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.”