Last night’s season premiere of NCIS was full of action in every way. There was a manhunt and death (RIP Harper Dearing), an epic showdown (Dearing versus Gibbs), romantic tension (Tiva!), and a dozen other great moments. So we got executive producer Gary Glasberg on the phone to talk about all the action and take a peek at what’s to come this season. (Hint: counseling, parental drama, and an epic two-parter.)
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Harper is gone! How did you decide that he would go out in a one-on-one showdown with Gibbs?
GLASBERG: The fact that we got Richard Schiff for this was so fantastic and so against type. Whether it’s Scott Wolf or Richard Schiff, getting good actors to play roles they don’t necessarily do is fun. And in this instance, I’ve got Richard, I’ve got Mark Harmon, you have to get them together at some point, and it has to be intimate. When you end a season with a cliffhanger like this, you have a sense of what you need to pick up right away when you come back. I knew the thing I was going to be driving toward was getting them in a room together. This is a man who almost took out Gibb’s family and you need to give them time. And the funny thing in that scene is that Gibbs barely speaks. It’s classic Gibbs — it’s all done with looks and glares and it’s in the eyes and the way he moves. That’s what makes Mark Harmon special.
It hadn’t occurred to me how little he says.
You know what he says? He says the word ‘no.’ That’s all he says.
I loved the way we dealt with Ducky. What’s next for him?
I’m very proud of how this whole arc played out for Ducky, and David McCallum did a really fantastic job. We literally knocked this man off his feet and he proceeds to spend the first four episodes of the show really getting back up emotionally and psychologically and professionally. He’s questioning his mortality and questioning whether he should continue doing this work. He has to take a step backward and Palmer has to take a step forward. The arc worked out really nicely and it culminates in an episode that Steve Binder wrote called “Phoenix,” where Ducky really has to step up and rediscover his mojo. And I’m very pleased with the way it came out.
Jumping to McGee, who was injured in this episode. There was a small, sad part where he mentioned that he wouldn’t be calling his dad. Are we going to see more of that?
Yeah. Thank you for picking up on that. That’s something I sort of layered in there. And hopefully later in the season we’ll be diving into a little more about McGee’s dad.
So will his arc this season be mostly about his dad or will there be some more stuff coming his way?
I think there might be some other stuff, too. We’ll have to see. I tend to pick up with the season opener where we left off in the finale and then usually there’s a run of six or seven self-contained storylines. Then, when we get into November sweeps, that’s the kind of thing that maybe we’ll touch on more into the back half of the season.
Let’s talk about Tony and Ziva in the elevator. Playful as ever, but, personally, I’m starting to get the sense that they are friends more than anything.
Not necessarily. The chemistry is key and those scenes are something I’ve had in my head for a long time. [Then when] Michael [Weatherly] and Cote [de Pablo] got their hands on them, [the scenes] sort of evolved into something else, and [they] took it to a different place. I’m really sort of excited. We’ve talked a lot about continuing to scratch the surface of what the Tony/Ziva relationship is and get deeper into it as they season progresses and peel back the layers to expose some things — even if it’s just in small moments. We really want to inform the audience about how they’re feeling and, potentially, what that relationship is.
Of everyone, Abby was having the hardest time in the aftermath. We’ve already talked about how she will end up reaching out to her brother as a result.
Pauley is so fantastic at taking something and finding a different spin on it and a different way of telling a story. She really showed in [her scenes] that she’s frustrated by this. Abby is angered by it and hurt and that trauma continues for her as well. And in the second episode, part of what helps her continue to heal is potentially reaching out to her brother, who she hasn’t had any contact with. That’s the kind of thing I want to continue through the season with her. And potentially really get into something later in the season that touches on Abby in a big way. But I’m not going to talk about that yet.
Jumping to Gibbs — he’s building something new in the basement!
He’s starting something new! And it’s something big. That’s going to carry through all through the season, and I think it’s really going to keep viewers guessing and hopefully culminate at the very end of the season.
So we’ll have an answer by the end of the season?
You love playing with that.
I do! I can’t help myself. I love that people actually care! And the fact that what he does down there is meaningful to them and they feel like it informs who he is, is just a lot of fun as a writer to play with. I know Mark Harmon is a carpenter and loves to build, and my dad was a carpenter as well. I grew up in that basement. So there’s a special part of me that connects down there. So when I can tell a story or put a really meaningful scene down there, it has a little extra resonance.
Lastly, preview episode 2 for me.
In the second episode, there’s a crisis counselor who shows up to sit down with people and chime in. It does play a big part and there’s a really touching, emotional scene with Vance because Vance feels responsible for bringing that bomb onto the navy yard. That’s all part of this fallen heroes theme that’s going to carry through the season. Vance is going to continue to carry this weight.