NCIS Secrets Fans Could Have Never Discovered
Since its debut in 2013, "NCIS" has delighted audiences and built an astonishingly devoted fan base. But even the most loyal viewer may not be as familiar as they believe with the inner workings of the series.
From the actor who almost didn't get cast, to the tension between certain co-stars, here is a look at some of the biggest "NCIS" facts you probably didn't know.
1. "NCIS" Originally Had a Different Title
When "NCIS" first aired as a spinoff to "JAG" in 2003, CBS officials worried that viewers would confuse it with "CSI." To differentiate the two, the network named the first season of the new show, "Navy NCIS." The series later abandoned the word "Navy" from the title for its repetition — the "N" in "NCIS" already stands for "Naval."
2. Pauley Perrette Has a Real Background in Criminal Science
Pauley Perrette, who portrayed "NCIS" fan-favorite Abby Sciuto for 15 seasons, used her real-life education to depict the forensic scientist. Pauley studied criminal science, sociology, and psychology at Georgia’s Valdosta State University. She also started pursuing her master’s degree at New York’s John Jay School of Criminal Science before her on-screen career began.
3. Mark Harmon Wasn’t the First Choice to Play Gibbs
It is difficult to imagine "NCIS" without Harmon as its star, but it turns out that it was close to happening. Harmon wasn’t producer Donald Bellisario’s initial choice for the part. According to CBS, Don Johnson was initially offered the role, but he passed on it.
4. "NCIS" Features Some of the Producer’s Family Members
Before his departure from the series, "NCIS" was a family affair for Donald Bellisario. Sean Murray, who portrays Timothy McGee on the show, is his stepson. Bellisario’s daughter Troian also featured as McGee’s sister in the drama.
5. "NCIS" Is One of the Few Spinoffs to Outlive Its Predecessor
With more than 15 seasons, "NCIS" is the second longest-running scripted, non-animated U.S. primetime TV drama currently on air, bettered only by "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit." It is also the 7th longest-running scripted U.S. primetime TV series of all-time. Comparatively, "JAG" only lasted 10 seasons, making "NCIS" one of the rare spinoffs to have even more success than its flagship series.
6. The First "NCIS" Spinoff Sparked a Lawsuit
The drama between Bellisario and CBS over "NCIS" did not end when he departed from the show. Bellisario sued the company in 2011 after the launch of the first "NCIS" spinoff, "NCIS: Los Angeles." The TV creator alleged that CBS owed him millions of dollars since his agreement guaranteed him either a "first opportunity" to work on the show or payment. According to The Hollywood Reporter, both parties reached a settlement in 2013.
7. The Original "NCIS" Opening Featured Clips from One of Harmon’s Old Movies
The opening credits of early seasons of the series featured footage of an aircraft flying around the Golden Gate Bridge. That footage was actually recorded for "The Presidio," a 1988 military drama that Harmon starred in.
8. Cote De Pablo Studied Multiple Languages to Play Ziva
From seasons 3 to 13, Cote de Pablo played Ziva David, a former Israeli special forces veteran who speaks over five languages. De Pablo worked with language instructors to learn how to speak Hebrew and other dialects when required.
“[Ziva]’s like a little prodigy when it comes to languages and that’s what makes the character fun to play,” she told TV.com. “And it obviously presents a huge challenge to me because whenever they throw something else at me, I just have to sort of tackle it and go with it. But it’s not easy.”
9. CBS Canceled Another Spinoff—"NCIS: Red"—before It Even Aired
In 2012, CBS started producing another "NCIS" spinoff, "NCIS: Red." The show would have featured John Corbett and Kim Raver as members of a mobile investigation team who work and live together as they traverse the country fighting crimes. CBS introduced the characters in a backdoor pilot that was broadcasted during "NCIS: Los Angeles," but eventually chose not to continue with the series.
“Sometimes, [spinoffs] work, and sometimes they don’t. Protecting [the franchise] was really important,” CBS president Nina Tassler said at the time.
10. Caf-Pow Isn’t Actually a Caffeine Beverage
Abby keeps herself awake and alert through those long hours of work by pounding caffeine beverages called “Caf-Pow.” So what is actually in those cups? In a Twitter Q&A, Pauley exposed that the drink is actually “unsweetened Cranberry juice. VERY TART!”
11. Several Real-Life Navy Figures Have Featured on the Show
On many occasions, the drama has starred cameos from real-life NCIS agents. Dave Brant, who worked as NCIS director between 1977 and 2005, made a fleeting appearance on the Season 3 episode, "Frame Up." Dave’s successor, Thomas Betro, also featured in an episode during Season 5.
12. The Cast Sometimes Accidentally Call Each Other by Their Real Names While Filming
Even the longest-standing "NCIS" actor cannot help but slip and call each other by the wrong name from time to time. In 2015, during a one-month Q&A on Twitter, Pauley Perrette wrote, “Harmon has called me Pauley during #NCIS scenes many times!”
13. Harmon’s Real-Life Son Appears on the Show
Wondering how "NCIS" managed to get an actor who looks so much like Harmon to act young Gibbs? Turns out they did not have to look too far. Harmon’s real son, Sean Thomas Harmon, plays the younger version of the popular character in many episodes of the show.
14. Weatherly Also Has Real-Life Parallels to Dinozzo
This is another case where "NCIS" played off the true life of one of its stars. The series reveals that Weatherly’s character, DiNozzo, had a falling out with his rich dad. That is not just made-for-television drama: Weatherly also comes from a wealthy home whose father is reportedly opposed to his choice to pursue acting.
15. Abby’s Locket Featured a Photo of Perrette’s Real Mom
In a 2011 episode, Abby carries a locket with a picture of her mother and a clipping of her hair, which she later runs a DNA test on. Per TV Guide, the woman in the photo is Perrette’s real mom, who died in 2002.
Read More: The Most Famous 'NCIS' Guest Stars Throughout The Show That Many Of Us Are Likely To Have Missed
16. Harmon’s Dog May Have Led to Perrette’s Exit from the Show
Fans were shocked in 2017 when Pauley Perrette announced she was leaving "NCIS" after 15 seasons. Following her exit, reports emerged about the increasing tension between Harmon and Pauley over his dog. According to Vanity Fair, their dispute began in 2016 after Harmon’s dog bit a crew member, causing an injury that needed stitches.
When Harmon continued to come with his dog to set, Pauley reportedly confronted him, resulting in a rift between the longtime co-stars. After that, both actors reportedly filmed in separate locations until Perrette decided to quit the show.
Notwithstanding all the drama occurring both on and off-screen, "NCIS" remains a massive rating earner for CBS. Since its premiere in September 2003, the show has maintained an incredibly strong viewership. Case in point: Season 16 recently pulled in an average of 12 million viewers per episode. What do you think is the secret for "NCIS" huge success? Which member of the cast is your favorite? Tell us in the comments section and please share this article with other "NCIS" fans so they can share their opinions too.