Daniela Ruah Previews NCIS: LA's 'Dark, Heavy' Taliban Fight, Weighs In on That 'Densi' Punch

NCIS LA Preview Kensi DeeksThis Tuesday at 9/8c, CBS’ NCIS: Los Angeles team makes tracks for Afghanistan, to track down and rescue a fallen-off-the-grid Kensi. TVLine spoke with new mom Daniela Ruah about filming Kensi’s solo mission while increasingly pregnant, her character’s conflict, “turbulent” times for Deeks and a somewhat controversial clobbering.

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TVLINE | As I’ve spoken to Shane Brennan over the past six months or so, I’ve marveled at what he was able to pull together to work around the pregnancy and spin an exciting yarn, all without missing a beat. When did you tell him what was going on?
I held off from telling anybody but family until the 12-week mark, but that happened to come along about two weeks before we started shooting the season, which bode well for me because I gave Shane plenty of time to make a plan. So I scheduled a call and said I had some awesome news, that I’m 12 weeks pregnant, and his reaction was one of immediate joy. I said, “I know this is kind of like going to happen in the middle of the season, which doesn’t make things easy for anybody…,” but he was like, “No. No. No. This is the most joyous thing that’ll ever happen to you. Take advantage of every moment of it!”

TVLINE | I think the only consideration in this particular instance is that it’s one thing for Scandal’s pregnant Kerry Washington, who has fashionable pocketbooks and Oval Office furniture to hide behind, while we’re used to seeing Kensi running around in the field, packing heat, chopping guys down….
Right. I mean, the fact that they [accommodated] all of this is a huge, huge testament to how creative and supportive our writing staff is. It would have been so easy for them to just say, “OK. We sent Kensi to Afghanistan and she’ll be back when she’s back” — and they didn’t.

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TVLINE | What did pre-filming Kensi’s storyline translate into for you?
I kept working until I was seven-and-a-half months pregnant. That was actually one of the reasons why they sent me to a place that would be cold, so I’d have an excuse to wear all that clothing and hide the belly. Scott Gemmill wrote the loose scenes of Kensi’s time in Afghanistan and then the writers of each episode would basically take those and make sense of them when they wrote their respective episodes. As I watched the show, it didn’t feel like the scenes stood out as being something we shot three months ago.

TVLINE | Any fun anecdotes of braving “Afghanistan” while pregnant?
In the scene where I purposely missed the shot with Jack, I think I was six-and-a-half months pregnant, so we dug a hole in the sand that I was fitting my belly inside. And then when the bad guys started shooting in my direction, I remember feeling like a turtle on my back, not being able to get back up! [Laughs] It was pretty funny. In the future, I can be like, “Hey, River, you were right there during those scenes,” if [my son] ever decides to go back and watch my work.

Spoils of War

TVLINE | So now Kensi’s missing. Where does the next episode pick up? Are we going to immediately see what she’s up to?
The way the episode was written was one thing and the way it actually ended up is another, because the episode was so awesome that it ran 10 minutes over, so a little chopping had to happen here and there. But it is literally like a movie. It was written by Frank Military, who’s tends to write the darker material, like when that episode a couple seasons ago where the girl was buried alive in a box and we had Sam’s flashbacks of being buried…. It was also his directing debut. The whole team goes to Afghanistan to try and save Kensi, who has gone rogue and allowed herself to get captured by the Taliban, because she’s trying to get in touch with the White Ghost, with Jack. I’m so excited for “Spoils of War” because it’s going to be dark and heavy, and every single one of these characters is going to suffer in one way or another. It’s probably the best episode we’ve had on the show ever.

TVLINE | Speaking of Jack, what do you think was going through Kensi’s mind when she first saw him out there?
Complete shock. She hasn’t seen him in years, after he just left her one Christmas Eve because he was suffering from PTSD. So when she sees him, it’s like, “Is he better? Is he worse? Has he turned? Is he an enemy now?” You don’t know what that kind of disorder does to people. But at the same time there’s this missing him and wondering, “Can I pull him back?” And then there’s also this feeling of maybe personal failure — “What could I have done more to make this person better that I loved so much?” It’s a lot of internal conflict.

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TVLINE | What kind of obstacles is the team going to have to deal with in order to save Kensi’s bacon?
The Taliban, for one. That is our large obstacle, and then there are a lot of personal obstacles. There are really tough decisions that our boys have to make in the process of saving Kensi. Deeks, for one, definitely goes through a very turbulent few moments.

TVLINE | What is it like when Kensi and Deeks first lay eyes on each other again?
I think it’s a little different for both of them — and once you watch the episode, you’ll kind of figure out why.

TVLINE | It sounds like it maybe doesn’t happen under the best circumstances.
Not really. And also, we still kind of don’t know what really happened after that dinner between them. They go home together, and then we’re supposed to meet at the end of the episode and she gets sent off [to Afghanistan]. Things were left off at this really uncertain place, so it’s like, “Where do you go from there?” They haven’t really talked about it. They never talk about their thing.

TVLINE | Before we go, there’s one thing that I promised readers I would bring up with you: When Kensi punched Deeks [in “The Frozen Lake”], it left a bad taste for some.
The punch after he doesn’t take the shot? Yeah. I know exactly what you’re talking about. And I completely understand where people are coming from. In a way, you could view it as sort of promoting aggression between colleagues at work, that kind of thing, and it being OK because there are no repercussions to it. However, I think if you take the situation and relate it only to these characters who people have seen progress through the seasons…. You know, Kensi kind of punches him all the time. Not that it makes it right, but that’s who they are. They’ve slapped each other on the butt. It’s not something for anybody who is in a working environment to imitate or to take as an example, but I think this is a completely isolated case, where characters would try and spruce things up. It’s what they do to each other. There was that time when where they’re in the hotel room and Deeks literally tosses Kensi onto the bed, and then he does it again and then they start jabbing at each other. It’s the way they play. Now in this case it wasn’t a play situation, but I still think that it’s who they are. But again, I completely understand why that may have bothered some people, and that obviously was never the intention.

TVLINE | One common refrain is that if the roles were reversed, such a scene wouldn’t be tolerated.
That also makes sense, but I think a guy did that to Kensi, she’d probably kill him — also not an example of what I want to put out!