Behind the Scenes of NCIS: 21 Seasons of Secrets Revealed

12 Behind-the-Scenes Secrets Every NCIS Fan Should Know

NCIS Fans Will Want to Know These Behind-the-Scenes Secrets

NCIS has captivated audiences for over two decades, but what happens when the cameras stop rolling?


NCIS, now in its 21st season, stands as one of the longest-running and most beloved drama series of all time. Created by Donald P. Bellisario and Don McGill, the show follows a team of special agents working for the Naval Criminal Investigative Service. Their investigations cover criminal incidents involving the U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps, and their families, all set against the backdrop of Washington, D.C.

But what happens behind the camera? From casting decisions to production quirks, here are some little-known NCIS secrets from the set:

1. Cote de Pablo Studied Hebrew for Her Role

Cote de Pablo Studied Hebrew Specifically for Her Role
"Squall" -- A massive storm brings the NCIS team aboard the USS Borealis, where everyone becomes a suspect once the crime scene proves that Mother Nature wasn’t the only culprit. Tension builds when McGee discovers that his estranged father, Navy Admiral John McGee, was on board during the incident, on NCIS, Tuesday, March 26 (8:00-9:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network. Pictured: Cote de Pablo Photo: Sonja Flemming/CBS ©2013 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Chilean-American actress Cote de Pablo portrayed Mossad special agent Ziva David. To ensure she pronounced all the words in her character’s native language correctly, she diligently studied Hebrew with a language coach.

2. Sasha Alexander’s Departure Request

Sasha Alexander Asked to Be Written Off the Series

Audiences were shocked when Sasha Alexander’s character, Caitlin Todd, was killed off after two seasons. The truth? Alexander herself requested her departure due to grueling hours and a heavy workload.

3. Mark Harmon NCIS Unique Trailer

Mark Harmon’s NCIS Trailer Was Made From the Shell of an Airstream
CBS PHOTO ARCHIVE//GETTY IMAGES

Lead actor Mark Harmon’s dressing room is anything but ordinary. He transformed a 1972 Airstream into a fully functional trailer, making it a one-of-a-kind space on set.

4. Jennifer Aniston Almost Joined NCIS

Jennifer Aniston Almost Played Agent Catherine Todd
JAMES DEVANEY//GETTY IMAGES

As Friends concluded, Jennifer Aniston considered the role of Agent Caitlin Todd. Ultimately, scheduling conflicts led to Sasha Alexander landing the part.

5. Filming Location Surprise

The Series Is Filmed Far From Washington D.C.
U.S. AIR FORCE//GETTY IMAGES

While the show is set in Washington, D.C., it’s actually filmed in Santa Clarita, California. The crew’s attention to detail ensures viewers hardly notice the difference.

6. Rocky Carroll’s Historic Role

Rocky Carroll Was the Show's First Black Director
CBS PHOTO ARCHIVE//GETTY IMAGES

Rocky Carroll, who plays Leon Vance, became the series’ first Black director. His tenure as an NCIS director remains unmatched.

7. From JAG Spinoff to Standalone Series

The Show Was Initially Meant to Be a JAG Spinoff
CBS PHOTO ARCHIVE//GETTY IMAGES

Initially conceived as a spinoff of the popular series JAG, NCIS eventually became its own entity, spawning several successful spin-offs.

8. The Evolution of the Show’s Title

NCIS Wasn’t Always the Show's Name
CBS PHOTO ARCHIVE//GETTY IMAGES

The original title, “NCIS: Naval Criminal Investigative Service,” was later shortened to “Navy NCIS” and finally to the familiar “NCIS.”

9. Pauley Perrette’s Background

Pauley Perrette Studied Criminal Science
CBS PHOTO ARCHIVE//GETTY IMAGES

Before her iconic role as Abby, Pauley Perrette studied criminal science. Her graduate degree could have led to a different career path had she not joined the NCIS cast.

10. John Corbett’s Unsuccessful Spinoff

John Corbett Almost Starred in an NCIS Spinoff
AXELLE/BAUER-GRIFFIN//GETTY IMAGES

Actor John Corbett, known for Northern Exposure and Sex and the City, almost starred in an NCIS spinoff called “NCIS: Red.” Unfortunately, the pilot didn’t lead to a full series.

11. Easter Egg for Eagle-Eyed Fans

Creator Donald P. Bellisario Was a Fixture on the Show's Most Wanted Wall
MATHEW IMAGING//GETTY IMAGES

Creator Donald P. Bellasario's photo appears on the show's Most Wanted wall – a fun detail for dedicated viewers.

12. Mark Harmon's Personal Touch

Mark Harmon’s Tools on the Show Were His Own
CBS PHOTO ARCHIVE//GETTY IMAGES

The woodworking tools Gibbs uses on the show are actually Harmon's own, reflecting his real-life passion for the craft.

These behind-the-scenes tidbits offer a glimpse into the complex world of television production, the dedication of the cast, and the creative decisions that have shaped NCIS into the beloved show it is today.

Share your favorite NCIS moments in the comments below!

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