‘NCIS’: What Is Cote de Pablo’s Real Name?

It’s always worth asking “What’s in a name?” when studying the lives of notable actors, especially our favorite actors like Cote de Pablo from NCIS. You’ll frequently discover the names they use have a strong meaning, sometimes from another language.

Learning things like this can often give you more valuable insight into what their roots are, and what their personalities are like.

Cote de Pablo is back after recently making a triumphant cameo on the season finale of NCIS. Before the 17th season resumes next fall, take a minute to learn a little about her name. No, the name she’s using isn’t on her birth certificate. Her first name also has a specific interpretation, but ultimately became a nickname out of convenience.

She was born with a beautiful Chilean name

Cote de Pablo
Cote de Pablo from NCIS | Michael Kovac/Getty Images for AFI

Many notables born in South America are born with long and poetic Spanish names, making it challenging to use when deciding to become an actor in America. In South America, they don’t mind placing those beautiful names on their marquees.

In the case of Cote de Pablo, she received a Chilean nickname simply because friends couldn’t seem to pronounce her real name correctly.

She was born María José de Pablo Fernández in Santiago. Many of the people in her inner circle couldn’t seem to say María José, so they devised something shorter. The name “Cote” is a nickname that still means “María José.”

According to de Pablo in a recent interview, she originally asked friends to called her Coty, despite a beauty brand name already existing with this moniker. “Cote” ultimately stuck since it was a popular nickname in Chile.

Her shorter name is still poetic and memorable

When you see Cote de Pablo’s name written on credits, it definitely stands out from everyone else. You can maybe argue María José is an overly conventional Spanish name that wouldn’t have been nearly as memorable in the world of showbiz.

Now she can build an acting brand with this name, even if many likely still call her by the name she went by on NCIS. Will she end up being better known under “Ziva David” rather than Cote de Pablo?

It’s worth exploring the problem of memorable fictional names sometimes colliding with an actor’s name in the memory of TV and movie watchers. More than a few actors have had to put up with this for years when confronted by fans in airports or other public places.

What’s in a fictional name?

Let’s back up and remember de Pablo acted on NCIS for eight years before deciding to depart from the show. This is a long time and enough length for a character to assimilate into the minds of TV fans.

Ziva David was such a powerhouse character for women on TV, de Pablo set a new standard everyone thought was gone too soon. No doubt everywhere she went, however, people were likely calling out “Ziva” when she was recognized.

What we want to know is how annoying and frustrating this is when you want to be known under your own name rather than a popular character. So many other actors have to endure this, and yet they put up with it out of fear of alienating their fan base.

Now with de Pablo possibly coming back permanently on NCIS, you have to wonder if fans will only know her as Ziva for far longer than she expected.

Making your name stick

Here’s a scenario that might be in the cards for Cote de Pablo’s name superseding her character’s name. She’s about to co-produce a show on CBS (with Michael Weatherly) called MIA, enabling her real name to go front and center in weekly credits.

Perhaps this is the best strategy for her to make her name memorable in other ways other than playing on NCIS. Down the line, we hope we’ll see her name as a star in movies as well, even if she may have to reboot her career before going back to that cinematic well.