There’s a whole lot of shake up going on “NCIS” when CBS’ No. 1 drama returns for its 11th season, what with the departure of Cote de Pablo, who plays Ziva, after the first two episodes, and figuring out how to reinstate Tony (Michael Weatherly) and McGee (Sean Murray), who resigned in the finale in an attempt to save Gibbs’ (Mark Harmon) career.
“We are going to come out swinging and give everyone the best television we can, and hope that everyone enjoys what they see,” executive producer/showrunner Gary Glasberg told xfinityTV in an exclusive interview. “Part of what I want to continue and deliver to our fans is helping them deal with the shakeup of just feeling and remembering why we watch ‘NCIS.’”
Truth be told, Glasberg gave us the inside scoop on what is happening storywise up until the holidays, who will replace Ziva, and what guest stars will be dropping by — some familiar faces and some new ones. So check out his answers to the burning questions of what lies ahead for Gibbs and company:
You earlier confirmed that Ziva would not die as part of her exit. What else can you reveal about her departure?
I can tell you that what was originally a one-part season opener for us, became two parts. That Ziva’s story, along with everything we are dealing with with Gibbs, starts in the first one and continues all the way through to the second one.
There are some really lovely fantastic moments between Tony and Ziva that I hope pay off for all the Tiva fans and provide the closure that they are looking for. They’re funny and heart-wrenching and give us a little bit of what people have been waiting for between them.
I am going to tell people to watch. They should watch and see where we go with it and, hopefully, they will be satisfied with what they get.
With Ziva having been the love interest that fans want to see Tony with, is there some point in this season that he will be able to have a new woman in his life? Or is it too soon?
That is a big gaping hole that is going to be left. I think we have to give Tony time to figure out what he wants from life, let him heal, let him move on and let change happen. Then we will see what Tony wants next. That is something that Michael is very involved with. There is a lot of talk and communication going on. It is actually an interesting process for us to think what the next step is for the character and how we are going to move forward.
Is the door being left open for Cote so there a chance in the future that she could return to the show — either as a guest star or rejoin the team?
I am not going to say the door is closed. We have lots of things planned for the future, lots of things planned for this season. So we will have to see where everyone is. I don’t know where the show will be. I don’t know where our cast will be. I don’t know where Cote will be.
This is a huge shift for us, a big change. It has taken a tremendous amount of work and emotion to get to the place where we are moving on. We are going to see what comes as these episodes unfold.
How will you go about finding her replacement? Will there be a lot of people in and out, or will you find someone right away? Are you looking for a fresh face, or an actress we might recognize, or a character we have met before?
We are going to have fun for some episodes and let some guests come in and fill that space. I don’t necessarily mean literally the space in the squad room, but have some fun with the dynamic of the team and, in Ziva’s absence, who can help us out?
We have a terrific role coming up right away with an agent who is on the verge of retirement, a woman who comes in and helps us out, named Vera Strickland (Roma Maffia). That was a blast. We had a lot of fun with that episode. We’ve got agent Abigail Borin (Diane Neal) from the Coast Guard coming back in. It is certainly with the idea floated out there: Could she be the one?
We are going to play with this idea of a rotation of characters coming through. We want to remind people that after going through this very difficult period at the beginning of the season, there is still fun and lightness and some smiles to be had with the dynamic of this group. Hopefully, when people least expect it, someone will walk through the door and surprise us.
We left Gibbs taking aim at someone — possibly his FBI counterpart. Is that where we pick up?
We pick up where we left off in May, and then, little by little, all of the details of how we got to that point start to unfold. Between the first episode and the second episode of Season 11, all of the details from the end of May through to the middle of September are laid out, and we really understand how we got to that point of Gibbs with the sniper rifle. We will really understand how and what exactly happened with Ziva, as well.
This mission is to wipe his slate clean. Are there repercussions from it?
On this show, there are always repercussions. There are always things that you didn’t see coming. There are always characters and new ideas that are introduced that help us throughout the coming season, as well.
All of that happens. Richard Parsons (Colin Hanks), the investigator, comes back. He plays a really significant and surprising role in the first episode. Then that continues all the way into the second episode, which really delivers on the Tony and Ziva front.
Is Parsons still pursuing Gibbs?
He is significantly frustrated by the fact that his investigation is over. Then he does a really surprising turn that opens his eyes to just what Team Gibbs can pull off.
It looks as if Tony and McGee will get their jobs back — even though they resigned to save Gibbs. When they come back, how will the dynamic on the team have changed, discounting the Ziva stuff?
You have to remember, these agents are very, very close and they are used to working in a certain way. That is part of the fun we are having in the episodes that follow. There is a definite void that exists, yet these guys have to keep working. Sometimes that void is filled by a guest actor, and other times it is Tony and McGee working with Gibbs and putting in overtime to make it all work.
How does Abby (Pauley Perrette) deal with Ziva’s departure? She is very attached to her teammates.
Ziva’s absence certainly resonates all the way through the department. It affects Abby, Ducky (David McCallum) and Palmer (Brian Dietzen). Everyone understands what this means and has an attachment to her. You have to remember. This isn’t the first time this has happened for that group. There is reference to Kate (Sasha Alexander). They have been down this road before.
There is a possibility that Palmer and his wife will adopt a baby. Will you explore that?
There is a significant storyline that is going to continue throughout the season and really take some emotional twists and turns. It is a nice little story that we are threading through, and, eventually, probably later in the season, it will have a more significant turn that we will deal with. It is definitely something that is going to get discussed for quite a while.
Anything interesting happening for Ducky this season?
I don’t know offhand yet. We have so much to deal with upfront at the beginning of this season.
There will probably be something along the way, but I am not ready to specifically tell you about it yet.
Any other guest stars you can talk about for this season?
We’ve got Ralph Waite coming back in a really emotional episode as Gibbs’ dad. Around the holidays, we will have Gibbs and Agent Fornell’s (Joe Spano) ex-wife (Melinda McGraw) come back. Later in the season, we will get a visit from Robert Wagner. Those are just the ones I know.
Jamie Lee Curtis?
No one loves Miss Curtis more than I do. I just don’t know if where we are storywise with everybody if that is something I am going to do right now. But I will never say no to that and the door is always open. She is a huge fan of this show, and we are huge fans of her.
That just leaves Vance (Rocky Carroll)?
Rocky has a fantastic holiday episode coming up. We are in the middle of talking about that. It will give us some insight into where Vance is in his personal life and how he is trying to move on as well.
Also, we have a new storyline with the SECNAV (Secretary of the Navy) that we are working on
and a prominent Navy character that we are bringing in, played by Leslie Hope.
Anything I missed?
Mike Franks (Muse Watson) comes back in an eye-opening, touching storyline that has some real resonance. These are flashbacks this time around. This is a story that took place in the past and resonates to something that is happening today. I think it is going to be a very impactful season.
Then there is a terrific episode — sort of a Part 2 to Baltimore, when we went back and learned about Tony. We are stepping back again and seeing a young Tony DiNozzo in a Baltimore-related episode.
“NCIS” premieres its 11th season on Tuesday, Sept. 24 at 8/7c on CBS.