As caught off-guard as he was by Cote de Pablo‘s decision to walk away from NCIS after eight seasons as Ziva David, showrunner Gary Glasberg recognizes the seriousness of the situation and as such hopes he will do the character justice during her swan song.
On Monday night at CBS’ Television Critics Assoc. summer press tour party, Glasberg spoke with TVLine about the “very” surprising news, how he reacted to it and what “Tiva” fans can expect when Season 11 gets underway Sept. 24.
TVLINE| How surprised were you by Cote’s decision?
I was very, very surprised. I think it was you that I told at some point, that I was “very confident” that this was going to work out. And I was very confident. This is not what I was planning on. As [CBS Corp. CEO Les] Moonves said earlier [Monday], everyone really wanted this to work. She’s a part of this family and a part of this team, and the efforts were being made by everyone.
TVLINE | Was it, like, a matter of Cote wanting to re-up for just one year versus multiple years…?
It wasn’t even the specifics. It was clear at the end of the day that this was her decision. And we have to respect it. Someone asked me if I was planning for this, but I really wasn’t, so basically the minute that this became real, I had to throw out a lot of what I was planning to do and start from scratch. But what came out of it is a really terrific [season-opening] two-parter that I think people are going to be really blown away by.
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TVLINE | You previously said that we would find out what Ziva and the others were up to during the four-month time jump. Will Ziva’s story now be different?
Basically, the Ziva story sort of intertwines with where we left Gibbs off at the end of the season, with the sniper rifle. That whole story arc unfolds through the first episode, and then Cote/Ziva plays very prominently in the second one. There’s a really significant Tony/Ziva payoff — everything I hope the Tiva fans have been waiting for.
TVLINE | Oh, but I can’t imagine it’s much better than heartbreak for those fans and for Tony.
It informs her in ways that I think the fans will enjoy. It gives us some insight into this decision that she’s going to make. It’s exciting. And it’s romantic.
TVLINE | Is Tony the first person she shares this “decision” with?
Oh yeah. Look, it’s a storyline that I took very, very seriously — I felt like I had to, for the fans. I recognize what this means to them, and I recognize what her absence is going to mean. Someone asked me what I plan beyond this, and I can’t replace her. I can’t even use the word “replacement” for Ziva and what she means to this team. The only thing I can try and do down the road is come up with another character who feels organic and fills a void of some kind.
TVLINE | Because at the end of the day, Gibbs’ team will be down a man.
Exactly. That desk, at the end of the day, is going to be empty.
TVLINE | So, what are we talking as far as the timeframe for filling that void? November sweeps? February…?
It’s going to be a little while, and I really don’t know who that character is yet. But that’s something we’re talking about right now.