Coming up on CBS’ NCIS: Los Angeles (Tuesdays at 9/8c), Hetty’s unexpected resignation paired with the unwelcome arrival of a new character not only necessitates an in-person visit from Director Leon Vance, it tees up a season-ending reveal that promises to leave viewers — as well as Callen — reeling. Series boss Shane Brennan gave TVLine a look at what his game plan for Season 2 was, what lies at the root of Hetty’s actions, and a heated face-off that will leave Callen speaking in (many) tongues.
TVLINE | Take us back to last fall. NCIS: LA was coming off a tremendously successful first season. What were you set out do with Season 2?
It was fairly important to really establish the team. Eric Christian Olsen, from the moment I saw him, I knew he was perfect for the show. We had introduced him at the end of last season, and then it was about him joining the team and solidifying his place in it. And of course we did the same, much more low key, with Nell Jones (played by Renée Felice Smith). Both Nell and Deeks were characters that I had always planned to introduce, because to me [NCIS: LA] is about partnerships. I was keen to get Deeks and Kensi (Daniela Ruah) together as partners, with the kind of rapport that happens with Sam (LL Cool J) and Callen (Chris O’Donnell) — and likewise, though I didn’t anticipate it, with Nell and Eric (Barrett Foa) as well. It’s about making sure that when we move from Callen and Sam you have that same sense of fun, that people who have a favorite characters get to spend some time with them.
TVLINE | And for those whose favorites are Sam and Callen: What do you feel you accomplished with them this season?
It’s not so much what we’ve accomplished but what we’re in the middle of doing, or at the beginning of: setting up a relationship that we can now play with. We saw Callen react to Sam getting to involved with the Mo character and the arc we went on there, with his trip to Africa to kill the guy responsible for Mo’s death. In the episodes leading up to the finale, we’ve reversed that role, with Sam concerned about Callen.
TVLINE | Lets talk about the upcoming Hetty resignation twist: Is this part of something we’ve gotten a taste of already? Or is it a standalone arc that begins this week?
There is nothing in this series that is not connected to Callen. While it’s kind of a buddy show, everything ultimately goes back to Callen. We are on Callen’s journey. And the shift, the twist, the reveal at the end of this season – that Hetty is involved in something – ultimately plays back to Callen. This has been laid out for sometime, and it plays out next season. In fact, what we reveal in the last episode is another big step in Callen’s journey. It’s something that the audience will go “Wow!” about. They’ll be as surprised as Callen is.
TVLINE | When I first got wind of Hetty’s resignation and the Claire Forlani (CSI: NY) character coming in as an operations manager, my first thought was: “Oh, I guess Linda Hunt has had her fill of serialized television.”
I would say that Linda Hunt is having the time of her life! She is really enjoying herself. As for the Claire Forlani character, whose name is Lauren Hunter… I’ll give you a line from the finale (airing May 17). Hunter says to Callen that she knows Hetty better than Callen does. So to say there’s a relationship between Hunter and Hetty is an understatement.
TVLINE | Safe to say that Hetty isn’t taking off because she’s the Port-to-Port Killer [from NCIS]?
Yes, we can rule her out as the Port-to-Port Killer. There’s your headline.
TVLINE | I can’t imagine Lauren Hunter gets a warm welcome from Callen.
She pops up at the end of this week’s episode, shocking everyone, and in her first scene with Callen, in the final episode, I put both of them through the wringer. Basically it’s a confrontation, but it’s a confrontation in five different languages. It becomes a confrontation and a contest at the same time, and they were word-perfect. It’s a real fun introduction, but it’s a conflict that they have. There are questions, Callen wants answers – and Hunter has some of those answers. And the other interesting reveal is that Vance (Rocky Carroll) makes his presence known in L.A.
TVLINE | People don’t grab Cristine Rose (Heroes) for just any old role. What have you got her doing in the season finale?
I’m going to have to be very coy about that. But I will tell you that it’s probably one of the most powerful reveals. When we introduce her in that episode, the hair on the back of your neck is going to stand up. In fact, just before this interview I was showing someone the scene where she appears and it is startling. She is just a fabulous, fabulous actress.
TVLINE | Of course I need to ask about Kensi and Deeks, with whom you’ve been not quite as subtle as Tony and Ziva. Will there be any movement with their “thing” in these last two episodes?
What do you mean, Matt? Deeks said it last episode: “There is no thing”! [Chuckles] We’ll just have to wait and see. We revealed some interesting backstory on Deeks this season, and there’s more to find out there, but next season we’ll focus on Kensi – the why and where of Kensi. Again, it goes back to partners: When you reveal something about one character that the other doesn’t know, it puts pressure on the partnership. It makes them ask questions.