NCIS' Rocky Carroll Talks Holiday Episode's 'Bold Move,' Bishop's Skills and the NOLA Spin-Off

NCIS PreviewThe holiday season oft brings unexpected guests — as illustrated tonight on NCIS (CBS, 8/7c), when veteran entertainer Ben Vereen (Roots) guest-stars as Director Vance’s estranged father-in-law. Here, Rocky Carroll previews that prickly reunion and the Yuletide installment’s other “bold move”, assesses Agent Bishop’s pros and cons and ponders a trip to the Big Easy.

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TVLINE | What all brings Vance’s father-in-law, Lamar, to town? Why now?
First of all, it’s pretty amazing that Ben Vereen was available to play the role of Lamar. And I think the holidays have a way of bringing out people’s need for understanding and redemption. Lamar Sutton was Jackie’s estranged father, an absentee dad who basically left his wife and kids and went on and made another life for himself.

TVLINE | He wasn’t even at the funeral?
No, he wasn’t. The thing that brings him back is that he has heard she had died, so he comes to try to make amends as best he can and possibly have some sort of a relationship with his grandchildren. Vance, of course, is very resistant to any part of this. He has a very hard time coming to terms with the fact that somebody can basically give themselves a “do over” in life, just leave the way this guy did.

TVLINE | This guy’s got some cojones, showing up and asking this.
He’s got quite a set of stones showing up so many years afterHomesick the fact, trying to insert himself into this family. Vance is pretty dismissive of him, hoping that he will go away, but the guy is so persistent that finally Vance has to read him the riot act.

TVLINE | Yet I suspect a small part of Vance might think, “If the kids can’t have their mother, maybe I can allow them to have this piece of her family.”
I think that because this all happens during the holiday, the season of giving, it affects Vance in a way that normally wouldn’t be the case.

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TVLINE | And the case of the week, some mystery illness — what’s going on there?
There’s an epidemic that unfortunately is affecting a lot of children, so it’s kind of a bold move on the part of the writers and producers to do a holiday episode where kids are [in jeopardy]. But you get to see everybody at their best. It’s funny, the fans always ask, “Which episodes are your favorite?” I always love the holiday episodes, because you really get to see everybody at their best. We do holiday episodes very well.

TVLINE | Speaking of “everybody,” does Vance have a take on Ellie Bishop?
I think the jury’s still out. I mean, she does fill a void that was there, but right now, Vance is basically taking his cues from Gibbs. Gibbs was the one who sort of said, “Let’s give her a shot,” so if there is any fallout, Vance’s wrath will be against Gibbs.

TVLINE | What do you think Vance sees as Bishop’s pros and cons?
Well, she’s NSA, so she’s analytical. She’s sort of the opposite of Gibbs who’s a great agent but he relies mainly on his instincts. He’s also not the most tech-savvy guy in the world, so having a new agent who’s of the 21st century is a plus. That said, she’s unproven. The analytical side is fine when you’re in the office sitting in front of a computer trying to solve a crime, but when you’ve got to rely on your physical skill and your instincts and you’re in a life-or-death situation, it’s a whole different story. But it’s a good piece of casting they did there [with Emily Wickersham]. I think the fans really took to Emily from the get go.

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TVLINE | What are you hearing about Episode 250?
That still remains a mystery to me. But I’m very excited about the possibility of this new incarnation of NCIS [set in New Orleans]. The buzz is starting to generate about the spin-off, so I’m really excited about that. I’m just hoping that Vance has a timeshare in the French Quarter!

Want more scoop on NCIS, or for any other show? Email insideline@tvline.com and your question may be answered via Matt’s Inside Line.

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31 Comments
  1. Darlene says:

    I’m looking forward to the Christmas episode. Already saw an extended scene from the episode, and I’m feeling a lot of holiday cheer as a result!
    .
    The Vance story will be interesting, poignant, and Rocky is a great actor. And the mystery illness story line with children…yeah, I think it’s gonna be a tearjerker. It’ll be great seeing the team all fighting together against an unseen enemy. Rocky is right. NCIS does Christmas very well.

