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NCIS star Gary Cole discussed what goes into playing the role of Alden Parker. Here’s what he said about preparing to become an NCIS boss.

Gary Cole on preparing to play Alden Parker

Gary Cole plays NCIS Agent Alden Parker.
Gary Cole | Cliff Lipson/CBS via Getty Images

During an interview with Watch magazine, Cole says the best preparation he had for playing Parker was “being a working actor for 40 years.” For him, there isn’t a big difference between drama and comedy. He says the NCIS writers also helped him by matching as much of his real-life backstory to his character. For example, the writers made it so that Parker is from Chicago, just like Cole is in real life. “What’s nice is the producers and writers go out of their way to personalize the character for you,” says Cole. (Here’s what Gary Cole is known for.)

Gary Cole on not trying too hard


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Cole also says he makes sure he doesn’t “try too hard” when playing his character. He tells Watch that being unprepared or putting in too much effort (whether he’s doing comedy or drama) can negatively affect a performance. It’s not good to come unprepared, but it can sometimes be worse to overdo it.

Cole tells TV Insider the writers were “smart” with the way they introduced his character. He likes how Alden Parker was weaved into the series. “The writers were very smart when they had [Parker] arrive during a conflict among the other characters,” says Cole. “They were chasing a serial killer and Parker was chasing the same one. They collided in the middle of a case so there was immediate conflict and animosity [between them], which was good.”

How Gary Cole keeps complicated dialogue straight

Since NCIS is a procedural, Cole often has complicated dialogue with a lot of jargon. He says he tries his best to make the dialogue natural so that he doesn’t look robotic when he’s delivering his lines. “I take pride in making Parker sound like he knows what he’s talking about while also behaving, you know, normally,” Cole tells Watch.

Sean Murray on the addition of Alden Parker

Sean Murray says there is a different dynamic among the NCIS team now that the Parker character has taken over. Before, when Gibbs was in charge, there was a parental dynamic. Now that Parker is leading, Murray says there seems to be a sense that everyone is equal. (Here’s Sean Murray’s net worth.)

“Parker came in a very different character than Gibbs,” Murray tells TV Insider. “Anyone who comes in is going to have to live up to a lot of expectations. I think we have something different going on with Parker. Instead of family structure with a paternal figure, [we’ve] got something where it’s more equal.”

Cole says the writers knew that when he joined the show after Mark Harmon’s departure it was going to be tough on longtime viewers. He says he appreciated how the writers handled this. Instead of ignoring the change, they found a way to address it in the dialogue. (Here’s how NCIS said goodbye to Mark Harmon.)

“They actually wrote a moment that was not just for the team in the squad room but for the audience when Parker said, ‘I know this is weird. OK, I get it, but we’ve gotta get past this so we can get the job done,’ says Cole in his TV Insider interview. “That was a way for the writers to send the signal to the viewers that yes, this was going to be different but also familiar because the show has been on for so long and has worked on so many different levels. My hat’s off to the writers. It wasn’t an easy task to figure out how to do that.”

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