TVLine spoke with showrunner Gary Glasberg about uncorking this huge (but adorably wee) twist, as well as the possibility that Tali’s “Imah” is in fact alive and well.
TVLINE | I must admit, you greatly surprised me with that finale. I figured we’d get some “token” Ziva references, maybe a scare that she’d been killed, and that would nudge Tony to do some introspection. But no, you went all in.
We did. It was “all in.” This is a huge deal for the show, and Michael leaving is huge, so we felt that at the end of the day we needed to do this properly. We gave it our all, and lot of people participated and were invested in coming up with this storyline. At the end of the day, we’re pleased with what we delivered.
TVLINE | If I may fittingly evoke “Dayenu,” it would have been sufficient to mention Ziva, it would have been sufficient to dramatically kill her…. But you went and brought on her and Tony’s daughter. How far into the process of breaking this story did you latch onto the Tali idea?
That was pretty early on. We knew all along that we had to come up with something enormously significant, that would make Tony leave his NCIS family….
TVLINE | To give him the push he’s needed for perhaps more years than he’d admit.
Yeah, yeah. And the only thing that we could come up with was this idea of someone for whom he was suddenly responsible. Even if it was a relationship or being in love with someone, that reason wasn’t enough. It literally had to be a child. We started talking about that very early on, and we started to do a little research and have conversations with agents, law enforcement officers who are single parents. We asked them, “Does it change your perspective when you go to work and strap on your sidearm every day, knowing who is waiting for you at home?” And it absolutely does. So it started to make sense to us. And then in talking to Michael, talking with the other writers, the other producers, this was the direction we decided to go.
TVLINE | And Michael was on board with the idea?
Michael is a total pro and was on board and working with us…. There was tremendous conversation back and forth about nuances of dialogue and specific moments and lines that were chosen. This was absolutely a group process, and we came at it not only trying to satisfy our own needs but Michael’s needs, the other cast members’ needs and the viewers’ needs as well.
TVLINE | Cote de Pablo of course recently said some things indicating, at the very least, that she was approached about returning in-person for the finale. Do you want to clear the air about what was or was not in play?
When we came up with this child storyline, there was never specifically a conversation about Cote coming back this season, so we just proceeded along those lines — that we would probably use flashbacks and do the things that you actually saw. Once we came up with this storyline, once it was all about the daughter, that was the storyline we stuck with. To this day, we believe that the correct choice was really focusing on this little girl, the love that Tony develops for this little girl, and what she represents to him as family and as the living part of his relationship with Ziva.
TVLINE | One of the reasons I ask is because Ducky said no remains were found, Tony used the present-tense “Ziva loves Paris,” and then, “You gotta believe what you gotta believe”…. You seemed to lay the foundation for the theory that Ziva is in fact alive.
Again, we put tremendous time into choosing some of the dialogue Tony says. I would say to stick with, “You gotta believe what you gotta believe!”
TVLINE | That would certainly give you a juicy sweeps storyline for some future date!
Welcome to my brain!