Chris O'Donnell Directs Epic NCIS: LA Fight, Shares Dream NCIS Crossover

NCIS Los Angeles Preview

This Monday on NCIS: Los Angeles (CBS, 10/9c), the episode title – “SEAL Hunter” – could not be more apt, as Sam is arrested for the murder of a woman, the deck improbably stacked against him. Will Callen & Co. be able to salvage their colleague’s good name? Chris O’Donnell spoke with TVLine about directing this intense episode, which features one of the high-octane series’ most unique fight scenes, as well as shared his thoughts on the NCIS crossover he’d most like to see.

TVLINE | Talk about the set-up for this episode. What’s the main narrative thrust?
Sam has been taken in, accused of murder, which has left the team in disbelief. And as we investigate it, his DNA is all over the crime scene, everything is against him…. Needless to say, it makes it a very personal episode for everyone.

TVLINE | Well, it was good having LL on the show all these years. He had a nice run.
[Joking along] It was nice. I thought he would stay for a little longer, but we got five-and-a-quarter seasons out of him. [Laughs] But no, there is something bigger and more ominous at play, and it ends up with one of the best fight scenes we’ve done thus far on the show, and in an unusual location, which was kind of fun. Todd [aka LL Cool J] just nailed it, which was great.

TVLINE | And Callen is partnered with Granger during the investigation?
Yes – and you know, I don’t get a ton of scenes one-on-one with him in general, and I really enjoy Miguel [Ferrer] personally. He’s also such a talented actor, I relish any chance I get to spend time interacting with him. I spend so much time with Todd every day — and I love him, he’s my man — but it’s fun to mix it up and have scenes with Linda [Hunt], and Miguel….

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TVLINE | That was actually my next question: What are your favorite dynamics to play on the show?Between the Lines
I really enjoy the scenes with Linda, with the whole exploration of Callen’s family history. Hetty seems to definitely know more than she lets on, and this thing has agonized Callen his whole life, the struggle to understand his background. And though you will read a script and hear the words in your head, you can never guess how it’s going to come out of [Linda’s] mouth. She has such a command of the language and a unique spin on things, so that’s always a pleasure. And the scenes that are my bread-and-butter, of course, are with Todd. We sit there on set just busting each other’s chops all day long, so then to get in there [and do a scene as Callen and Sam]…. It’s not too far-fetched from what we’re doing anyways!

TVLINE | What was the most interesting challenge in directing this particular episode?
The most daunting thing was trying to coordinate this big fight scene. We had a huge day filming, outside, with 100 extras. And then at the end of that day, after Todd had already had a big day of filming, he had to do this massive fight sequence, and he rose to the challenge. I always said, “Once we get through that day, this episode’s a piece of cake,” and that kind of was the case. I’ve learned from directing in the past that so much of it is your prep work beforehand. The more work you out in those eight days of preparation, the easier it is when you get on the set.

TVLINE | TV is seeing some truly great stunt work these says, on shows such as Arrow and Banshee, and NCIS: LA obviously films a lot of great action sequences…. What do you find is most integral to capturing a fight scene?
We have a terrific stunt coordinator, Troy Brown; I’m actually surprised he doesn’t get more recognition. But there are guys that have worked on the Batman films I did, everyone we bring in is the best… But like anything, it’s about the preparation. I remember when I was doing Three Musketeers, there was the repetition, day after day, going through these sword fights with Bob Anderson, who did the Stars Wars movies and Raiders of the Lost Ark. I think [a fight scene] is Todd’s favorite thing to do, because of who is and his physicality. Me, I would much rather have a five-page scene with Linda Hunt, but Todd really relishes it. I’ve had to do it a couple of times, but boy, you don’t want to be opposite Todd even for a staged fight! He is very physical.

TVLINE | What I like, especially from a close-quarters fight, is a variety of camera angles, so I can appreciate what exactly is going on. I need to see limbs flying, have a sense of who is where.
Wait until you see this one – we have a couple shots that are anything but tight, because the setting was so unique and beautiful.

