Laying claim to the NCIS desk that someone else occupied for nearly 200 episodes — and on TV’s most watched drama, no less — was a “very big thing” for Emily Wickersham (The Sopranos, The Bridge). But based on the results of a TVLine reader poll and viewer reaction to date, the transition has gone as well as anyone could reasonably expect.
Though Wickersham never crossed paths with predecessor Cote de Pablo (“I would love to meet her someday,” she shares), she absolutely appreciates the significance of filling the void created in the wake of Agent Ziva David’s departure. As NCIS resumes Season 11 this Tuesday at 8/7c, TVLine spoke with Ellie Bishop’s portrayer about joining the CBS drama and soon exposing her character’s less-than-perfect traits.
TVLINE | After your first episode, we put up a poll asking readers for their first impression of Bishop. Seventy-eight percent either “love” or “like” her. Is that number pleasantly surprising for you?
Oh wow. Yeah. That’s really nice to hear. I know it’s a weird change for a lot of these viewers, so that’s really nice. I like hearing that a lot.
TVLINE | You’re surrounded at NCIS by people who have been on the show for nine, 10 years. Was there any advice as you kind of entered this lion’s den, this tricky transition?
I think everyone knew it was going to be a bit of a bumpy start, but the writing is so great here and the way they wrote Bishop was so wonderful. She’s not an intimidating character. She’s really excited to be here. She’s determined. She’s charming in her own weird ways. I think she’s non-threatening, which I hope comes across. You know?
TVLINE | Gary Glasberg told me that you “brought some fun stuff to the table” in creating the character. Such as…? Maybe the sitting on desks?
Oh, well that’s nice to hear. As I said, she was written so well, but from the beginning I set about finding those little quirks and looking for little things to bring out in her. So yeah, for example, sitting on the desk was something I did in the [audition] that was brought into each episode. Then they brought in the funny food associations, where she’ll remember what she was eating when she was studying certain facts, which I thought was quirky and cool.
RELATED | NCIS Season 11 — Scoop on the New ‘Ziva’ in Tony’s Life
TVLINE | What’s the sum total of her backstory that you know thus far?
Well, Ellie is from a big family in Oklahoma, a Midwestern girl…. We know that she is married, though we don’t really know much about Bishop’s husband yet.
TVLINE | Isn’t he a lawyer? Haven’t we heard or read that much?
I’m not sure what’s been revealed, to be honest, but it’s a storyline that I’m really looking forward to getting to know more about. I think it’ll be fun to see where Bishop comes from. She has three older brothers, which I think makes the transition to hanging out with the NCIS crew easier. She’s used to being surrounded “by the guys”….
TVLINE | …taking guff and teasing, that kind of stuff.
Yeah. Yeah. That’s been a part of her whole life thus far, so that comes easily to her.
TVLINE | Bishop has come off as a bit “perfect” so far, so I asked Gary if we’re going to be picking up on any faults of hers. He said there’s something really significant coming up after the holidays….
Oh, yeah. I know what he was referring to, but it’s something I don’t think I can talk about yet. For me, I think the faults in people are the most interesting and fun things to play. Like anyone, she’s got her weaknesses for sure. Even though she’s usually very on top of it, there are definitely weaknesses and faults that’ll pop out.
TVLINE | As an NSA analyst, her field experience has been an issue. Has she ever, like, fired a gun?
She’s gone through, with NSA, weapons and field training. That was actually something that I had to do before I started here. Our tech advisor, Leon Carroll, took me to the gun range. I had never held a gun in my life, so I was terrified.
TVLINE | Loud, right? My first time at a gun range, I was not quite prepared for that.
Oh my gosh, they’re so loud. I mean, you wear [ear protection], but I was so scared that the gun was like, going to turn around and shoot me. I mean, they are so powerful. But that kind of comes with the NCIS territory, so it’s definitely something to know about.
TVLINE | Well, she’s already helped apprehend a guy by hitting him with a car, so a gun’s almost a step down.
Exactly. I mean, she could just use the car as a weapon!
TVLINE | Lastly, what might viewers be surprised to know about NCIS‘ newest cast member?
Well, unlike my character, I’m very nervous. I mean, I guess Ellie was nervous about joining the team, but I was really nervous about joining NCIS just because it’s been around for a while. Coming into that was really intimidating and scary. I’m a nervous person, so that was a very, very big thing!