‘NCIS’: You Won’t Believe Which ‘This Is Us’ Stars Had Cameos Before They Made It Big

The CBS hit crime procedural NCIS is going strong after 17 seasons on the air. Since 2003, the franchise that spun-off from another show, JAG, has had a lot of guest stars. It turns out, two celebrities from This Is Us fame had cameos on NCIS long before they found major success. Read on to find out who and whether they’ll return.

A lot of big names have appeared on ‘NCIS’ through the years

Mark Harmon, Sean Murray | Cliff Lipson/CBS via Getty Images

As the “most-watched drama in the world,” NCIS remains a fan favorite after all these years. Despite many cast changes and off-screen drama, there’s one thing that continues reeling viewers in: the guest stars.

With close to 400 episodes in its arsenal, the NCIS list of cameos is unprecedented. Former First Lady Michelle Obama appeared in 2016 to promote her charity Joining Forces, which supports service members, veterans, and their families.

“We’re the first dramatic film production to actually film in the White House,” former executive producer, Gary Glasberg previously told TV Guide. “The West Wing, I believe, filmed outside. We got to film inside.”

Other notable celebrities include Zac Efron before High School Musical success, Bellamy Young before she found Scandal, and Melora Hardin (from The Office) as one of the show’s first real villains.

While NCIS: Los Angeles has a fair share of NCIS cross-over stars, NCIS: New Orleans is known for tossing in a big musical guest such as Sheryl Crow, Marin Morris, and legendary Dr. John, giving it the added coolness of the NOLA scene.

The show not only launches careers, but it also provides notoriety for actors who’ve already been around awhile.

What two ‘This Is Us’ stars made cameos in earlier seasons?

It’s hard to imagine anyone from This Is Us as any character other than who they play on the hit show. However, acting is work and the stars have long, vibrant resumes that have gotten them where they are now.

Way back in 2007-2008, Susan Kelichi Watson guest-starred on NCIS a germaphobic intel analyst, Nikki Jardine, with a mysterious past. Tony (Michael Weatherly) and Gibbs (Mark Harmon) questioned Watson’s character.

Ultimately, Nikki was allowed to visit Baghdad where her Marine brother died, explaining a lot about why she appeared so “high maintenance.” Her cameo spanned across three episodes, which is kind of a big deal.

A few years later, NCIS snagged another up-and-coming actor, Sterling K. Brown. In his 2013 episode, Brown played Elijah Banner, a killer clown that kidnapped Diane Sterling (perhaps her character’s last name was a sign).

The maniacal clown also kidnapped Fornell’s (Joe Spano) daughter, Emily. Brown’s stint aired three whole years before American Crime Story: The People vs. OJ Simpson released — the series that made Brown a household name.

Will Brown or Watson ever return to ‘NCIS’?

Considering how well This Is Us has done since its 2016 debut, it’s unlikely Brown or Watson will return to NCIS in any form. Though, many stars have appeared on any of the three iterations of the franchise as one character, then showed up as someone else later on (fans notice, by the way).

Brown’s credits include the random appearance every now and then with a spot on Brooklyn Nine-Nine, four episodes of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, and more.

Watson previously told Black Film she prefers developing a character over time as opposed to the one-off cameo.

“There is nothing like being able to develop a three-dimensional character over a long period of time. Sometimes you aren’t able to fully portray a character, because you only have a couple of scenes to do it in, and you don’t get the full life and background of that character,” she said.

She continued, “Sometimes, you do your best, with episodic it’s your job to bring the full character to every episode that you do, but there is nothing like being able to live in a character for a long period of time. I think that’s a gift.”

So maybe Brown and Watson are done with NCIS forever. The good news is, you can catch them on This Is Us — together — every Tuesday for a couple more seasons.