  2. Mel says:

    Nice interview, thanks. I like Rocky’s take on Vance’s take on Bishop. Seems fair. Although McGee has up-to-date techie skills, so Bishop isn’t the only one who brings those skills to the team. But it seems a good balance ,as Gibbs and Tony are more old-school in their investigating skills, and now McGee and Bishop more tech-heavy and analytical. As long as they focus on the combined skills of the team I’m good, as they all bring something to the table. Looking forward to tonight’s ep.

  3. Rusty says:

    Why is it that producers/writers always think that viewers want to know every little thing about a characters past? Big deal, Vance is estranged from his father. Is it germane to the plot? Is he a doctor that saves all the kids? At least with Tony’s dad, it usually has something to do with the story.
    I can’t stand ‘Bishop’, it has nothing to do with her replacing Ziva. Having to listen to her voice..ugh. Nothing against the actress, but she doesn’t click with me at all. It seems to me, that she doesn’t quite click with the other cast members. I don’t see the reason why she was added as full time member to the cast even before her first episode was shown. Methinks there’s something going on behind the scenes between her and the powers to be. I keep hoping that she will screw up so badly they’ll get rid of her.

    • Lisa says:

      Vance is not estranged from his father. Ben Vereen is playing Jackie’s dad-Vance’s father-in-law.

      While I don’t love the Bishop character I’m willing to give her a chance to make her place with the rest of the cast. We’ve only seen her a couple of times so far.

      As for giving back story on the characters when a show gets to it’s 11th season you need to find new sources for stories so the show can keep going.

    • Darlene says:

      That’s too bad you feel that way, Rusty, about a number of things.
      .
      I don’t want to know every little think about the cast, but I do care about Vance and I miss Jackie, so I’m looking forward to see how the family is doing after such a tragic loss. And since so many people, this time of year especially, miss their loved ones who are now gone even more, I think it will be helpful and cathartic to go through this time with Vance. It weill be for me at least.
      .
      Sorry Ellie doesn’t click for you. I like her. And I think she has wonderful chemistry with the cast. They seem very relaxed around her.
      .
      As for how Emily got the job…there’s a great story out there that talks about her audition and her ability to fit in with the cast even after the cameras stopped rolling…enough so that the crew, not just TPTB, thought she was “the one.”

      I hope you grow to like her instead of wishing her gone. :)

      • Debbie says:

        I have to agree. Bishop just doesn’t fit in the mix. We have one super smart lady as in Abby
        She can chase the rabbit a lot as the old saying goes. We don’t need two.

    • Larc says:

      I agree with you on the Bishop part. This is one fan who definitely hasn’t “taken to” Emily Wickersham’s Bishop character. So far, at least, putting her on the Gibbs team looks like a huge mistake. Like trying to force a square puzzle piece into a round hole.

    • TV Gord says:

      “Nothing against the actress” rings hollow when you slam her because of her voice? That’s clearly something against the actress. It makes me question you claim that it has nothing to do with her replacing Ziva. It tends to make me lump you in with all of the Ziva crazies who think the world revolves around her. Nothing against you. ;-)

  4. AFan says:

    I am looking forward to NCIS:NO, it sounds like a better setup than NCIS:Red. Hopefully the casting will be better too. The cast of Red just didn’t mesh.

    Pride: Dennis Haysbert or Benjamin Bratt
    LaSalle: Christian Kane or Josh Stewart (JJ’s husband from Criminal Minds)
    Brody: Beth Riesgraf

    • Matt Webb Mitovich says:

      No Tim Hutton for Pride? ;) Gina Bellman for the doctor? But then do Aldis Hodge for LaSalle.

      • AFan says:

        Going that route Gina Bellman might fit Brody better and Beth Riesgraf as the Doc. Actually thinking about it Beth seems like a good fit for the Doc, “eccentric” and “void of social boundaries” sounds familiar. :)

      • John 1138 says:

        Salli Richardson-Whitfield for Pride: just change the name and have her join the agency. With the character’s backstory she’d make sense (FBI, attorney) while the actor’s chops were established, for me anyway, as a lead in Eureka.

  5. Looking forward to the Christmas episode. I’ve always adored Ben Vereen. As to Bishop, what a terrific character she is! Lots of room for good character growth and Wickersham has insane chemistry with all the cast we’ve seen her with so far. She’s also been in the business long enough that I imagine she hit the ground running.

    Great interview! Thank you!

    • John 1138 says:

      They’ve highlighted a number of times that while she’s got the “book learning” the team has a lot to offer her in the practical world department so the preverbal learning curve will surely play out. The cast’s relaxed reaction to her does seep through in their scenes doesn’t it? That tends to seal deals beyond theoretical/short audition scenes casting decisions from what I gather,

    • Nicholas says:

      what show were you watching? she’s awkward, boring, and absolutely has no chemistry with the other characters. It’s almost like you were paid to post your comment to counteract the other 90 percent of viewers who don’t like her. And no, it’s not about Ziva, Bishop just doesn’t fit.

  6. Kat says:

    I don’t watch NCIS anymore. Bishop isn’t a good fit, in my opinion. She’s to young and the whole sitting on a desk or floor got old from the git-go! I do miss the guys and Abby, but will stick with watching reruns.

  7. Delirious says:

    Props to Matt for using “cojones” instead of “cajones” (which is how I see it most of the time, and is obviously wrong, since it means “drawers” instead of “balls”)!

  8. della woods says:

    I miss Katie and wish they could find a spot for her in NCIS…I won’t say they’ll never find a replacement for Cote but it isn’t Bishop…Ziva is perfect for that part…bring her back…

    • John 1138 says:

      Ziva WAS the part and the actress playing that part chose to leave.

      Ellie Bishop is a NEW part, they wisely, IMHO, chose to NOT “replace” but simply add to the team from what I can tell. New stories are always a welcome addition and I anticipate Bishop will be bringing many.

      • Nicholas says:

        I totally agree with NEW characters, NEW actors, and NEW story lines, but this one just doesn’t work. I feel like just adding Bishop’s character makes a new show I simply don’t want to watch, and I’ve tried really hard.

  9. Sharron says:

    Don’t like Bishop. She is ruining the show. Gibbs deserves better.

  10. Audi says:

    I think Bishop is lovely. I didn’t expect to like her, because I didn’t like Ziva at all when she replaced Kate. Kate was too fabulous. But I think Bishop has a terrific flow with the rest of the cast. She is like Abby, very lovable. Some people just don’t like pretty blondes, too bad, so sad to be them!

    • Nicholas says:

      She’s not lovable in any sense of the word. She reminds me of an itchy wool christmas sweater, it’ll keep you warm but it’s uncomfortable and you’d rather be wearing ANYTHING else.

  11. Roxana says:

    El nuevo miembro femenino en la serie en lugar de sumar…le resta …y mucho ..tiene un papel que parece que no está en sus cabales…uffff….ojala puedan poner una mujer al menos mas centrada.
    Me encanta la serie y espero no pierda su esencia…saludos

  12. Ron Lakusta says:

    WOULD LOVE TO SEE AN EPISODE OR TWO ON N.C.I.S. FEATURING THE “LOVEABLE, AND MOST ENTERTAINING ,JIMMY PALMER???

  13. Ron Lakusta says:

    WOULD LOVE TO SEE JIMMY PALMER FEATURED IN ONE OR MORE N.C.I.S. EPISODES.PERHAPS, A NEW CHARACTER PORTRAYING SOMEONE IN JIMMY’S OR HIS WIFE,BREENA’S FAMILY.
    JIMMY IS “WITTY”,, “LIKEABLE”,AND VERY “STRAIGHT FORWARD” THROUGHOUT HIS ROLES.

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