Commentary

Does NCIS: LA Have One of TV's Best, Deepest Benches of Recurring Players?

NCIS Los Angeles Recurring Characters

This week on NCIS: Los Angeles, as Callen and Sam raced to Egypt to get a bead on kidnapped colleague Fatima Namazi, they required an assist from Vostanik Sabatino. For loyal viewers of the CBS procedural, the moment was loaded with highly entertaining meaning, given the team’s previous interactions with the CIA officer (played by ER alum Erik Palladino).

The previous episode similarly brought back Bar Paly as the always enigmatic Anna Kolcheck — another reliable player that is intermittently called off of NCIS: LA‘s deep, well-established bench.

That bench, in addition to NCIS: LA‘s generally more “explode-y” stylings, is one of the things that distinguishes it from the mothership. Sure, NCIS: Original Flavor trots out Tobias Fornell and DiNozzo Sr. now and again, but they are typically sprinkled in for color, or as unlikely POIs in a Case of the Week.

Sabatino and Anna — along with Special Agent Nicole DeChamps (White Collar‘s Marsha Thomason), retired Navy Admiral Hollace Kilbride (TV all-star Gerald McRaney) and Special Prosecutor John Rogers (House‘s Peter Jacobson) — meanwhile either directly assist the team, or pop up like bad pennies to keep rule-bending Callen & Co. in check.

But most importantly, the instant one of those faces appears on screen, what comes with it is a rich history of previous engagements and interpersonal dynamics, established here and there throughout the series’ 11-season, 250-plus episode run. You know Sabatino will question NCIS’ tactics, begrudgingly help out, and then keep tally of how they “owe” him. You know Kilbride will show distaste for Eric’s shorts and Deeks’ mop. You know that DeChamps and Sam share a sweet shorthand when out in the field together, if not the hint of a spark.

NCIS Los Angeles Turk

Turk (far left) is probably here to help save the day

Other such recurring characters that we are happy to see spring up are NCIS Special Agent Arlo Turk (played by Max Martini) and JAG‘s own Admiral A.J. Chegwidden (John M. Jackson), as well as Roberta Deeks (Pamela Reed), among others. With their presence comes a warmth and a familiarity, and almost always a spoken nod to their and NCIS’ storied history.

Earlier this season, TVLine praised NCIS: LA‘s deep bench during a conversation with showrunner R. Scott Gemmill — specifically with regards to Medalion Rahimi’s then-recurring run as Fatima, which has since blossomed into a series regular role.

“That’s the great thing about being on for so long,” Gemmill responded. “We sort of created this nice pool of recurring actors, whether it’s Sabatino or Arkady [played by Vyto Ruginis] or Turk…. What’s great for us is we have this group of actors we all like, and characters we can rotate in. We have a lot of fun.”

Who tops your personal list of favorite NCIS: LA recurring players?