‘NCIS’: Why Lauren Holly’s Role as Jenny Shepard Was Challenging

Former “NCIS” star Lauren Holly played the role of Director Jenny Shepard from 2005 to 2015. Here’s why playing this character was a challenge for the actress.

Mark Harmon says it takes effort to develop chemistry among cast members 

Lauren Holly, Sean Murray, and Mark Harmon on NCIS | Cliff Lipson/CBS Photo Archive via Getty Images
Lauren Holly, Sean Murray, and Mark Harmon on NCIS | Cliff Lipson/CBS Photo Archive via Getty Images

Although the “NCIS” cast makes it look easy, it takes a lot of work to develop chemistry. During an interview with CBS about “NCIS” season 3, Mark Harmon discussed what it takes to make a hit TV show. He says there were a lot of changes during season 3 because they lost Sasha Alexander and added Cote de Pablo and Lauren Holly. However, Harmon says the cast developed a chemistry that worked well for the show:

Any time a cast member leaves, you have a lot of questions. We spent two years here trying to establish chemistry. And then once you establish chemistry, you’re competitive about it, because it doesn’t happen very often. And when that chemistry is altered, none of us here knew what to expect. You hope that you better it. There are no guarantees. This show, from the beginning, has been staffed and done by people who want to be here. I don’t think you can do this show and not want to be here.

Lauren Holly’s role as Director Jenny Shepard was challenging

Mark Harmon and Lauren Holly on NCIS  | Cliff Lipson/CBS Photo Archive via Getty Images
Mark Harmon and Lauren Holly on NCIS | Cliff Lipson/CBS Photo Archive via Getty Images

According to “NCIS” creator Don Bellisario, Holly is used to playing softer roles. Consequently, taking on the role of Director Jenny Shepard was new territory for her. Holly says in her CBS interview she had to learn how to be a “hard ass” without being completely 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.”

Holly said she had a tough time not falling back into her comedic style when she worked alongside co-star Michael Weatherly. After some time, however, she learned to pull back from the style she was used to and fully embrace her role as Shepard. “When you work with people like Michael Weatherly, and he’s so talented and so funny, if I have scenes with Michael, I so want to go toe-to-toe with him and do that,” Holly said. “And it’s so hard for me, especially with my background being in comedy, not to do that. But it’s rewarding that I don’t.”

Producer Mark Horowitz says Jenny Shepard is an interesting character

Lauren Holly on NCIS | Ron P. Jaffe/CBS Photo Archive via Getty Images
Lauren Holly on NCIS | Ron P. Jaffe/CBS Photo Archive via Getty Images

“NCIS” producer Mark Horowitz told CBS that Director Jenny Shepard is an interesting character. What makes her interesting is her dual relationship with Gibbs. She’s not only his ex but also his boss. This adds an exciting layer to the show:

Part of the Jenny Shepard character involved her past relationship with Gibbs. So, she had this sort of duality to deal with. And that was part of the interesting thing about the character, was that she had been an agent, they had a relationship. How was that past going to impact her now being his boss? [She] remains in charge and [we] still have these scenes where we go back in time occasionally and see the two of them together.

Read more: Why did Lauren Holly leave ‘NCIS’?

Check out Showbiz Cheat Sheet on Facebook!