‘NCIS’: Emily Wickersham Was ‘Intimidated’ to Replace Cote de Pablo — ‘Obviously, Everyone Loved Ziva’

NCIS fans first met Emily Wickersham’s Agent Eleanor Bishop during season 11. The character was introduced just a few episodes after the exit of fan-favorite Ziva David, played by Cote de Pablo. It took a little while for fans to warm up to Agent Bishop. And Wickersham admits, she was “intimated” to replace such a popular and well-loved character.

Emily Wickersham on the set of NCIS
Emily Wickersham on the set of ‘NCIS’ | Eddy Chen/CBS via Getty Images

Cote de Pablo left ‘NCIS’ after seven seasons

De Pablo first joined the cast of NCIS at the beginning of season 3 after the shocking death of Agent Caitlin Todd (Sasha Alexander). She was the first major cast change on the long-running procedural, but fans immediately fell in love with the Israeli Mossad agent.

During her seven seasons, Ziva became a United States citizen and an official NCIS agent. She also had a flirtatious relationship with Michael Weatherly’s Tony DiNozzo. Fans loved the pair so much that they dubbed them “Tiva” on social media.

By season 11, de Pablo was ready to leave NCIS despite CBS reportedly offering her a lot of money to stay. At the time, the Chilean-American actor didn’t reveal any details about why she decided to leave, saying that it was simply a personal decision.

However, she later said during an interview that the behind-the-scenes politics on the show and the writers’ plans for her character were the reasons she chose to exit the series. De Pablo noted that “all the money in the world” couldn’t buy her.

“They were going to send [Ziva] back to Israel and make her a sad, miserable woman. I said, ‘What do I leave all the women that are watching and following the show?’ And I didn’t think it was fair,” de Pablo explained. “So, I said, ‘Unless someone can really write something fantastic, I won’t go back… Unfortunately, because of political things and the scripts not being good enough, I chose not to [stay].”

Emily Wickersham was ‘intimated’ to replace Cote de Pablo on ‘NCIS’

De Pablo officially left NCIS in the second episode of season 11. Just seven episodes later — in Season 11, Episode 9 “Gut Check” — fans met Bishop while she was working as an NSA analyst. Wickersham admits that replacing de Pablo was an “intimidating” task. According to Looper, Wickersham said that she was “overwhelmed” during her first episode.

RELATED: ‘NCIS’ Season 19: Fans Think This Is the 1 Clue That Cote de Pablo Will Return as Ziva David

“Obviously everyone loved Ziva,” she recently said during an Instagram Live with co-star Wilmer Valderrama (Agent Torres). “And I was so intimidated and nervous about what the fans were going to think about my character.”

This echoed what she said in 2013 when she told TV Guide that de Pablo’s work on NCIS was “amazing.” And, she had “big shoes to fill.”

Emily Wickersham and Cote de Pablo did appear in episodes together during season 17

Ziva was alive in season 11 when she left NCIS. But two seasons later – when Weatherly was leaving the series – they supposedly killed the character off screen. But in season 16, Bishop discovered that Ziva was actually still alive. This was confirmed when Ziva appeared in that season’s final moments.

De Pablo returned in season 17 for a four-episode arc that gave fans insight into what really happened with Ziva. She explained that she faked her death in order to keep her family safe. De Pablo’s guest starring role that season gave her and Wickersham the opportunity to appear in scenes together for the very first time.

The season 18 finale was Emily Wickersham’s final episode on ‘NCIS’

Before de Pablo’s exit in season 11, CBS announced that she would be leaving the series. Fans didn’t like that she was leaving, but they were told ahead of time and knew what was coming. But that didn’t happen when Wickersham decided to call it quits.

The season 18 finale saw Agent Bishop leave NCIS to go undercover. It was an unexpected turn of events that were the result of Wickersham’s decision to leave the show. She didn’t give a reason why she decided to leave. But she did say goodbye to fans via social media after the season 18 finale aired.

RELATED: ‘NCIS’: Emily Wickersham and Wilmer Valderrama Can’t Seem to Agree About When They Met For the First Time

“This cast, this crew, are top notch. I can’t say enough kind words about this group that I’ve had the pleasure of working with for close to 8 years now and 172 episodes later,” Wickersham wrote. “Thank you CBS and NCIS for including me in a part of television history. Time goes fast. Eat it up but chew slowly.”

NCIS will return for season 19 this fall on CBS.