‘NCIS’: How Lauren Holly Was Cast as Director Jenny Shepard

Former NCIS star Lauren Holly played Director Jenny Shepard from 2005 to 2008. Here’s what Showbiz Cheat Sheet knows about how she was cast in her role.

Lauren Holly was almost cast as Kate Todd

Lauren Holly, Pauley Perrette, Cote de Pblo, and Michael Weatherly | Barry King/WireImage
Lauren Holly, Pauley Perrette, Cote de Pblo, and Michael Weatherly | Barry King/WireImage

Holly almost wasn’t cast as Director Jenny Shepard. She was originally considered for the role of Kate Todd. That role eventually went to Sasha Alexander. When an opportunity came up again for an NCIS role, Holly put her hat in the ring. During an interview with CBS, Mark Harmon says he wasn’t surprised when he heard Holly was being considered for the role of Shepard because her name had come up before:

I had heard Lauren’s name originally brought up here when they were originally trying to replace the very first girl that was part of NCIS in the very beginning. At the time that Sasha was hired, Lauren was in that mix to play that role. And the fact that her name came back up again for the role of Jenny Shepard did not surprise me a lot. But I knew that she would bring something very different to the role not only because she’s female, but because of what she has as an actress.

Lauren Holly found the role of Director Shepard challenging

It wasn’t easy for Holly to play the role of Jenny Shepard. She had to make quite a few adjustments to the way she approaches acting. According to NCIS creator Don Bellisario, Holly is used to playing softer roles. Consequently, taking on the role of Director Jenny Shepard posed a challenge. During an interview with CBS, she says she had to learn how to play a tough character without being unlikeable.

“You can’t just play the hard ass because you can’t be completely unlikeable,” Holly said. “However, it’s OK if I’m the character that people don’t feel like hugging all the time.”

How Lauren Holly was cast as Director Jenny Shepard

Lauren Holly and Mark Harmon | Ron P. Jaffe/CBS Photo Archive via Getty Images
Lauren Holly and Mark Harmon | Ron P. Jaffe/CBS Photo Archive via Getty Images

Producer Chas. Floyd Johnson told CBS that Holly was a top pick because they wanted to do something different on the show. Since the real NCIS didn’t have a female director, the producers wanted to cast a female for the role so they could shake things up:

I think we like to do things I think all the companies do. You like to do things that are different. There was no female director in the real NCIS. We had four men and we felt we needed a balance. And so, Don [Bellisario] came up with the idea of, ‘What if we hire a woman for this role? Someone who could go toe-to-toe or be interesting with Mark?’

As it turned out, he thought of this idea of perhaps having these two agents, and this agent becoming the boss of Jethro Gibbs. And so, when this came up, we got a call from her agent saying she’d be interested in it as well. And most people seem to really like her work in the industry, so that was really how that came about.

Read more: ‘NCIS’: Why Did Lauren Holly Leave the Show?

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