“If I had my druthers, I would stay on one side of the camera, behind the camera, when I’m directing,” the series vet tells TVLine of helming the episode “Family Ties” (Tuesday at 8/7c), in which his Director Leon Vance leads the B-story.
“Sometimes I’m amazed when I see movies or shows that are directed by the star,” he says. “Denzel Washington directed and starred in Fences, but [with features] you have a longer rehearsal process and a longer shoot time. We make our ‘movie’ in eight days, so to be on both sides of the camera was a real challenge. My biggest concern was that something was going to suffer, either the directing or the acting — but we tried to cover the bulk of what I had to do in front of the camera all in one day.”
In the episode, Vance — who was tragically widowed five years ago — must deal with his daughter’s arrest for shoplifting. Now 17 (and played by Naomi Grace), “Kayla is a high schooler and she’s running with a crowd that Dad’s not too crazy about. Because of his full-time job, she’s letting herself be guided by sources other than him,” Carroll explains. “It’s teenage behavior that a lot of people will be able to relate to. We’re not pulling something out of thin air.”
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Will Vance, who is often a force to be reckoned with at HQ, firmly lay down the law at home? “He’s going to do what every other parent does,” says his portrayer. “As much control as he has in his job, sometimes at home it doesn’t translate. When you’re dealing with a 17-year-old, sometimes you’ve got to be ‘nontraditional’ as a parent. We see Leon in a scenario where one plus one doesn’t always equal two.”
This week’s A-story, meanwhile, finds Gibbs’ team investigating a hit-and-run where the lone, teenage witness inexplicably flees before she can be questioned — along with her parents (played by Beverly Hills 90210‘s Gabrielle Carteris and My Boys‘ Jame Kaler).
“Usually the A and B story are completely different, but these are actually very parallel, and they kind of meet up at the end,” Carroll shares. “I thought it was a nice twist how Brendan Fehily wrote the episode.”
Further teasing the hit-and-run story, Carroll says, “You think you sort of get it all in a nutshell early on, but then you realize there is so much more to it. There are no shootouts, there are no car crashes, there are no explosions, but it stays true to what we do on our show. Every once in a while, the audience really craves this type of episode.”
Watch an exclusive sneak peek with Carteris and Kaler: