CBS’ NCIS resumes Season 11 tonight at 8/7c with the renewed threat of terrorist Benham Parsa, whose handiwork first targeted Gibbs’ team in the fall premiere. As part of TVLine’s midseason preview special, we invited showrunner Gary Glasberg to tease what’s ahead, address some concerns about the team’s newest player and weigh in on NCIS: New Orleans casting ideas.
TVLINE | First, I have to comment on the “Devil’s Triad” episode featuring Diane Fornell’s return, which was funnier that two-thirds of the sitcoms on that week. And you’re doing this with the older members of the cast. Put Mark Harmon, Joe Spano and Melinda McGraw in a room together and they’re hilarious.
Yeah, they’re really good and they really enjoy working together. We know we can’t do that all the time, but it’s fun in between serious story lines to mix it up and have a good time. Mark Harmon has fun with it.
TVLINE | OK, because I was privately wondering as I watched these scenes — specifically when Gibbs gets uncomfortable because Tobias is talking about his sex life or naughty texts — if Mark enjoys all that or not.
No, he loves it. We’re 11 seasons into a show and it’s an opportunity to lighten it up for an episode and have some fun and see a different side of things. We recognize that it’s not a well that we can go to often, but once in a while it’s fun.
TVLINE | Will you be opening the second half of the season with some narrative momentum? Is it time to start zeroing in on a bigger through line?
Yes, and the Parsa story that we set up at the beginning of the year, the terrorist story, is going to all come back in a big way. Episode 12 is going to come out of the gate hot.
TVLINE | What are you doing with Hollis Mann in that episode?
Susanna Thompson is back as Hollis Mann on January 7 and she plays a big part in the investigation that’s going on, and then she has this huge backstory in these really terrific scenes with Harmon, with Gibbs. Their moments together are terrific, and apparently she had a great time coming back some 150 episodes later. I think that she wasn’t quite sure, after all this time, what we were going to have her doing, but she plays a really key role in how that story unfolds.
TVLINE | What all are you saying at this point about Episode 250 [which begins filming in late January]?
Well, you’ve got the return of DiNozzo Sr. [Robert Wagner] also did our 150th episode, which I didn’t even put together when we were planning it on the wall. There’s a new woman coming into the lives of the DiNozzo boys….
TVLINE | Tony Sr. has moved on?
Dad is spending time with someone, yeah, so it’ll be fun. We’re going to have a good time with it. [It brings] lots of questions and uncomfortable moments for Michael Weatherly['s character].
TVLINE | OK, because if the fans ever make one comment about the DiNozzo reunions, is that they’re always kind of huggy and there’s never much angst or any real issues.
This will be angst and lightness and fun and all the while, a crime going on at the same time.
TVLINE | One of our readers wanted to know if you will touch again on Tony and the support group he was going to….
That might come up again. Frank [Cardea] and George [Schenck] are actually going to write the 250th episode, so maybe in conjunction with that we can have some fun with that, since they’re the ones that brought it up to begin with [in the episode "Alibi"].
TVLINE | Last summer, pre-season, you teased that you had something percolating regarding Ducky. Is that still in place?
I don’t know. Probably when I said that, I didn’t expect the season to unfold quite the way it did as it has so far. If that happens, it would probably be something that we do toward the end of the season. That’s what we’re figuring out right now. But in the immediate future, no.
TVLINE | Any other specific beats you want to talk up?
Well, in “Kill Chain,” Delilah gets really involved again, so Margo Harshman is coming back and McGee’s relationship moves along a little bit further. I’ve been thrilled to have her and we’ve got some exciting things planned for that relationship. It feels real to us, we’re having a good time with it and people love to have Margo around. Then Wendy Makkena, who played Kate’s sister, Dr. [Rachel] Cranston, comes back in Episode 13.
TVLINE | Who is she going to be shrinking?
She comes back as part of what happens with the Parsa story. She sort of checks in with everybody and has some interesting insight and even comments. She knows all about the history of that desk and who sat there, and she has a really lovely scene with Bishop.
Watch a sneak peek from NCIS‘ return, then read on for much more:
TVLINE | Let’s talk for a moment about Bishop and what must have been a balancing act in introducing her. Because you want to establish that this gal knows her stuff, but as I even saw in “Devil’s Triad,” there arguably are moments where she kind of shows up Gibbs – and that can rub people the wrong way.
That’s interesting, because we certainly didn’t mean it that way. You want to prove to people that she’s an asset, that she’s valuable to the team. But she shouldn’t come across as disrespectful in any way. She’s very much a part of this group. She has a specific talent and a specific purpose and if it feels like she’s steering them in any way, that’s the last thing we want. If people are responding that way, then believe me, we hear it and we’ll do everything we can to make it not feel that way.
TVLINE | Are we going to see any chinks in her armor? She’s been relatively perfect for an untrained agent so far.
Actually, you’ve got something really significant coming up once we come back after the holidays. She’s got faults just like everybody else.
TVLINE | Is it safe to say that Parsa will figure into your season finale?
No. But I would say that [sets in motion] a bit of a roller coaster ride for a good portion of the winter.
TVLINE | Do you know what your season finale is, then?
Actually, we just had a little meeting about it. We have a sense of where we’re heading but there’s a lot of work to do. And I have to write the two episodes of [the] New Orleans [spin-off pilot] before that.
TVLINE | When I reported on the roles you’re casting for New Orleans, I suggested Tom Welling (Smallville) for LaSalle and the readers went nuts. I also at one point tried to come up with a cast list that was all New Orleans-born actors, but I only got as far as Frederick Weller from In Plain Sight and Katherine LaNassa, who’s kind of busy over on Longmire.
I enjoyed that list. That was fun. I forwarded your article to our casting department and everybody said, “Yeah, those are all good.”
TVLINE | And then some fans say, “Bring back Joel Gretsch on the spin-off.” That Stan Burley could be one of the characters.
Well, that’s the fun part. I also saw a tweet from Diane Neal (who plays Agent Borin), saying how excited she is about New Orleans. All of those characters, they can all cycle through.
TVLINE | Even when I spoke to Rocky Carroll the other day, he was like, “I want to visit New Orleans.”
Well, he’s the director, so it’s very plausible and hopefully likely. I’m excited about the opportunities and as soon as we get the scripts done and we get deeper into casting and things start to happen, I’m happy to talk to you about it some more.