How Acting Gave ‘NCIS’ Actress Cote de Pablo Her ‘Tribe’

NCIS introduced the world to a special character, one that audiences quickly fell in love with. Special Agent Ziva David, and the actress that played her, Cote de Pablo, was a fan-favorite for many years. Although she eventually left the show in 2013, there are rumors that de Pablo may be returning for season 17, which premieres this September.

While fans anxiously try to figure out if de Pablo if will return to NCIS full time, let’s take a look back at her life before the show. Pablo has an interesting story of how she fulfilled her unique version of the American dream.  

How Cote de Pablo found her tribe

Cote de Pablo
Cote de Pablo | Jacopo Raule/Getty Images

De Pablo moved from Chile to Miami, Florida at the age of 10. She struggled to fit in her new country, and this was compounded by the fact that she hardly spoke any English. But eventually, she found a way to feel like she belonged by focusing on the performing arts. In a 2012 interview with Prevention, she explained her story.

“I missed my country and my friends terribly,” Pablo said. “But I was raised here. And I found my niche because I went to a performing arts high school. I had always been interested in the arts, but performing became even more important because it was a way to communicate with people in my new country. It wasn’t till I got to the United States that I learned to speak English. My friend had the perfect saying for it: ‘You found your tribe.’ We’re not Chilean or Argentinean or Brazilian or Russian. We’re actors.”

By focusing on the performing arts, de Pablo both found a place to belong and her future career. But before she was able to get into acting, learning English was still a huge hurdle de Pablo had to overcome. In an interview on The Late Show, de Pablo explained how when she first moved to Florida, the only English word she knew was “run.”

De Pablo joined the track and field team, and she remembers one of the coaches yelling, “Cote, run!” and that was the only thing she was able to understand at the time, so she ran as fast as she could and became one of the top performers on the track team. 

Cote de Pablo begins a career in acting

Before long though, de Pablo’s English began to improve. She landed her first television role at the age of 15, as a co-host on the Latin-themed talk show, Control. From there, she had several roles in theater plays, which helped broaden her abilities as an actress. 

De Pablo almost became a Broadway actress instead of a television actress. She was offered her first Broadway role in the show The Mambo Kings at the same time she was offered the role on NCIS. It was a difficult decision for de Pablo because she wasn’t sure which route would be best for her career. Luckily for NCIS fans, The Mambo Kings Broadway Show was canceled before it even began, and so the decision was made for her. 

Cote de Pablo had to learn another language to play Ziva David

In addition to having to learn English when she was young, de Pablo also had to pick up some Hebrew in order to play her famous character, Ziva David, on NCIS. Because Ziva is a former Israeli, the role occasionally called for her to speak Hebrew. 

In her interview with Prevention, de Pablo explained how she only had 48 hours to learn an entire monologue in Hebrew, and perform it so that no one would suspect it wasn’t her first language. She stayed up all night practicing and was able to perform the role without any problems. 

De Pablo has had to overcome several hardships in order to get to where she is now. Unfortunately, after she left NCIS in 2013, she wasn’t able to find another role with the same success as Ziva David. If she returns full-time next season, will she finally have the big break she’s looking for?