How ‘NCIS’ Star Mark Harmon Played a Major Role in Convincing Cote de Pablo to Return as Ziva David

At the start of season 16, most NCIS fans weren’t even considering the possibility of Cote de Pablo returning as Ziva David. But after teasing her return throughout the season and giving de Pablo a cameo in the finale, she might be here to stay. While fans are looking forward to seeing Ziva return to action this season, Mark Harmon played a big role in convincing de Pablo to come back.

NCIS Mark Harmon Cote de Pablo
‘NCIS’ stars Mark Harmon and Cote de Pablo | Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images

‘NCIS’ executives talk about de Pablo’s return

In a new interview, executive producer Frank Cardea opened up about what it took to bring de Pablo back into the NCIS family. Cardea revealed that they finally convinced the actress to fly out and chat about reprising her role ahead of season 16.

According to Cinema Blend, executive producer Steven Binder and Harmon attended the private meeting, which is all it took to convince de Pablo to return as Ziva.

“She decided to come out and actually meet with us. We had a clandestine meeting with Steve and I and Mark Harmon. It was like she had never left,” Cardea explained.

Fast forward to season 17 and Ziva has already had a major impact on the storyline moving forward. But before having Ziva join the team and come out of hiding, NCIS producers kept her return tightly under wraps.

After the season 16 finale, de Pablo revealed that she filmed her scene with a skeleton crew and that the only cast member who knew she was back was Harmon (who shared the scene with her). Other cast members were not told about her involvement until weeks before the finale aired.

Inside Ziva’s return

While Ziva only enjoyed a brief cameo in the season 16 finale of NCIS, she has already appeared in two episodes this season. De Pablo is set to reprise the role in two future installments, which opens the door for more reunions this season.

We’ve already seen Ziva reunite with some of her old teammates, including Gibbs (Harmon) and McGee (Sean Murray). She’s also met a few new faces in Bishop (Emily Wickersham) and Torres (Wilmer Valderrama).

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But one of the biggest reunions fans are waiting for is with Tony (Michael Weatherly). We already know that Tony has no idea Ziva is alive, so getting the pair back together will be interesting to see.

NCIS producers, unfortunately, have not confirmed Weatherly’s return to the show. If they are planning on bringing him back, then they’re doing a good job hiding it.

A look at de Pablo and Harmon’s friendship

While we cannot wait for Ziva to return to action, NCIS fans might be surprised to learn that her off-screen friendship with Harmon is about as sweet as it gets.

After working with each other for nearly a decade, Harmon and de Pablo came up with adorable nicknames for each other. The actress has a lot of nicknames for the NCIS veteran, like Dorky, Marcos, and Dorko, while Harmon often calls her Goat.

We do not know the story behind de Pablo’s nickname but we’re sure it’s pretty hilarious.

Given all the time they have spent together on the NCIS set, it’s not surprising that de Pablo thinks of Harmon like a father. It’s also sweet that they have the same relationship in real life as their characters do on the show.

De Pablo returns to the set of ‘NCIS’

Although we do not know when de Pablo will return, the actress was recently spotted on the set of NCIS. Brian Dietzen, who stars as Palmer on the show, shared a photo of himself posing with de Pablo on social media.

The pic sparked a wave of excitement from NCIS fans, who cannot wait to see Ziva again. The photo also teases that Ziva and Palmer will be sharing a scene or two, which is also good news.

De Pablo has not commented on her return to the set. The actress is expected to appear in at least two more episodes this season. Considering how she is already filming more scenes for NCIS, one of those installments could happen before the midseason finale.

De Pablo starred on the hit crime procedural starting in season 3 before departing in season 11. It is unclear if her return is permanent.

New episodes of NCIS air Tuesday nights on CBS.