A new NCIS arc kicks off tonight with NCIS Season 12 Episode 22, "Troll."
In advance of the closing three episodes of NCIS Season 12, TV Fanatic chatted with Emily Wickersham about Bishop's character evolution, her first "kill" and an upcoming loss to the NCIS family that will impact the show in more ways than one.
Scroll down for excerpts from our exclusive Q&A...
TV Fanatic: What's it like, going into your third season?
Emily Wickersham: Actually it's so weird to think about that. It has gone by really quickly. I kind of feel like, when I was first started I didn't really know what I was getting myself into. I never worked on a television show that goes twenty-four episodes. Although I got thrown into the middle of my first season and it wasn't as many episodes, it still felt like more work than I have ever done before. I think now I've settled into it, and I'm learning how to pace myself. I'm feeling good.
I think at first I was anxious and nervous to work with a group who has worked together for so many years, and they all have known each other and hung out and they know the subject matter so well. But they've been nothing but wonderful from the first time I stepped on set. I feel like now I'm in the groove, so it's been great.
TV Fanatic: That chemistry really comes across. You can't fake that at all. It's really good.
EW: Thanks! Yeah, they're a good bunch.
TV Fanatic: You mentioned on your Facebook chat that when you first started with NCIS you did some training with a tech advisor. So what was that about?
EW: Well Doug, I've never held a gun before. [laughs] I have never spoken to an NCIS agent...I mean it was really all very new to me. We have a technical advisor – Leon Carroll – who is wonderful and is a former NCIS agent. He took me to meet a bunch of agents, which was really cool and fascinating. I got to sit down and talk with them and then I got to go to the gun range and just shoot and get more comfortable with a gun in my hand. It's a scary thing. I don't know if you've ever held a gun or if you're like some people who go shooting on the range where it's a normal thing. For me, it's the scariest thing. I think I'm more comfortable with it now; I definitely feel better and more comfortable about it....but I was so scared and nervous about it at first.
TV Fanatic: It's been years since I held a gun in my hand – I have an idea what you mean.
EW: It's scary, right? On the show I want to obviously come across like I know what I'm doing. I feel that's an important part of the character. Although she's not as deep into it as the rest of the team, she's still been trained on how to do that stuff. That was important to me.
TV Fanatic: Do you still get a chance now and then to practice your shooting?
EW: I haven't because to be honest I don't have as much time as I once did. We did that before I started working on NCIS, so I had a little bit of free time. Now though, there's a lot of work that goes into it, so there's very little free time.
TV Fanatic: You mentioned on your Facebook chat that you're attracted to strong female roles. Do you have any actor influences who you look to?
EW: I love Meryl Streep and Charlize Theron. I think Audrey Hepburn, though adorable and cute was a very strong woman. Although she came across as being so delicate, to me she was always so sturdy and her confidence came from within. I've always been drawn to characters who are strong and confident and who are going to stand up for themselves. Especially for women I think it's an important thing to portray.
TV Fanatic: Speaking of strong characters, I know NCIS fans were hugely disappointed when we lost Ziva....
TV Fanatic: ...but I think that Gary Glasberg made a concerted effort to make sure that, when Bishop was introduced she wasn't seen as just another Ziva. The fact that Bishop was married from the start seems genius to me.
EW: Yeah, it was a really smart move having her married, because instantly her relationships with the team, the dynamic was going to be different from the get-go. Gibbs is a big mentor, Tony is like a brother, McGee is like a brother...Jimmy again is like a brother and a bud. She's interested in Ducky's whole world and looks up to him and admires his work. And with fans, especially with DiNozzo, I know that was a big thing....but their relationship is definitely like a brotherly-sisterly thing which is so fun to play.
TV Fanatic: The thing that really comes through strongly is Bishop's sincerity with respect to Tony. He was seen before as kind of an almost comical character in some instances, but Bishop hasn't treated him that way at all; she's looked up to him, and she's made it quite evident that that's what she felt about him. It's quite different, actually.
EW: Bishop is in awe of all of the boys. She just thinks this job is the coolest. When it comes to Tony, she sees beyond the humor. I really feel like they have a genuine friendship going on. She can tell if he's hurt or if he's sad. Even though he might be masking it with humor, she sees beyond that, and they have a cool special relationship going on.
