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.

RELATED | NCIS: Los Angeles Boss: Daniela Ruah’s Pregnancy Gave Birth to a ‘Great Arc’ for Kensi

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.

RELATED | NCIS: LA‘s Barrett Foa and Renee Felice Smith Preview Kensi’s Return

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.

RELATED | Pilot Poll: Does NCIS: New Orleans Have You Jazzed?

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!

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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41 Comments
  1. CBWBDK1 says:

    Who are these people complaining about Kensi hitting Deeks?? It’s not like she punched him in the face. Stop crying!!

    • Jim says:

      Exactly! It’s totally within her character, because she didn’t want their relationship to affect work, which it clearly did there.

      • SonOfCoul says:

        Right!?!?!!??! I came into this article thinking the whole ‘Densi Punch’ thing was going to be that figurative thing that impacts their relationship after her return that has been talked about for months now, not when she punched him for not taking the shot before she left.

    • Natalie says:

      Except she did punch him in the face… Right in the jaw that he’d been tortured in a few months prior…

    • Darlene says:

      Did you watch the episode? She did punch him in the face. He even checked to see if his nose was bleeding.

    • Allyf76 says:

      In case you hadn’t noticed, she did punch him in the face…

    • M3rc Nate says:

      She did punch him in the face. When he didnt take the shot she walked up and punched him in the face….

      Next: he has a history (childhood) of having a abusive father who he shot cause he was abusive to Deeks and his mother and while drunk was wielding a shotgun…so right there getting punched by someone you trust might flash you back to childhood trauma (like grabbing the ass of Kensi if she had been sexually assaulted in her childhood, could perv her out and mentally make her remember her abuse)

      Next…he was very recently tortured and reeling from PTSD and mental trauma along with physical trauma cause he had teeth pulled out and punched repeatedly in the jaw/face…so she comes along and punches him in the face…you dont think that has any effect?

      • CBWBDK1 says:

        Stop crying and get over it!

        • M3rc Nate says:

          This show asks me to take a hour of my life once a week and invest in the characters and their stories, to come along on the journey with them and be fans of the characters/writing/cast etc…this show has had 114 episodes so far…thats 114 hours out of the one life i got….so no, STFU CBWBDK1…i can complain about crappy writing and having characters do things or have things done to them and the result not fit at all with what we have been told the character experienced growing up.

          This wouldnt be “stop crying about it and get over it” if Kensi had been sexually abused by a man when she was a kid and then currently was taken hostage and sexually abused by her captor , is rescued, in the hospital, then 2 weeks later Deeks is grabbing her ass and and hitting on her and inappropriately touching her in other ways…but cause its a chick punching a guy, “get over it!”.

          • CBWBDK1 says:

            You have some serious problems. I suggest seeking help before you hurt yourself or someone else.

          • flootzavut says:

            I don’t like crappy writing, but equating watching a TV show to investing your life in something is a little extreme. By all means complain when the writing is bad but please don’t pretend that this is anything but a TV show.

        • Meredith says:

          Dude. You clearly had your facts wrong. Maybe you should stop crying and get over it.

  2. Darlene says:

    Matt, thanks for addressing the punch, which did bother me a great deal. And I don’t think Daniela was able to explain it adequately. In fact, she seemed uncomfortable with her own answer. And with that answer, she’s saying we shouldn’t be surprised if Kensi and/or Deeks assault each other whenever they’re angry because, after all, it’s just an escalation of their “play” language.
    .
    I’m so sick of shows glorifying violence in (supposedly) a loving relationship in order to goose ratings. If one or both partners think it’s okay to strike out physically, it’s time for (at a minimum) counseling. In 99% of the cases, it’s time the abused person to get out.

    • bucky74 says:

      Thank you for this great comment. I am so tired of being told I should get over being upset about my favorite show having a scene like this or the comments above about how could anyone think otherwise?

    • Reagan says:

      I agree. I think Daniela is reluctant to say anything against what happened because, after all, CBS is signing her checks. The punch isn’t any less disgusting to me.

    • CBWBDK1 says:

      What’s wrong with you? Complaining about this nonsense!! Stop crying!! Get over it!!!

    • Ange says:

      I don’t think anyone was glorifying violence. It was either take the shot or watch your partner possibly die. In real life, you take the shot without hesitation. The point was had there not been a thing between them, he would not have second guessed. In that line of work, second guessing gets you killed.

