NCIS: LA's Barrett Foa and Renee Felice Smith on Eric's 'Hairy' Arrest, Flirty Nell and Kensi's Return

NCIS LA PreviewTonight on NCIS: Los Angeles (CBS, 9/8c), mild-mannered Eric Beale finds himself smack dab in the middle of a murder case — and not in a good way — when a college pal with access to Russian missile codes gets killed. And to get at the truth, his ops sidekick Nell will need to work her womanly wiles…?! Barrett Foa and Renée Felice Smith previewed for TVLine Eric’s “super cozy” jail stint (get an exclusive look at his mug shot!), Nell’s turn as a prim-but-flirty lawyer and Kensi’s surprising homecoming.

RELATED | Renewal Scorecard: What’s Coming Back? What’s Cancelled? What’s on the Bubble?

TVLINE | What has Eric gotten himself into this week?
BARRETT FOA | Eric Beale gets kind of involved with a bit of a crime, when his old college friend is shot at while playing an online game with Eric. After I hear it happen, I run over to his place and somehow get mixed up and start tampering with the crime scene, so I get thrown in jail, where there’s a bit of a hairy biker/Eric Beale sandwich.
RENÉE FELICE SMITH | A biker/Beale sandwich! The tastiest kind.
BARRETT | Eric is not too happy about that.
RENÉE | Weren’t you wearing your polar bear pajamas…?
BARRETT | Yes, I was, the ones from a previous season, and with my flip-flops, so it’s a little harrowing to spend the night in jail. Dressed like that. With the hairy biker guys. Super cozy. But eventually he gets sprung and then he ends up getting out in the field.

TVLINE | Because he’s basically the only sort of witness to this murder, right?
BARRETT | That’s true. And then reunites with another college buddy, Ira, who puts some questions in his head about, “Hmm, maybe you’re not appreciated at NCIS. Maybe you should come over to a more lucrative side of computer hacking.” And for a moment, that is something Eric struggles with. Like we all do — “What if I could be making more money doing something else?”
RENÉE | It’s a temptation. Eric Beale and Ira have the same background but Ira is living the high life, with a bachelor pad downtown….
BARRETT | Yeah, it’s a temptation, and it made me realize how government workers who are keeping our country safe, like Eric Beale, they’re sacrificing their lives and for not a lot of money.

TVLINE | But Renee, Eric is appreciated at NCIS, right?NCIS Los Angeles Eric Nell
RENÉE | Of course he’s appreciated! And he’s got friends who’ve got his back at his job, and that carries a lot of weight. That’s why we stick around.

RELATED | NCIS Boss Previews the New Orleans Spin-Off Episodes, Tony’s Big Trip and the New Finale Plan

TVLINE | As Eric struggles with this, does he seek counsel from Nell?
RENÉE | Eric and Nell have several key moments in the episode. There’s definitely some conflict between them at one point, because Nell turns up the charm to get what she wants out of Ira in an interrogation. It kind of sparks a moment where Eric is like, “Hey, wait a minute she’s my girl! What are you doing with her, Mr. Fancy Pants Ira?” But it was fun. I got to kind of go undercover as this prim, hard-hitting lawyer, and I got to reprimand LL Cool J and “throw him out” of the interrogation room.
BARRETT | Eric likes the show Nell’s putting on, but when it gets a little too cozy he doesn’t like it. But again, it’s about the team and that support system. There was a scene where I was on the roof, and I’ve never had bullets being shot at me — that was a first for Eric — so it was cool to see LL Cool J and Chris O’Donnell protecting me from the bad guys. There’s also a really nice scene that Nell and I have, where she kind of welcomes Eric back and comforts him, after the rough night in jail.
RENÉE | She’s basically using humor to calm the situation and ease him back into the workplace, which is what we do as humans.
BARRETT | Renee just did that for me the other day when I was having some [real-life] personal problems.
RENÉE | Like my great-grandma always said, “If you don’t laugh you’re gonna cry, so you might as well laugh.”

TVLINE | Ooh, I like that saying. You two have had a particularly interesting past year-and-a-half or so. Any favorite moments?
RENÉE | My knife fight this season was kind of groundbreaking for my character. She’s always been this intelligent person and now we have her in the field, and whatever training she’s received from Hetty is being seen played out. She carries a knife in her boot, so now we know that about her. Don’t [mess] with her, she’s ready to go!
BARRETT | Definitely the Christmas episode last year, with the kiss between Eric and Nell, that whole teasing. But I also loved the “pants episode” this season. Basically I had e-mailed one of our EPs, like, “It’s really cold on set, maybe Eric Beale gets to wear some long pants? Maybe it’s time?” And we had this hilarious e-mail exchange and eventually Scott Gemmill wrote an episode where Hetty puts Eric in pants, and he just cannot handle it. His thighs are being “constricted” and he doesn’t feel free…. And Nell is like, “Dude, you’ve gotta relax.” We also learned that Eric used to wear kilts in ops….
RENÉE | He’s a very complex character.

TVLINE | Next week, the team goes over to Afghanistan — but do Eric and Nell stay behind to hold down the fort?
RENÉE | It’s a bit of fort-holding.
BARRETT | Much holding of fort. Eric and Nell break the rules and go out of ops every now and into the field, but there are some essential things that need to be done in ops.
RENÉE | Eric’s our rock and Nell’s our pebble. Sometimes she flits around, but she always finds herself back in ops with Eric.

RELATED | CBS Sets Season Finale Dates for NCIS, Big Bang Theory, The Good Wife and Others

TVLINE | [Showrunner] Shane Brennan told me that when Kensi eventually comes back from Afghanistan (in the April 8 episode), it’s not exactly the easiest homecoming.
BARRETT | There are some transition issues.
RENÉE | There are definitely issues. Hetty kind of encourages Kensi to stay close to home in ops, so she and Eric Beale get to spend some time together, which gives Nell and Deeks some time together in the field. It’s nice to see the partnerships broken up, different people interacting.
BARRETT | [Ops] is not Kensi’s area of expertise. She’s doesn’t thrive there. And she’s kind of annoying for Eric. [Laughs]

TVLINE | Lastly, what if anything are you hearing about the finale?
BARRETT | Not as much as you are, probably. They keep pretty tight-lipped.

TVLINE | But shall we assume pyrotechnics?
BARRETT | I am sure.
RENÉE | Most definitely!

ADDED BONUS: Get en exclusive sneak peek of Eric Beale’s booking photo:
NCIS LA Eric Beale