Everyone’s favorite navy-based police procedural show will soon be entering its 15th season, and its ratings are still through the roof. First aired in 2003 on the CBS network, NCIS has proved to be one of the most popular television shows in history. But what are some of the behind-the-scenes secrets that viewers aren’t privy to? In this list we look at everything from which costars fell into Twitter feuds, to how the show was created, to what Sciuto really has in her giant cup of joe.
20. It was originally called Navy NCIS
It’s funny now, but yes, the show was once called Navy NCIS. When it first aired, the CBS network was worried people would confuse it with shows such as CSI and SVU. But they needn’t have fretted – fans quickly came to know and love the show as NCIS and “Navy” was dropped from service.
19. Mark Harmon had the show’s creator fired
NCIS star Mark Harmon proved to be mutinous when the actor and the show’s creator, Donald Bellisario, did not see eye to eye on set. The network eventually decided it could afford to lose Bellisario, but not the actor who played central character Leroy Jethro Gibbs. The show’s creator was forced to walk the plank in 2007.
18. The network was sued over the spin-off
It seems logical that CBS would want to have a spin-off show, given how well NCIS was received by fans. But when NCIS: Los Angeles set sail in 2009, creator Donald Bellisario wasn’t having it. Pointing out that his contract stipulated that he had the right to launch the inaugural spin-off, Bellisario sued. He eventually settled for an undisclosed sum.
17. Perrette and de Pablo had a Twitter feud
There was a bit of an internet kerfuffle between stars Cote de Pablo and Pauley Perrette. When de Pablo who played Ziva David, announced she was leaving the show in 2013, Perette, who plays Abby Sciuto, tweeted a pic of herself wearing a T-shirt which read, “I love my job.” Allegedly de Pablo took it as a slight and the affair whipped up a minor Twitter storm which hit fans of the good ship NCIS. Perette finally restored calm when she took down her feed.
16. Before NCIS: New Orleans we were about to see Red
Ever see NCIS: Red? It featured in a couple of episodes of NCIS: LA, but blink and you’ll have missed it. Producers floated the idea of a new spin off series called NCIS: Red, starring John Corbett as the head of an anti-terrorist squad. Alas, the network didn’t really think the idea was seaworthy and scuttled it before it ever had a chance to hit the airwaves.
15. Mark Harmon’s part almost went to Crockett
NCIS: Miami Vice edition? It almost went that way, believe it or not, when the role of Agent Gibbs was offered to Don Johnson. The acting legend, who starred as Agent James “Sonny” Crocket in the long-running 1980s TV smash Miami Vice, turned it down and it went instead to the man everyone now knows as the face of NCIS – Mark Harmon.
14. Diane Neal had a set to-do with the crew
Diane Neal, otherwise known as Agent Abigail Borin, had some harsh words for the set crew back in 2015. Neal found the conditions on set dangerous and tweeted that she was being used like a “rented mule.” She later apologized and deleted the remarks, but not before her comments made the rounds on the internet.
13. Where did they find that foof sound?
NCIS fans are all too familiar with the show’s distinctive “foof” noise which is used to transition between scenes. But what they may not know is that the sound was made by the show’s creator, Donald Bellisario, simply tapping his palm against a microphone. So hi-tech!
12. Most of the show is filmed in the Golden State not D.C.
Yes, the majority of the show’s plotlines may well take place within the Capital Beltway, but the NCIS scenes themselves are actually filmed in Santa Clarita in northern California. The shooting location is a far cry from Washington D.C., but a fave location for studios to film.
11. Pauley Perrette is a law unto herself
Known on the show as goth-styled forensic scientist Abby Sciuto, it may surprise some viewers that Pauley Perrette’s role is not entirely an act. In real life she studied psychology, sociology and criminology at Georgia’s Valdosta State University and New York’s John Jay College of Criminal Justice.
10. The show has a name for nepotism
For creator Donald Bellisario NCIS is clearly a family affair. His stepson, son, and wife have all had guest spots on the show. Although he is by no means the only one guilty of using family connections – the role of a young Agent Gibbs in flashbacks is played by Mark Harmon’s real-life son, Sean.
9. de Pablo puts the accent on good acting
While the accent of Israeli Mossad officer Ziva David may seem effortless, it actually took quite a bit of hard work. In real life, Cote de Pablo, the actress who plays David, is of Chilean descent. She worked diligently with a Hebrew language instructor to make the character’s accent seem kosher.
8. What’s really sloshing around Sciuto’s cup?
Abby Sciuto needs something to keep her so amped up, and it appears the key to the character’s frenetic energy is in her high-octane beverage of choice – she always has a large Caf-Pow on hand. But what is the actress Pauley Perrette really holding inside that cup? Apparently, it’s entirely innocent unsugared cranberry juice.
7. One of the Most Wanted is one of the most vaunted
The average viewer wouldn’t catch it, but eagle-eyed fans of NCIS have spotted a photo of the show’s creator, Donald Bellisario, hanging up on the “Most Wanted” wall at the fictional base in a humorous nod to the one-time showrunner.
6. Weatherly was allowed to sail off script
While actor Michael Weatherly has since moved on to his own starring role on the show Bull, he was once an NCIS fave. Fans loved him as the no-nonsense Tony DiNozzo not only for his hunky good looks but for his quick-witted take on situations. Turns out the wit was all Weatherly’s, as he was the only cast member who was allowed to ad lib.
5. Fans lose their shirt over Harmon
Mark Harmon was a hearthrob even back in his St. Elsewhere days. It appears things haven’t changed much as NCIS fans absolutely adore him as Agent Gibbs. So much so they even send him vintage Marine Corps and NCIS T-shirts, which he actually takes pride in wearing.
4. The show’s creator is an advocate of authenticity
The show’s creator was actually working off real-life material when he came up with NCIS. Donald Bellisario had plenty of time to research the program in his former role as gunnery sergeant in the Marine Corps and used the knowledge he gleaned in that experience to help dream up NCIS.
3. The tour of duty was too tough for Sasha Alexander
Actress Sasha Alexander found the hours required for working at her regular part on NCIS way too demanding. She played the role of Caitilin Todd on the first two seasons before deciding the 16-hour days were simply not for her and abandoned ship.
2. Michael Weatherly has had some rich rewards
NCIS fans may be surprised to learn that Michael Weatherly comes from a very wealthy family. However, when young Weatherly announced his ambition to act at the age of 12 his disapproving father cut him out of his will. Fortunately for Weatherly his gamble paid off and he has enjoyed a massively successful acting career, including appearances in all four NCIS-related shows – the only actor able to claim this accolade.
1. Abby’s locket is no mere prop
There is a touching piece of verity in the “Enemy On The Hill” episode, in which the character of Abby is seen with a locket which holds a photo of her adoptive mother. But it turns out the picture is really of actress Pauley Perrette’s actual mom, Donna Bell, and is a tribute to the woman who sadly passed away in 2002.