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NCIS Showrunner Scoop: Moving on from Ziva, Wrapping Up Parsa & More

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NCIS Season 11 has been one of change, new directions and new faces.

And it could’ve all crashed and burned like a conspirator’s bomb.

Instead, the show has recovered well from the departure of Cote de Pablo’s Ziva and the impact that development had on core relationship of Ziva and Tony.

The addition of Emily Wickersham as Ellie Bishop has been a positiv thing mostly because she’s not so much as a replacement for Ziva as she is a new, interesting character for the NCIS team and the series itself. Bravo!

At the Television Critics Association press tour yesterday, I sat down with showrunner Gary Glasberg to talk over where we’re at in this season and where we’re heading, including why he and Mark Harmon may soon be spending time in New Orleans..

The Stolen Drone

TV Fanatic: You guys have gone over this big hurdle with Ziva gone and it seems to be working really well.

Gary Glasberg: It's kind of great. I'm fascinated by...Season 11 should be like you come in and put it on auto-pilot and it's been anything but that. So to be hit with what we started with, which was Ziva's departure, and then all the effort that went into finding Emily and creating Bishop…

I think that overall the response has been fantastic. There'll always be a group of people who continue to really hold on, and I appreciate how connected they are to Ziva but I don't think I could have asked for this transition to work any better, honestly.

TVF: The fact that you’re still bringing up Ziva's name, how do you navigate when to stop doing that or when you don't need to do it as much? Is there a gauge for that at all?

GG: I feel like, internally, we all feel like it's necessary to move on. We recognize in life that people might comment or look back or say, ‘Ziva would have done this,’ or ‘Ziva would have done that.’ Is there an opportunity to do that? Yeah, once in a while. But I also feel like it's a little bit of a mine field in that every time you revisit a character like that, it brings your existing cast back, and they're not allowed to grow, and so it's important for all of them to move on in a lot of ways.

There's an interesting dynamic, a brother-sister sort of dynamic that's there between Tony and Bishop. You know, the connection between Bishop and Gibbs, I think, is different than anything that he had with Ziva. We're pleased with it. And off-camera, too, the chemistry and the support that Harmon and Weatherly and Pauley and the rest of the team have offered to Emily has been fantastic. And we'll experiment and find things and continue to figure out who she is.

TVF: Will we get more personal stories with her and get to know her life outside of work?

GG: No, it'll get there. We know that she's married. We know that she's from Oklahoma. I'd love to meet her parents at some point, or a parent. We know that she's got a large family, a bunch of brothers. I'd love to meet them. I know that the husband, who's also at the NSA, is a big part of who she is, and we'll certainly touch on that at some point, but the beauty of NCIS is sort of doling it out in little bits and pieces and touching on it and then walking away from it for a while and coming back, so we'll get there.

TVF: In regards to this week’s episode, our review brought up whether Tony flirting with Martinez was too soon, not because of Ziva but because of McGee's story. Thoughts?

GG: It's such a tightrope, and everyone responds to Tony differently. At some point, we have to let Tony be Tony. And part of his defense mechanism is flirtation. And so wherever he is psychologically, to look at a woman or comment to a woman or spend time with a woman may not be what you're interpreting on the surface. There's usually something else going on with him, it's just the nature of who he is.

TVF: Is there more of Martinez coming?

GG: Right now, we don't have anything written, but I think the consensus was that she was fun. So if the opportunity comes up and we can make a connection through a case, then I'd be happy to have her come back.

TVF: The whole Parsa story, that arc, is that going to be with us for a while or is that just kind of a contained arc?

GG: After [NCIS Season 11 Episode 13], there's one more, and then it wraps itself up in a really significant, cool way and I'm about to go into the editing room and start working on that. I'm pleased with it. It was a fun sort of villain to launch at the beginning of the season. It's not going to carry all the way through to the end, but we'll certainly tie it up in a way that I think people will be satisfied with.

TVF: Will repercussions from the end of that arc, will we see that, moving forward? Does it have any kind of big impact?

GG: It absolutely affects Gibbs. It affects Bishop in a huge way. And of course, the repercussions of what happened between McGee and Delilah will continue further into the season.

TVF: What can you tell me about where we’re heading with Delilah and McGee and how her recovery will impact their relationship?

