Interesting Facts About NCIS That No One Knows About
CBS's hit series NCIS is a police procedural that follows a fictional group of special agents tasked with solving crimes related to the United States Department of the Navy (which includes the Marine Corps). On the air consistently since 2003, the show has gathered plenty of previously unknown bits of trivia throughout its years.
With no end for the show in sight, why not take a look at these behind-the-scenes facts?
A spinoff of hit CBS legal drama JAG, NCIS (short for "Naval Criminal Investigative Service") is the second-longest-running scripted U.S. primetime TV series on the air. Not counting cartoons like The Simpsons, of course, the show is bested only by NBC's Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.
The irony of being a JAG spinoff is that NCIS has seen a couple of its own spinoffs since premiering back in the early 2000s — NCIS: Los Angeles and NCIS: New Orleans, to be specific. While their respective locations are pretty obvious, their plotlines differ greatly from their parent program.
Personal Connections to Characters
Most of the time, a character's interests and quirks must be assumed by the actor playing them. In the case of Abby, a main character on NCIS played by Pauley Perrette, it's the other way around: The writers based her character on her following her audition.
Young Gibbs's Creative Casting
Casting younger versions of iconic characters can be a tricky thing. This is something that the casting directors on NCIS struggled with when trying to find the perfect actor to portray a younger version of main character Leroy Jethro Gibbs (Mark Harmon).
Finding the perfect props for a character to use can make or break a scene. If the prop department utilizes items that look too fake or too unrealistic for that particular shot, it can throw everything off and result in an unconvincing final product.
A Family Affair
Unsurprisingly, many Hollywood actors and filmmakers are related to each other. After all, "it's not about what you know; it's about who you know" — this is the age-old notion that’s been associated with the TV and film industry for decades. It's especially true on the set of NCIS.
Pranking the Prankster
NCIS lead Mark Harmon is known for pulling all kinds of practical jokes on the set. Considering how long these actors have been around one another, it's almost like they're all siblings goofing off with each other.
Clever Casting Choices
Series writer and creator Donald P. Bellisario certainly knows a thing or two about casting. Considering his long and illustrious resume in the TV industry — he’s the creator of Quantum Leap and Magnum P.I. as well as each entry in the JAG/NCIS universe — it goes without saying that his word should be trusted.
When not in uniform, Mark Harmon's character Leroy Jethro Gibbs is typically depicted in his home — probably tinkering on the boat in his basement — wearing either a T-shirt depicting the logo or name of a police precinct or a sweatshirt with the letters "NIS."
Poking Fun at the Personal
After spending over 15 years with a small group of people, it's all but expected that details about one's personal life are bound to get out — for better or for worse. On top of this, you can expect that your co-stars (who also happen to be your friends) are going to make light of your hardships from time to time.
Bad Timing for Anthony and Kate
No matter how fun a particular show might be for an actor, there comes a time when contracts end and more exciting opportunities open up elsewhere. The decision to renew or depart comes down to the decision to do something new or stay the same.
There's always a bit of suspension of disbelief when it comes to entertainment. How else would you expect an audience to get behind such nonsensical ideas as superheroes and aliens and dragons and talking animals? There's even some suspension of disbelief with NCIS — just on a much smaller scale.
Pop Culture Punchline
Mark Harmon's character Gibbs is notorious for being completely out of touch when it comes to pop culture. That's why, during a late season four episode, he had to ask Michael Weatherly's character DiNozzo for some help solving "a TV drama with eight letters."
Costly Car Colors
Like a brand-new police car that goes speeding past you on the highway, it doesn't take much to wonder what kind of money goes into all those pristine cars that the officers get to drive around. The same goes for officers of the NCIS, especially on CBS's show.
Backdoor Pilot Changes
When dealing with spinoffs, the typical move on the part of the TV writers is to do something called a "backdoor pilot." In other words, the first episode of the spinoff is included as a normal episode of the original series. JAG did it for NCIS, and NCIS has done it for both of its spinoffs.