      • M3rc Nate says:

        I think your making a LOT of assumptions that you can not make cause 1) i doubt you’ve shot a a gun 2) you and i have NEVER EVER been in a situation that involves killing someone to save your partner 3) hesitation? they are human beings, even Sam the former SEAL…hesitation is gonna happen within a team that close nit. You cant make “in real life” assumptions based on no real knowledge at all except other TV shows and books and movies. In real life life is extremely complex and complicated and those situations are insane…whether they slept together/in love or not…she is his best friend and partner and he could just as easily hesitated for 1 of a thousand other reasons.

        Overall however i get your point. I dont think it was glorifying violence…i think our biggest issues were 1) It was probably so simple for the writer to write, he writes in that moment Kensi (the former Marine who has issues and is totally the type to hit guys being a “tomboy”) walks up and punches Deeks in the face for not taking the shot….simple, the writer thinks that fits….but he doesnt think about how maybe this shouldnt be in here for the same reason we dont see (even when it is representative of reality) a woman getting punched in the face by a man…and the biggest thing…if you go back and re-watch (or read on NCISLA wiki) Deeks history of childhood abuse, having recently been tortured, beaten, teeth pulled out of his jaw…dealing with PTSD and cant sleep……..a real partner would vividly know all that and wouldnt hit him…but cause its different writers for different episodes, and those episodes hadnt aired when writing…its not remembered by the writer Deeks backstory and what he recently gone through.

  3. Mel says:

    Great interview,thanks. And thank you, Matt, for asking about the punch. I was one of the fans who was very off put by it, but I appreciate the fair and open-minded way that Daniela addressed the question. I look forward to Tuesday’s episode.

  4. bucky74 says:

    It was bad because two hours later Kensi and Deeks were calling each other boyfriend and girlfriend, it was someone punching the person they were dating in anger. I wish Matt had pressed on that, but not with the actors, with the writers, showrunner and CBS.

    • Darlene says:

      I agree with you. I would love to hear what the showrunner has to say about how knuckle punching someone in the face actually deepens affection, true love, or whatever they are trying to do with Densi. Hard to understand the characters’ motivation to move forward together. I guess Deeks only feels worthy of Kensi if he gets knocked around by her. Sad. Pathetic. Not cool.

      • M3rc Nate says:

        I would pay $50 to have someone ask the showrunner about the punch and if he regrets it being on the show considering everything iv written above in comments when they are at PaleyFest or Comic Con or something (some panel). It would be great if he had the balls to just say “you know what, the fans are right….given his history of chlid abuse and recently was tortured and beaten and had teeth pulled out and was suffering PTSD and mental trauma…i dont feel it fit with Kensi to not have all that in her mind which would stop her from hitting him like that….just because they punch each other in the arm doesnt mean cold cocking is ok.” but never gonna happen.

  5. M3rc Nate says:

    Id be fascinated if Deeks ends up having to “take the shot” on the White Ghost (aka Kensi’s former fiancee) and kill him. Considering her answer: “Deeks, for one, definitely goes through a very turbulent few moments (when trying to rescue Kensi)”….i think it would be VERY interesting for both Kensi and Deeks and their relationship. The only thing im hoping is they dont try to make Jack and Kensi a thing. Im hoping his whole deal about living with the village etc is BS and he is working with the Taliban as revenge for w/e he said happened to the village/his wife-son or w/e it was that happened (i forget). I dont want some “hes good” and Kensi starts getting googly eyes for him cause they have a past. Im hoping he gets arrested or killed cause hes bad.

  6. jenferner8 says:

    Great interview! In regards to the punch, given context of the scene I would probably have hit him too, I’d be pissed as I’m sure Kensi was. Honestly I was surprised she didn’t ream him when he shoved her out of the way in hotel room and basically “protects” her by holding her against the wall. I really expected her to have something to say about him “protecting” her. In this case Deeks and Kensi are partners first, at that moment everthing else should have come second. If that had been Sam and Callen or if Kensi was a guy this wouldn’t be an issue.

  7. Tina B. says:

    Guys, I get what you are saying with Kensi punching Deeks, and I am a Deeks fan first. I know about his history but he doesn’t wear it all the time. Daniela is right that is how they “play” it is also how I play so I understand it (not in the face) and Deeks would be fine. He would just be the way he was and sorry as an agent with the oath they take and the whole nine but not sorry as someone who loves Kensi and thinks twice about when things go wrong and ricochet bullets. I’ve had traumatic stuff happen to me in my childhood and by no means do I forget it but life goes on, like a death, you’re raw for a while but with time you move on and adjust. Deeks has created this personality, this is the way he is and he attracts like-minded people like Kensi to him. He shouldn’t treat her differently, he should’ve taken the shot and trusted her and himself.

