NCIS Showrunner Teases Powerful Story Ahead, Abby's New Romance & More

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You’re trained to save lives in war, but when you try to do the same outside the battle ground, you’re persecuted.

That’s essentially the story of NCIS Season 12 Episode 8, which will find Anna Dillon being brought to the attention of our team as she’s detained after helping save the lives of some car crash victims.

However, while Anna is trained in service, she is not licensed to do the same in the real world. Leroy Gibbs to the rescue!

Tonight’s episode is sure to get people talking about what is right and wrong in the laws - but it also features some fine performances by Mark Harmon and guest star Laura Seay. Fans will also be treated to a lighter story involving Abby’s dating life, as the team is concerned about her pattern of dating men.

To get more insight into the installment, I talked with Seay and showrunner Gary Glasberg. Read on for excerpts from our exclusive Q&A...

TV Fanatic: Where did the story come from for this episode?

Gary Glasberg: This was a storyline that came up and was actually written by two of my writers assistants. Scott and Matt Jarrett. It’s their writing television debut and they came to us with a terrific idea, something that we weren’t even aware of. The fact that you can train to be a Navy corpsman but that training doesn’t legally transfer back into the public world back on US soil was of interest to us. We thought that it was the kind of thing that Gibbs would connect with.

TVF: Why was this something that Gibbs responded to so strongly?

GG: I think at the end of the day Gibbs recognizes that there’s a loop hole in the system and this is a woman who dedicated her life to helping people and threw herself into some very dangerous situations and is very qualified at what she does yet she’s persecuted for trying to save lives. We lucked out in finding Laura. Once in a while you open up your casting and people come in and audition. I hadn’t heard of Laura before but there’s a comfort level, there’s a natural ease to how she acts and who she is and she and Harmon hit it off. It just worked. To us, it just felt natural, organic and real.

TVF:  I felt the same way and I was waiting for them to say ‘come join the team!’

GG: [laughs] When you find someone like that and everyone gets along as well as they do no set, it wouldn’t surprise me down the road if we find a reason to have her back or maybe we’ll arrive at a crime scene and there’s an EMT and it’s her! We’ll have to see…

TVF: We get a piece of Abby’s personal life with her dating Burt and we also touch on her past dating McGee but why was this the right time to have that be a part of this episode?

GG: The Burt storyline is something that people seem to like and he’s fun to have around and we’ll keep that runner going. But realistically and understandably we couldn’t do it without McGree look out for Abby in a big brother kind of way. It was fun to write those scenes and to have Bishop be the outsider who wasn’t aware of the fact that Abby and McGee had a relationship years ago. It’s a recap for people and reestablish but I was pleased with it. I thought it turned out nicely.

TVF: What’s coming up? I know Jamie Bamber is showing up soon.

GG: We’ve been waiting a long time to meet Bishop’s husband and the Thanksgiving episode is just about finished and we’re polishing it up and we have this terrific mystery at a snowed in airport that has Tony and Bishop and her husband working with the rest of the team back in the office. It’s a fun, light holiday episode. Jamie and Emily have great chemistry together and we look forward to having him back and getting deeper into who they are as a couple and how being an NCIS agent as affected their relationship.

TVF: There’s a mention of Gibb’s father passing in tonight’s episode. Will we get more of that in the holiday episodes?

GG: I don’t think so. It’s the kind of thing that continues to come up but we want to make sure it’s always there, always present and his passing is still a part of what Gibbs is thinking about and dealing with. In classic NCIS fashion, you can touch on the subject and keep him around and understand that he was an important part of Gibbs’ life.

Next, Laura Seay provided some insight into her character as well as working with Mark Harmon.

TV Fanatic: How did you approach stepping into this role of Anna Dillon?

Laura Shey: There were a lot of things about her that I related to personality wise so that felt like a good way in. She seems very rigid in her physicality because she’s had that training. I’m not going to compare growing up doing sports and being in the military but I was excited about this aspect of her having that as part of her personality and being very rooted physically.

I really related to her on an intellectual and a physical level and the fact that she was also very driven, I really admired that but when it got down to the moral aspect of it and how she’s contending with these really ethical issues…I can’t say that I’ve been in the such a heightened position as she was in this particular episode but personality wise, I did relate to her in a couple ways but in terms of her experiences that was something that took a little extra work.

Honestly, being paired with a real life corpsman that worked with the Marines, Mark Horowitz, one of the producers on the show, was able to facilitate that and that really helped me get in the experience of the character and hear his stories and hear what he’s been through.

TVF:  The show says a lot about doing what’s right and what’s wrong with the laws. Did it make you think about that in the context of the show or in general?

LS: Yeah. As far as the issues, I was aware of it in more of a vague way and I knew there were certain laws about if you don’t have the training you shouldn’t attempt to move somebody for fear of paralization and there would be consequences in that way but in terms of the military and the laws of the military someone coming out of service who has a lot of training but it’s not held at the same standards as what the University programs for studying medicine.

I didn’t know how nuanced the issue actually is and how unnuanced the law for the issue actually is. The law doesn’t seem to be written for people in Anna’s situation. She has extensive medical training in the military but for whatever reason she’s not licensed as an EMT to practice in the US. So it’s a very unnuanced law for a very nuanced issue. That’s what I came away with.

TVF: How was working with Mark Harmon? Anna has a really nice connection with Gibbs.

LS: Yeah, he made that real easy. He’s incredibly friendly and he’s also very authentic and sincere. From day one of shooting he made me feel like I’d been on the show a lot longer. It’s hard to be going on as a guest star to a show with people who have been working together for twelve seasons. It’s like where do I sit at the lunch table kind of feeling! He really alleviates that immediately and right away he was taking me under his wing and wanted to get to know me and where I was from. The majority of my scenes are with him just talking so that helped make it a lot easier. It was like there was a shorthand between us, which was great.

TVF:  Let’s say they ask you to come back for another episode. Is that something you’re open to?

LS: Yeah! I would absolutely love that. Besides Mark, everyone in the cast was really exceptional and lovely even just the eight days I was shooting and that goes for everyone on the production crew. It was a really fun experience.

NCIS Season 12 airs Tuesdays at 8/7c on CBS. 

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

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NCIS Season 12 Episode 8 Quotes

McGee: All right. Well you should probably know that Abby and I used to date?
Bishop: Ew. Like, each other?
McGee: Yeah.
Bishop: Wait - isn't that a violation of rule 12, never date a....
McGee: It was a long time ago. After we'd broken up, one night I went to her lab. Found a scribbled piece paper; a list. Potential boyfriends had to fulfill certain conditions by a pre-arranged date or else, goodbye.
Bishop: Such as.
McGee: Things started off relatively normal: opening the door for her, flowers, putting the seat down. Then around number 8, it gets uh...
Bishop: What?
McGee: Does she know you have these?
Bishop: Does she know you have these?
McGee: Yeah she wasn't happy when she found out.
Bishop: These are all very specific.
McGee: Yeah.
Bishop: These ideas apply to you?
McGee: No those rules weren't in place when we were together. At least I don't think so.
Bishop: What's with the two month cutoff? Abby's sabotaging herself. I've seen stuff like this before. We have to talk to her.

Last week she used chocolate milk to make mashed potatoes.

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