‘NCIS’ 17: The Writer Who Convinced Cote de Pablo to Return

Cote de Pablo left NCIS after nine glorious seasons of butt-kicking, bickering with Tony, and bonding with McGee and Gibbs. While many thought the actress would never return — after she credited a lack of respect on her character’s behalf — Ziva David appeared at the top of Gibbs’ stairwell to warn him of imminent danger…to protect him once again. 

NCIS star Cote de Pablo
‘NCIS’ star Cote de Pablo at TCA Party for CBS, The CW and Showtime | Photo by Jeffrey Mayer/WireImage

Ziva’s suspense-building return — clearly paralleling the moment she killed her half-brother Ari to save Gibbs — will segue into an emotionally stirring and action action-packed season, intimately related to the lore of the show’s sixteen-year arc. So, what brought Cote de Pablo back? Was it the script? Was is the fans’ persistence that she return to embody the brave heroine once more? Let’s just say the fans, and a very specific writer played large roles.

Cote de Pablo sat down for an interview with BUILD Series, during which she reflected on her time away from NCIS, and what it was like to play Ziva David for all those years. She discussed what it meant to become part of a cultural phenomenon, and she even revealed the woman who helped bring her back to the career-catalyzing role. 

How the fans and a very specific writer on ‘NCIS’ played a major part in Cote de Pablo’s return

When discussing her return to NCIS, and the fashion in which Ziva appeared, Cote de Pablo explained, “they’re pulling at the heartstrings of all those fans that have been invested for years…And they got a lot of people with that.” She prompts the interviewer to ask, “What was it when they came to you, what was it about the story that you were like ‘oh, this is it. This is what I’ve been waiting for…’” Cote de Pablo replied:

It’s funny. I’ve been traveling a lot and, for the past couple of years, I’ve been doing a lot of traveling and keeping up with friends and family, and things like that. And, everywhere I went, there was just a lot of love for the character. And, every single time there was the same question, “are you ever coming back?” My honest was, “I don’t think so. Maybe. I don’t know.” There came a point, I think, when I thought, well, you know, I think the fans would love to see her. 

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While Cote de Pablo cites fans’ admiration and the widespread desire for the character’s return as major catalysts in her decision, she goes on to credit a specific writer for bringing her back into the lore of NCIS. Cote de Pablo explains:

Then, the greatest thing happened. One of the writers, who’s a friend, but also a terrific writer for NCIS. Woman. She had always really loved and respected this character. She called me up and she said, “Where do you think Ziva’s been?” And then we got into this very sort of fun conversation about where the character has been and what I think she’s gone through, and where the daughter is, and how she feels about Tony and all these things. 

Before I knew it, I was once again back feeling all these things about the character, and it was just very easy. From there, she said what do you think about this and this and this. And then, of course, the executive produces were like, “well, would you consider?” And I said, “Well yes, depending on what you guys come up with…

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Cote de Pablo explains how she and Gina (the writer) had a conversation that returned the actress to the world of NCIS. Cote de Pablo is likely referring to Gina Lucita Monreal (a producer and writer on NCIS).

Cote de Pablo talks ‘NCIS’ writer Gina Lucita Monreal

During her interview, Cote de Pablo explains why she felt safe with her character in Monreal’s hands. She notes that she had faith in Monreal to give the character justice. Cote de Pablo explains:

…There was something that was written by a woman who I respect very much, and also somebody who really respects the character wants to do right by the character, who’s a mother, who’s a very powerful woman herself. And so I thought, this is in good hands.

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When it came to Ziva, Cote de Pablo needed to know that her return would be marked by a strong narrative arc for Ziva. Thus, fans should be ready for one whirlwind of a season.