all been very focused on that.
“I’m confident that things will work out [with de Pablo],” he continues, “and we’ll present the best finale that we can and go from there.”
And will this season’s finale — titled “Damned If You Do” and airing May 14 — be the sort that leaves Ziva and/or others in some sort of jeopardy? “There are absolutely issues that come up, situations that leave us asking, ‘How is the team going to move forward? How will things change within the team?’” the show boss teases. “I’m not going to let you down in terms of that!”
All hands on deck: A beloved JAG officer is poised to show up just when NCIS needs him most.
John M. Jackson will reprise his role of Judge Advocate General A.J. Chegwidden in the JAG spin-off’s 10th season finale, which finds a federal witch hunt threatening the future of Gibbs’ gang.
“We needed a lawyer, a really good lawyer, to assist Gibbs and the team in the finale,” NCIS executive producer Gary Glasberg tells TVLine exclusively.
Enter Chegwidden, now retired from the Navy, who will step away from his powerful D.C. law firm to help Gibbs & Co. in the episode. Glasberg calls the outing a “nail-biter which will hopefully leave fans stunned all summer long.”
Fans of JAG will remember Chegwidden as Mac and Harm’s boss – and sometime father figure – whose gruff demeanor belied a deep devotion to his team. He was in charge during the Season 8 episodes that introduced Mark Harmon’s Gibbs and served as NCIS‘ planted pilot.
Since leaving JAG in 2004, Jackson has guest-starred on series including Bones, Private Practice, CSI, Castle and Perception.
The retired Navy big shot is just one of the surprise guest-stars who’ll show up during the eventful season-ender, which airs Tuesday, May 14 (8/7c).
“Our NCIS team may never be the same again,” Glasberg adds.