TVLINE | The NCIS franchiseNCIS Season 12 Weatherly Re-Signs is a bit crossover- happy these days, and Rocky Carroll’s Vance even returned to LA earlier this season. Anybody else you’d like to have swing by?
We’ve got to get [Michael] Weatherly over. It’s funny: When we were filming this episode, he was driving down the street randomly. We were at a deli on location, and all of a sudden this [SUV] pulls over and it’s Weatherly. It’s kind of like your long-lost cousin you haven’t seen in a while! He came in like, “I’m coming on this year!” I was like, “Great, let’s do it!” I just enjoy him as a person. He’s very quick-witted, so it’d be a lot of fun.

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

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  1. mike says:

    Tony on Ncis La??? How long before he’s on Hettys bad side.

  2. Linda says:

    This sounds like an exciting episode! It’s great that Chris O’Donnell got to direct, I really liked the last episode he directed. I wish CBS was more supportive of this show. It feels like NCISLA has been sacrificed by CBS moving it to Mondays. It should be back on Tuesdays.

  3. This sounds like an intense episode…..can’t wait to see it Monday night. :-)

    Oh, I would love to see Tony DiNozzo crossover to NCISLA for a whole episode. Would be interesting to see him interact with the LA team along with Hetty and Granger.

  4. Barnswallow says:

    they could have a huge crossover event between the three NCIS, Hawaii50 and Scorpion.

  5. Kelly Deeny says:

    A crossover episode with Michael Weatherly would be amazing! Can you just imagine “Tony” and “Deeks” in the same room? What would that conversation be?

  6. Kim R says:

    Sounds like a great episode. I have wondered this season, if Miguel Ferrer is ill. He looks so thin and when he speaks it reminds me of someone on medication. I hope he’s okay.

    • Tammy L says:

      I have been wondering the same thing. Looking very thin.

      • Janet Robinson says:

        I just saw The Cain Mutiny last night, with Miguel Ferrer’s dad, Jose, as a lawyer. He looks so much like his dad! Different hairline, but same facial features. His mom was Rosemary Clooney, and he is a cousin to George.

  7. Matthew Weber says:

    They need to do a lot more cross overs but they’ve ruined it a bit with NCIS LA using some of the same bad guys (the actors not the characters) as the main franchise.

  8. prish says:

    The husband is hoping the HaHa means it is a joke about LL leaving after 5 years. He does not think it was a very good joke. He enjoys the LL and Chris/ Sam and Calen banter.

    • Matt Webb Mitovich says:

      Yes, Chris and I were having a joke. I’ve made an edit to ensure maximum clarity that a star of a well-watched CBS series did not secretly quit ;)

  9. Azerty says:

    Why are my comments never posted?

    • Azerty says:

      Oh right and this one does. I was saying that at the beginning of NCIS:LA I was expecting way more crossovers between these shows. The chemistry between Callen and Gibbs in the introduction was great.

    • TV Gord says:

      I’d give you my theory, but I haven’t seen this because it wasn’t posted. ;-)

  10. Ruth says:

    Is ll cool j leaving the show?

    (Chris said (Todd) has 5 1/2 years good run? )

  11. paul barrett says:

    First put ncis,la back on tues CBS should be ashamed.Also have Tony Denozo work a case with the brilliant Kensi in a car chase scene that would be fun

  12. Wan says:

    I can not wait for NCISLA new episode. I am glad that scorpion is on Mondays with NCISLA just wish that the shows were reversed. Just like it was when NCISLA was the new show. Having crossovers between all NCIS’s, NCISLA, NCISNO, Scorpion, and Hawaii 5-0 WOW I can just picture the epic episode for the whole week. Someone please do such shows with villians crossing everyones path.

  13. Janet Robinson says:

    I was wondering if anyone knows who the actor playing toupee-wearing Ray is? He seems so familiar.

  14. Gary Bruner says:

    Was that comedienne Kathy Ladman as “Edna“ in the “Seal Hunter“ episodeÉ (my question mark is displaying as an É for some reason) By the way, I agree with Linda-put NCIS LA back on Tues. night. (Perhaps put New Orleans on at 10pm after the other two.)