GG: Adding this to any relationship is a tremendous amount of weight on both of their shoulders. She has to figure out what her life is going to be like. He now has a relationship with someone who's been through something tragic and is dealing with changes and who they are and how they're going to move forward. I think it's real and I think that they'll come at issues and problems as they surface. I'm excited about it. I feel like it's not something that you see on television very often. To have a disabled character will be unique for us, it will be a challenge but I think all the writers are willing to rise to the occasion and give it a shot.

TVF: I know she's very busy, but Susanna Thompson, any more with her? She has such a nice chemistry with Mark.

GG: That worked out well, didn't it? I'd love to have her come back. You know, it was funny. It had been so long. And we approached her, and I think she was a little hesitant, just wondering what it was that we were planning. And then when she saw the script and how we wanted to use her, she came and played and was excited, and it went great. She told us she had a fantastic time. So I think it would be fun to have her back again, but we'll have to see when and where…I was very lucky in that because of the relationship between CBS and the CW, we were able to figure something out. But scheduling-wise, she would go shoot up there for a few days and then she'd come back to us. It was a little bit of a juggle.

TVF: I know over the years Gibbs has had different romantic things, whether it's Jamie Lee Curtis or other people. Will Gibbs have any romance the rest of this season?

GG: This season, because of all of the change and the adjustment and the things that were being introduced, we didn't feel like this was a season to sort of get him involved with someone, but it's always a fun story arc, and Mark's always game. It'll happen again.

TVF: Where are you and Mark with the spin-off?

GG: I've written two episodes that will air sometime the end of March. Both scripts are written. I'm really excited about it. The characters are rich and fun and different, and it mixes the Washington with this New Orleans world in what I hope is a unique and different way. We haven't cast yet. We're just starting the process. There's a lot of work to do. I'm going to go down there next week for a day or two. It's all just beginning and ramping up, and people seem to be enthusiastic, and hopefully, we'll come up with something good.

TVF: Can we expect all of our NCIS people to be in those episodes, or do you think you'll give some of them a breather just because there will be new people coming in?

GG: The way that the scripts are structured, they don't all go [to New Orleans], but they are all in the episodes. So there's business going on in DC and then there's business going on back there, and there's a lot of inter-cutting that happens.

TVF: What does the rest of the season hold, including the 250th episode. Any guest stars to talk about?

GG: We're in prep on the big DiNozzo senior 250th episode, so we're excited about that. After that, I don't think I have anybody really, guest-wise, lined up yet, but I know I've got some roles coming up that should be fun. And then also, the writing staff and I are about to sit down and start arcing out the final four episodes of the season.

So yeah, it's a bit of a roller coaster ride from this point forward because I've got an episode that starts prepping Monday, and then right after that, we start prepping New Orleans. So there's all the work that goes along with that. And then I come back from those two episodes, and then I think we have one or two episodes, and then we'll launch right into our final arc. So it's going to be an interesting run.

TVF: For the 250th, do you approach it as more of an homage to the 250 episodes or do you think of it as a way to kind of shift gears a little bit for whatever's coming next?

GG: When we did Man Walks Into a Bar, that was really an homage and that was something we understood could be different and should be different. This is really just a really sort of a fun, traditional episode of the show. It's a milestone. It's a fantastic milestone. We're happy with how things are going and want to keep it going. We figured bringing back Mr. Wagner was a fun nod to things, and he actually did the 150th. So yeah. So we figured, well, this is a good time to do it.

NCIS Season 11 airs Tuesdays at 8 p.m. on CBS.

Jim Halterman is the West Coast Editor of TV Fanatic and the owner of JimHalterman.com. Follow him on Twitter.

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Done with NCIS until Ziva comes back....Read the articles ...she did not want to leave.....she only wanted a one year contract....CBS said they only do multi year ones....yet they gave EW a year ...maybe they were hedging their bet as Ziva's fill in. They did not Cote on the same contract cycle as MW and the others with the exception of Mark Harmon.

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I really have to disagree that the transition has gone well. The second Bishop showed up, all of the life was sucked out of the other characters. I don't even know them any more. It's the Bishop show and they are all supporting characters now. I gave her a chance, then another chance, then another chance. This week during the episode I actually fell asleep. This really is not working.

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@ JohnHamish

I totally agree. I don't like Bishop but wouldn't care if the other members of the team were the same. Now they don't do anything, know anything and it has made the show boring.