  8. Jan says:

    There’s no comparison between playing around and an angry punch in the face, and no amount of excuse-making will disguise that. Violence committed within a personal relationship is unacceptable. And for those who say it would be okay if it were Sam and Callen, there has never been a time when one of them punched the other in anger (undercover yes, but not in anger).

    • Kevin says:

      He’s the one person she trusts to have her back. He let his feelings get in the way of their job and it almost got her killed. She acted emotionally and slugged him. I thought it was completely justified.

  9. Chelsea says:

    As someone very close to domestic violence, I can honestly say that upon watching the punch scene, I did not have any foul-flavour in my mouth. Why? Because it wasn’t a girlfriend punching her boyfriend. It was a partner punching her partner for not doing his job and jeopardizing both of their lives by not taking the shot. If Kensi was a man, there wouldn’t be this controversy. I understand that if the roles were reversed, in no way would it be acceptable. But I also understand that in the context of the scene, it wasn’t someone lashing out at their lover – it was an agent lashing out at their partner. Those are two very different things. While on the job, emotions and feelings for each other have to come second to the job. Cops must live by the rule of Priority of Life, in which civilian lives are put before their own. If Deeks can’t do his job for fear of hurting the woman he loves, what will happen if he had to chose between saving an innocent civilian and Kensi? He would choose Kensi, which as a police officer he’s not supposed to do. This is why I don’t have an issue with Kensi punching him, because he wasn’t doing his job, and again, if she was a man, it would have just been a pissed off agent punching his partner for not doing his job (which admittedly is not at all the best way to handle a situation, but my point is that it wouldn’t be a controversial issue).

    • flootzavut says:

      Yes.

      Personally I don’t like at all that Kensi punched Deeks, but there’s a vast difference (which the show is still exploring) between the relationship between partners and that between lovers.

  10. Apples says:

    I quit watching the show after the punch, and this mealy-mouthed two-faced evasion of an answer for Ruah certainly isn’t going to bring me back.
    .
    I wish you’d been able to pin Brennan down for it though Matt.

    • flootzavut says:

      In what world did you expect any other answer from her, tbh? She didn’t write the scene, direct the scene, edit the scene. Tbh I don’t think it was particularly fair to put the actor on the spot about it. If Matt had been interviewing the writers or producers, that would be one thing, but I can’t help wondering whose bright idea it was to request that he ask Daniela Ruah about that.

      • Rocky says:

        I don’t believe anyone requested Ruah be asked about it. After an interview with Brennan, comments went on about the punch, Mitovich said he hadn’t heard about the controversy and would try to ask about it next time he had a chance. This turned out to be with the actress. Both actors are frequently asked about scenes with their characters, so I don’t know that this question was so out of place. And Ruah could very well have answered the question without implying that Kensi and Deeks regular laughing interactions were the same as a punch clearly thrown in anger.

      • Apples says:

        “We did something wrong, we’re sorry.” Not “haha it’s the same as when they tussled for fun on the bed and it’s totes OK for Kensi to punch Deeks in the face and not apologise for it, it’s in-character”.
        .
        Whole mess leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Poor show all round, and I’ve lost some respect for Ruah as a person here.

    • Mel says:

      Shane Brennan is the same showrunner who thought it was perfectly fine to have Ziva knock her injured partner to the ground and then stick her gun in his chest to make her point, so good luck getting him to admit any wrong moves on his part.

  11. Diane says:

    Yeah the explanation wasn’t the best and she talked in circles. She should have succinctly said that wasn’t the intention of the scene and I understand the perspective of the people who didn’t like it or were offended by it. Let the writers and producers answer the question.

  12. buffyharveyharveyhorses says:

    The punch did not bother me, it was not Kensi the girlfriend, it was Kensi the partner who could have been killed because her partner did not take the shot, Deeks even says later he has been there, done that.
    What does bother me is the (IMO) the over the top emotional Jack scenes. When she saw her own mother, who she had not seen for 16 years, she kept her composure and went to kick some ass. Just rankles that she broke every protocol and Blabbed everything to Jack. My team will come find me, brilliant Kens. Yes she was in love with him and he broke her heart, but seemed too much to me.
    Really happy whatever happens that the WG storyline will end tonight.
    My crackpot theory is she is pregnant. Overactive imagination.

  13. Ana Rubio says:

    The episode was so intense! really good!

  14. Pat Hollon says:

    Kensi and Deeks are so not a romantic ‘match”. . The Deeks character is “too cute” to be in a relationship with someone who is too mature..The writers need to re-evaluate the rela tionship.
    .

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