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Published: Saturday, 8/28/2010

Behind the scenes with cast of ‘NCIS'


LOS ANGELES — No matter what your job, accidents happen, even for actors on TV shows. Sometimes the perceived glamour of fame gives way to the reality that when you're on an action-adventure show, fake fighting can sometimes hurt.

Cote de Pablo, one of the stars of CBS's top-rated drama series "NCIS" (8 p.m. Tuesday), has learned that in her role as tough Ziva David.

"Most of the bigger fight sequences I have, and I'm the girl," she said in a January interview. "I take that as such a compliment. This character is a tough, tough cookie."

De Pablo's no slouch, either. In a scene a couple of seasons back, Ziva had to deflect a rifle coming at her, pushing it away with her hand.

"Instead of pushing it to the side, I got a little jumbled up in the adrenaline and the fire of it all and I pushed the butt of the rifle up and into my mouth and popped my lip," she said. It was a real rifle so the impact caused her lip to swell and bleed.

"This is the masochistic method actor in you: I stopped and said, ‘I got hurt,' and after they cleaned me up, I looked at the director and said, ‘Roll, baby, roll.' My adrenaline was going and I wanted to use that."

De Pablo joined the cast of "NCIS" in the show's third season after the departure of Sasha Alexander (now on TNT's Rizzoli & Isles). "NCIS" star Mark Harmon said the arrival of de Pablo and her character took other characters and relationships on the show "in a whole other direction.

"It certainly took DiNozzo in a different direction because of the way their relationship evolved," he said, speaking of Tony DiNozzo, the character played by Michael Weatherly. The sparks between Tony and Ziva even have led fans to coin the nickname "Tiva" for a romantic relationship between the pair that some fans hope will develop.

But playing that relationship is a delicate dance for the show's writers.

Michael Weatherly's character, Tony DiNozzo, was involved in a 'Tiva' relationship on 'NCIS.' Michael Weatherly's character, Tony DiNozzo, was involved in a 'Tiva' relationship on 'NCIS.'

"We had a couple of big seasons of Tiva and we took it to a point that those who loved Tiva were screaming at us and those who had seen enough of Tiva were going, ‘Oh, thank God,'" said "NCIS" executive producer Shane Brennan at a CBS party last month. In an episode that aired earlier this year, Tony and Ziva shared a hotel room and may or may not have taken their relationship to a new level of intimacy.

"We didn't give a definitive answer, but I'm sure people have an answer of their own. When this show finally runs its course, I'd love to be able to say to every fan that's ever watched that we will answer everything. I don't like to leave unanswered questions. I'm not saying we'll answer it this season because this show has a lot of years left in it."

The relationship among team leader Gibbs (Harmon), Ziva and Tony is very much like a father and two unruly children, and some of that paternal care carries over off-screen as well.

But that might change in the season ahead. Although most of the cast recently signed new deals, contracts for Harmon and de Pablo are up at the end of the 2010-11 TV season.

"It's a decision Mark will make," Brennan said last month. "It'll be eight years and that's a long time. Mark is one of, if not the finest television actors I've ever worked with. He loves what he does and it is a family up there, so I'm sure it will be a hard decision for him to make.

"He is very much the father figure in the same way Gibbs is the father figure of the group. Obviously, we hope he stays with the show, but that's a question I guess people at the studio and the network will [deal with] over the course of the season."

When the show returns for its eighth season Sept. 21, May's cliffhanger — Gibbs' father (Ralph Waite) was being held by a Mexican drug-cartel leader — will be resolved quickly.

"What you'll see this season is we're going to dig back in to discover how the characters came to join 'NCIS,'" Brennan said. "We will be doing some origins episodes. I'm sure everyone would love to find out how Abby [Pauley Perrette] came to be, how DiNozzo came to be [on the team]. I'm not saying it will necessarily be those [characters], but we will certainly be doing some of that."

In addition, actor Robert Wagner will return as DiNozzo's father.

"It's really exciting because here we are in season eight and we are confronting a show that is the No. 1 scripted drama," Brennan said, "and we are determined to maintain that."

The Block News Alliance consists of The Blade and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Rob Owen is a reporter for the Post-Gazette.

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