'NCIS' boss previews team without Ziva: 'It's going to take time for our characters to move on'

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Image Credit: Cliff Lipson/CBS

Ziva has left the building. (Or, if you want to get technical, she never returned to the building.)

But even though we’ve seen the last of Cote de Pablo for the foreseeable future, there’s plenty of action to come on NCIS, according to executive producer Gary Glasberg. Part of it, he says, will be seen in tonight’s episode, which he’ll give you scoop on in our interview below, among many other things…

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Obviously this was such a huge moment for the series and for the team — can you talk about what’s going to come next after all of this?
GARY GLASBERG: This is a huge deal for us and to suddenly not have Ziva present is something that we’re absolutely going to feel moving forward and if we didn’t feel it we’d be cheating ourselves and the audience. That absence in the squad room, that empty desk is something that we’re going to acknowledge. We’re going to acknowledge it in the episode that airs [tonight] and in the episode that follows that. We’re really trying to approach this as realistically and organically as possible, and it’s going to take time for our characters to move on and they all have opinions and thoughts about that and it’s been worked into the storylines and hopefully people will go through the process with them.

I have to ask about Tony’s ‘I will’ list — is that going to come up eventually again?
Well, you know we like to plant little seeds and leave cookies for people and it certainly is something that could pop up again. It won’t in the immediate future, but I’d love to go back and take something that was planted and revisit it twelve or fifteen episodes later.

Or, like, four seasons….
Exactly and that’s the thing that NCIS can do that nobody else can.

I read something on Twitter about some possible deleted scenes. Were there any moments between Tony and Ziva that didn’t make it into the episode?
There really wasn’t much. There was some dialogue lines and little things here and there, but there really wasn’t. I wish I could say I’ve got some sort of vault of footage that ended up on the cutting room floor, but really you’re seeing most of what was shot.

Talk about some of the specifics of some of the episodes coming up.
We’ve got some really good stuff. The intention, especially in this third episode, is to really reset and give people an NCIS that is the reason they tune in and have some fun and some lightness and have a really good prime story and an investigation. The episode is called “Under the Radar,” and it really feels like a strong, old-time NCIS episode. Granted there’s an acknowledgement that that desk is empty, but we’re really back to normal to a certain extent. In the episode that follows that, we’ve got a Muse Watson/Mike Frank episode that revisits something from his past — very, very happy with that episode. It’s very emotional. Lolita Davidovich is in that episode and does a terrific job. After that, we revisit [season 8, episode 22] “Baltimore.” It’s sort of “Baltimore, Part 2.” It takes us back to before Tony was a detective, to when he was a beat cop. A crime comes up present day that links back to something from his past. His performance was fantastic. We’ve got some really good stuff coming up — really solid shows and guest stars. Agent Borin (Diane Neal), our coast guard character comes back for a storyline. Familiar faces and good stories and then that’ll lead us up to the introduction of Ellie Bishop.

What really made you want to write this character specifically as sort of a successor and as a new part of this team?
Well I don’t necessarily view her as a successor. The way we approached it was, how do we bring someone new into the fold? What could she bring to the group and to the party? Bishop is a NSA analyst, and she’s a thinker. She looks at the world in a very global way; she looks  at everything, life, in a global way. That’s a big part of the way that our group is evolving. Our agents are evolving — they’re looking at terrorism in a different way, they’re having to approach crimes in a different way and I think that having that view of the world is something that our people don’t necessarily have much experience in. So I think she’ll provide something different. I think she’ll emotionally provide something different. Emily Wickersham is a terrific actress. I’ve now spent a bunch of time with her; I’m really excited about what she’s going to bring to this and how she’s going to bring the character to life. We’ll have some fun with it.

Like you mentioned, NCIS is a show where we fall in love with characters over time. Is it going to take some time to get to know Emily as well? Ziva is a tough act to follow. Do you hope the audience is patient?
Oh yeah! I’m very realistic about what this is going to be and what this process is going to be. I think Emily is, too. We have to give people time; it’s really interesting! I feel like we’re trying to approach this as honestly and realistically and as organically as we can. You know, Ziva’s departure has finally happened. We then spend six episodes without anyone except for guests who have been coming and going. And then in November, they’ll get to meet Bishop and hopefully by then they’ll want to meet someone new and interesting who brings something to our team, but we’re just going to approach it step by step and write the best script we can write.

I did love Delilah’s introduction even though it was brief. Are we going to see her again?
You absolutely will see her again. You’ll see her again in an episode that’s coming up, and we have some plans for her a little later on as well. That’s a relationship that we’re having some fun with, and we’ve got some plans in store. I’m excited about it, actually.

Speaking of returns, I know that a lot of people felt that Ziva’s farewell episode left a little crack in the door. Maybe, twenty seasons from now when we’re closing off Tony’s story, do you you see a reunion? Any chance of Cote eventually coming back?
There’s nothing planned at the moment; there’s nothing in the foreseeable future. But you know me well enough by now — everything’s done for a reason and everything’s done intentionally and Ziva’s not dead. So, you know, we’ll see what the future brings.

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