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@ JohnHamish

I almost fell asleep also you were not the only one. The cow chewing on her cud annoyed me to no end, wanted to push her off the bookshelf and slap her silly for sitting on the top of Gibbs' desk.

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I'd like to see Tony and Gibbs' relationship go back to how it was before Ziva butted in and spoilt it.........they were good partners and worked off each others strengths, it's been a while since Tony's been allowed to impress Gibbs with his leaps of intuition..... The writers need to remember some of the rules "ya don't waste good" most of all.

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@ MyButterflyMind

Couldn't agree more. I liked the dynamic between the boys when it was just the 3 of them, Gibbs, Tony and McGee, after Ziva left but before Bishop came. I also liked the dynamic between Tony and Gibbs in the Kate years. It's the whole reason I started watching NCIS to begin with.

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Don't like the writing of the new character. She may be a good actress but the writing is not. Tony is getting too silly. About time McGee has a good part. Gibbs is Gibbs.

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@ denise

Tony has been majorly dumbed down. He's comic relief now. Gibbs isn't Gibbs, he's a wet noodle.

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@ JohnHamish

He has been turned into a babysitter. I don't know why the Navy is paying him now. He doesn't seem to have anything to do at all.

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@ JohnHamish

He's been neutered since Season 6, when it took him 4 months to ask Leon why he broke up his team. If that had been Morrow or Shepard, it wold have been 4 seconds not 4 months.

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By the time CdP left the show, her character and her dramas had more focus than Gibbs, who is the lead. I think the problem with Ellie is not the actress, but the writing. Since Tony became a Ziva appendage and the show's running joke, he kind of lost his edge, so they don't know how to write him as an important character. McGee has always been important but second string, although the writers are attempting to ramp up his character. There probably aren't enough hours in the day to give Gibbs anymore screen time, so that leaves Ellie. I think that they're simply trying to hard to fill the void left by Ziva, who the show came to revolve around. I too wish that I could see some probines from Ellie, but instead, Tony seems to be losing skills again. Like when he needed Ellie to explain to him what a drone was, even though he knew what one was in season two. I really don't understand why they don't lean on the potentially rich character of Tony, but ever since season 5, he's been downgraded and never really gained his former significance, intelligence, or importance to the team back. And now it sounds as if the only thing Tony will get is a light weight Senior DiNozzo comedy episode. As a Tony fan, I as so disappointed that everyone gets serious writing but him.

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@ Pat

I wish there was a 'Like' button I could press a million times for your comment. You hit the nail on the head about the show having come to revolve around Ziva so the void is much bigger than when Kate left. With Kate, it was still a team show. The latter years with Ziva, it was the Ziva show and the originals had been relegated to 3rd string supporting walk-ons..

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@ Pat

Agree, I've always enjoyed Tony. He's funny but is really smart and comes up with off the wall solutions many times. I also thought they dumbed him down against Bishop. I've always loved the show but this season with Bishop they seem to be making her the main focus. Maybe until we get used to her they should down play her role and keep the team working with McGee the smart one, Tony adding some humor and Gibbs as always in charge.

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@ Infoplease+

I didn't need to get used to Kate. I didn't need to get used to Ziva. I was immediately intrigued and charmed by them. Tony started the season as a kickass agent on a quest. within just a few episodes he transformed into a middle aged man making casseroles. Pass the bucket. I want the real Tony back.

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@ Infoplease+

five episodes is MORE than enough. This week I started getting used to her. by that I mean, I just tune her out.

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@ JohnHamish

I hear you.

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Sorry, but since Bishop joined the team, I feel no need to watch NCIS. Used to be my favorite show, and I scheduled all of Tuesday around watching it that night. Now I don't even notice it's Tuesday. Sadly we've finally found the character that can destroy Gibbs.

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For the most part I will accept who arrives or leaves at NCIS, regardless of whether I agree with the storyline. (After all, as much as I love the show, I still dislike Tony.) So I will quietly miss Ziva (but enjoy reruns), as I get to know Bishop. I think that McGee, with a serious relationship in his life, may stop being the butt of jokes, not only from Tony but from the writers.

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I am not a cheerleader for bring Ziva back, she's gone. However Bishop is so unlikeable to me that I DVR so I can fast forward when she's on screen. Maybe it's not her fault it's the writers but whoever is writing her character and lines is losing me. I also agree, the part where Gibbs put her books on the floor was so over the top and not Gibbs, again fast forward. Tim was very strange and I thought Gibbs sitting with him at the hospital while there was a national manhunt for a terrorist was unbelievable. Who's writing this stuff.