A Very Different Gibbs
Believe it or not, inimitable actor Harrison Ford — famous for such roles as Han Solo and Indiana Jones — was actually going through a career slump around the time of NCIS's creation. His agent and his close friends all urged him to take on the role of Gibbs, but he ultimately declined.
Ducky Ducks Out
Many lead actors take pride in the number of times they've appeared on a particular television show. Some even go to extremes and get angry when their characters don't make an appearance (like what happened when Jason Alexander didn't appear in an episode of Seinfeld).
An A-list Kate Casting
Back in 2003, prior to the main cast being finalized, Hollywood was buzzing with excitement over CBS's upcoming NCIS pilot. It seemed that everyone who was anyone wanted to be a part of it — including an actress who’s impossible to imagine ever taking part in the show today.
Watching Your Six
NCIS isn't the only police procedural drama to use the phrase "watch your six," but it's one of just a few programs to utilize other commands that follow a similar number-based structure. But, most importantly, what do they all mean?
Straightening Out Character Traits
Early on in a show's run, the characters are typically far from fully developed yet. This is the time when the most inconsistencies can be found. Often, a show will contradict itself later on because of throwaway lines in early episodes that come back to bite the writers later.
NCIS: Naval Criminal Investigative Slang
One of the most consistently used words in NCIS history is "scuttlebutt." This term actually carries two meanings. The first is simply a Navy term that refers to a water cooler or water fountain. The second is gossip, which typically can be found at or around the water cooler.
Backdoor Pilot Trends
A product of a backdoor pilot itself, it's not surprising to learn that NCIS and its two sets of backdoor pilots have one key thing in common. It's the same issue that plagued NCIS's backdoor pilot on JAG: the problem of losing characters between shoots.
Personal Character Histories
The same way Pauley Perrette's own life helped shape her character and Mark Harmon's character uses the actor’s real tools, the writers looked to the main cast members for any additional quirks or traits that they'd like to include in the series to make it more personal.
Miguel Ferrer's Owen Granger
Over at NCIS: Los Angeles, which has been airing for more than a decade now, the actors are just as dedicated to their roles as anyone on the parent series, regardless of their spinoff status. In the late Miguel Ferrer's case, it's possible that some are even more dedicated than the NCIS cast.
Ladies Love Cool Stunts
One half of NCIS: Los Angeles's two-man team, Agent Sam Hanna of the Naval Criminal Investigative Service's Office of Special Projects, is played by the former rapper-turned-actor LL Cool J. While he might not have started his career as a TV star, he still takes it very seriously.
Fast and Furious Friends
When NCIS: Los Angeles was in its early stages of development, it was unclear who exactly would be cast opposite LL Cool J as Agent G. Callen. One of Donald P. Bellisario's first choices was Fast & Furious franchise lead Paul Walker. The role eventually went to Chris O'Donnell.
Friends of the Ferrer Family
NCIS: Los Angeles leads Chris O'Donnell and Linda Hunt didn't work together with Miguel Ferrer until they all appeared on the NCIS spinoff for the first time. Despite this, O'Donnell and Hunt were already quite familiar with a couple of Ferrer's other family members from past roles throughout the years.
A Strange Relationship
Fans of NCIS: Los Angeles can't seem to get enough of the relationship between Kensi Blye and Marty Deeks. Played by Daniela Ruah and Eric Christian Olsen, the two have been a fan-favorite couple since the relationship's origins after Olsen was introduced on the show several years ago.
Pregnancy Plot Points
When an actor reveals they're expecting a child, it can create a creative challenge for the writer's room: Should their character be pregnant too, or should their character be written off temporarily to avoid any continuity errors? On NCIS: Los Angeles, the writers lean toward the latter.
The Donald P. Bellisario Extended Universe
At this point, it seems common knowledge that JAG, NCIS, NCIS: Los Angeles and NCIS: New Orleans all take place within the same universe — there's a chain of command that leads directly from the first show to the last, with plenty of interconnectedness between the four.