TV Fanatic: I've been a big fan of the Bishop character from the start, even with the quirkiness. We got to see a visual representation of that quirkiness when we saw the way she processes her analysis. There's been a kind of evolution from that, hasn't there?
EW: When we first met Bishop she was in a library at the NSA studying on the floor with her earbuds in...and everyone was like, "Who is this weirdo girl and what is she doing?" And then she gets up and she's super socially awkward.
I think the character from the beginning for some was super weird, and maybe to others her quirks were endearing. But I think now she's been forced to work with people every day, and she's not as awkward. She's a better team player.
Although she has her quirks still, she doesn't sit on the floor as much because there was that one episode where Gibbs was like, "Get off the floor." I think at that point, Bishop was like, "All right, I'm going to join the team and I'm going to do it more how they do it. I'm going to step it up." I think it was a big moment for her. Although I like the floor stuff I think it was cool. She still has her other quirks but I think it's neat that they don't do that anymore. They're focusing on her being more a part of the team.
TV Fanatic: I like how you describe that. She actually became part of the team in that episode, which was "The Searchers" (NCIS Season 12 Episode 7). Was there a lot of discussion about it, or were you just handed the script and found that's what was going to happen?
EW: There was a little discussion. To be honest, when our episodes are so "one after the next".....when we get one script we're still working on the previous episode. I had heard little things about it, but when I sat down and read it I was like "All right, cool. I like this." I like to see Bishop growing. That's always a fun thing for me to watch, especially when it comes from Gibbs because I think, like I said before, she's just in awe of Gibbs. He's such a mentor to her.
TV Fanatic: Speaking of that evolution, we saw that again in "Lost in Translation" (NCIS Season 12 Episode 21) when Bishop had a lot to do in that episode. What did you think of that?
EW: That was by far one of my favorite episodes to work on so far. Speaking for myself, based on my work in that episode...I feel like Jennifer Corbett (who wrote the episode) gives me so much to play Bishop. We learn so much about Bishop's past and why she is the way she is today. These people were very significant in her life and so the loss of them has affected her today. We see that come out in her marriage, we see it come out in her work.
As an actor, to learn that stuff about a character is the meat and that's what you want. I had a lot of that in that episode. It was so fun to play. The stuff with Gibbs, with him challenging Bishop and having her first kill...it was all really fun.
TV Fanatic: It was her first kill too. I'd forgotten about that.
EW: Yeah it was a big moment.
TV Fanatic: Speaking of marriage.....in these last three episodes we're going to see your work husband come back.
EW: That's right. Jake Malloy, played by Jamie Bamber.
TVFanatic: What can you tell us about these three episodes? I know there's a lot happening...
EW: It kicks off on our episode tomorrow, called "Troll" as a three-parter. The team is investigating the murder of a Navy Ensign who worked in the Office of Intelligence. We find out that it's connected to this international terrorist group who's recruiting children on the internet. So as you can imagine there's a lot going on like anything involving children, where instantly a "fight or flight" response kicks in.
They're action-packed, and we have a lot of really fun guest stars. We have Matt Jones back who plays Agent Dorneget, who I know everyone loves. That was my first time working with him, and he was awesome. He's so funny, and he's such a sweet guy.
TV Fanatic: In the "Lost Boys" episode teaser they talked about the terrorists buying "S-Bombs." Whenever I heard the term "S-bomb," it usually referred to a bad word that our mothers told us not to use...
EW: I know! That's what I thought of, instantly. [laughs] S-bomb or an F-bomb.
TV Fanatic: Do you know what that's about?
EW: The threat is that they're behind these bombs that are coming from the black market. The team doesn't know what they're going to do with them. And I think they're trying to get to the root of it before anything bad happens.
TV Fanatic: I know that Gary Glasberg has spoken about the final episode where we're going to lose somebody. You can't say much about it, I know, but what can you tell us about it, if anything?
EW: I can tell you it's a condition of the team investigating these terrorists who are recruiting the children online. We lose a fan favorite.... So that kind of shakes things up a bit, and I think people will be shocked. When this kind of stuff happens, it's good in that it shakes things up and makes it stronger. As we know, on this show a lot of people come back as ghosts, so maybe someone's gone but they may be back...
TV Fanatic: I think we're going to see the Twitterverse just blow up after that episode.
EW: [laughs] Probably.
Douglas Wolfe was a staff writer for TV Fanatic. He retired in 2016. Follow him on Twitter.