LOS ANGELES — Being the only girls in the crime-fighting world of NCIS can be a bit daunting, but series stars Cote de Pablo and Pauley Perrette insist the familial atmosphere of the hit show — now filming its eighth season — keeps them from feeling left out.
In fact, de Pablo insists, the combination is just right. “It’s very rare when you have a top-rated show and an international success like this,” says the actress, who joined the cast in the third season. “If you were to take out any of these characters, you would be messing with the chemistry of the show.”
Playing Ziva, a former Mossad agent, calls for more than a few stunts, and it’s a part of the job that de Pablo relishes.
“Nothing gets me more pumped than a really good fight sequence,” says de Pablo, who comes from a dancing background. “In dance, I always felt like I was never good enough because I couldn’t get my leg high enough or whatever. But in fighting you can be dirtier. It’s what I think most women secretly would love to do.”
There are risks, of course. “At a certain point, you may get hurt,” she says. “And you have to know that going into it. Certainly, I’ve had injuries. The simplest things are the ones that hurt you. I did one fall and my neck was basically shot for about two weeks.”
Perrette’s role as forensic specialist Abby isn’t nearly as physical, but it instead calls for something of a mental workout. “I have probably four hours of studying to do tonight,” she says. “The things that Abby has to say, there’s no way to do that without studying. Because by the time I get to set, I’ve got props and things and microscopes and mass spectrometers and so many things to do that if you’re not really super-prepared, I don’t think there’d be any way you could play Abby. It’s a lot.”
Both actresses have found strong relationships to play off of with their male co-stars, especially with series star Mark Harmon, who plays NCIS supervisor Leroy Gibbs.
“I’ve always, always felt that their relationship was so incredibly paternal” Perrette says of Abby and her boss. “It was because Gibbs lost his daughter, Abby doesn’t have a father, and that right there lays the groundwork for that relationship. She needs his approval in a different way than the others. It’s a really interesting and sweet relationship. And also one that’s a little heartbreaking, if you think about it.”
For de Pablo, the paternal feelings apply as well, especially since she was a later addition to the cast. “I really think that Ziva has found a family in this agency, with these people that she works with,” she says. “I do think that the closest thing she’s got to a real father figure that she’s had in a long time is Gibbs.”
But for as much as Harmon’s character offers fatherly comfort on-screen, by all accounts the show’s lead actor is more like an obnoxious little brother off-screen. Though Harmon has steadfastly denied pulling practical jokes on his co-workers, the stories keep popping up.
“Pranks happen all the time on our show,” de Pablo says. “There was one day when I walked into my trailer and Mark Harmon had found a dead lizard and he put a noose around its neck and he hung it from my lamp. And on the noose there was this note saying, ‘I couldn’t take it anymore.’ You know it was him. Who else would do that? The amount of thought that goes into that prank is only … it’s a Mark Harmon prank.”