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@ Infoplease+

You obviously haven't watched ncis very long, have you? Gibbs behavior with bishop and sitting with Tim were examples of how important his team is to him. As he let ziva know more then once, they are family. He knows the best way to deal with bishop is to have her in her comfort zone and the results worked. As for being at the hospital with Tim. .if you missed it. .homeland security is following up with that. I think tues episode worked on all levels and I just wish we didn't have to wait for the next episode.

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@ jtbwriter

Jtbwriter, you are obviously assuming because I had an opinion you didn't agree with. I have watched NVIS since the beginning and watch the reruns on USA most afternoons. I agree the team members are family but I have never seen Gibbs be as accepting of someone's odd behavior as he is with Bishop. When Tim first came on the show Gibbs showed his irritation many times. And at first he was very cool toward Ziva. And no, I didn't miss anything, I just have an opinion that you don't agree with. You can love every moment of it and I think that's your right. I just don't like the direction they're taking the characters this season.

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@ jtbwriter

Exactly! That team -- the entire team -- is a family to Gibbs. He looks after his own. Always has, always will. He has been this way consistently throughout the 11 seasons NCIS has been on the air. He has had this type of personal interaction with all of the agents. Just saw "Nature of the Beast" yesterday. I guess Gibbs going to the hospital when Tony ended up shot was out of character too? To answer "Who's writing this stuff?" I'd say the answer is the people who are most in touch with these characters.

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@ Guest

If they are all family, why doesn't he seem to care at all about Ziva? she was his second daughter. He is a family first guy. It makes no sense.

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@ Guest

OMG, it's a tv show and I expressed an opinion.

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I love Bishop. I loved Ziva. I loved Kate. And I loved Jackie. I miss the ones who are gone, but I'm fascinated with Bishop because she's so different. I think the production team has done a great job with the curve ball they were thrown so soon before the season opened. I can't foresee a time when I'd stop watching NCIS as long as it's on. There are many reasons why it's number one.

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@ Deb

Actually it's tied with 'The Big Bang Theory' and realistically Sunday Night Football is #1 it got 27 million viewers on it's final week, 'NCIS' has not even been close to getting 21 million viewers live and needs the DVR Tally to put it up to 23 million viewers.

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I was a casual viewer of NCIS and became hooked in later seasons. So... I guess maybe I have a different perspective on Cote de Pablo leaving, but I think as a whole the magical formula of NCIS is this: Gibbs is a pivotal character. Some might even say the most pivotal. But realistically he is no more so than the others. Tony is pivotal. McGee is pivotal. Yes, Ziva was pivotal. But collectively, fans were drawn to these personalities and these characters, and to the struggles in their personal lives. But no matter what, the show is still NCIS. It's about the team -- it's always going to be about the team. They couldn't make a show solely about Gibbs or Tony or anyone. What would they call it? NCI-Agent? People are going to move on in TV the same way people come in and out of a real life. Be happy you had Cote de Pablo for as many seasons as you did. She was fantastic. But the online reaction to Bishop (and to Emily Wickersham) has been so sad. She's a human being playing a TV character. She's in a new position with people that have been doing this for 11 years. You think there won't be growing pains? Try putting yourself in her shoes. Yeah, it's going to take time to get used to the character. It's going to time for Bishop to gel with the team the way Emily surely needed time to adjust to working with the people who bring those characters to life. Stop complaining and be happy you've got a show still raking in 20 million viewers every Tuesday.

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@ Steph

I think CBS threw Emily Wickersham to the lions. She is cute, a mediocre actress, and has nowhere near the chops to take the lead role. It's like casting Lindsay Lohan to play Elizabeth Taylor. it's painful. It's not Emily's fault. but it's painful to watch, like that poor French figure skater who was in the Olympics and kept falling down, over and over, and we had to watch her entire routine. That's what Bishop feels like.

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@ Steph

Well put. Well put.

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@ Steph

Bravo and Amen

NCIS Quotes

McGee: Rule number 70 - keep digging till you hit bottom.
Abby: McGee! There is no rule 70.
McGee: Well, I--
Abby: You just made up a rule. This McGibbs thing has really gone to your head. I don't even recognize you right now.

You know what Tony is spelled backwards? Y not? Think about it

Tony
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