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March 02, 2010

'NCIS'

Ncis cote weatherly paleyfest By Philiana Ng

On the third night of PaleyFest, CBS' hit show "NCIS," which spawned a successful Los Angeles-based spinoff last year, drew a noticeably different crowd than the first two panels.

With the average age upped by a few decades and a more controlled chaos within the theater, Monday night's event attracted CBS' primetime demographic -- and it was hard to ignore. If it could almost sell out the Saban Theatre, then clearly something must be working right?

The night opened with co-executive producer (and episode co-writer) Gary Glasberg introducing a special screening of Tuesday's hourlong, "Mother's Day," a Gibbs-centric episode. You also find out the following: (spoiler warning!) Tony and Ziva continue their love-hate banter. McGee wires everything in his apartment to one remote. Guest star Gena Rowlands returns as Gibbs' ex-mother-in-law, and she may or may not have committed a dire act. Gibbs has a flashback. Ziva's ring size is 5. Ducky hates Jimmy's new "French whorehouse" cologne. Tony is complimented by Gibbs ... twice. Gibbs gets slapped. Tony and Ziva go to Arizona. The NCIS team arrests the wrong person. Adam Kaufman ("Dawson's Creek") and Bryce Johnson ("Popular") have small roles. Whew, got all that?

The night was rich with laughter, surprising for a show that attracts parents and grandparents, and the cast and producers' good rapport was felt throughout the event. A lot was packed into the one-hour panel, so here are the highlights:

-- Moderated by "Entertainment Tonight's" Kevin Frazier, the first question dealt with whether viewers would find out more about Gibbs in future episodes. Mark Harmon, who plays team leader Jethro Gibbs, revealed that characters' backstories will come to light in pieces. But that the "Mother's Day" episode was "not something we could've done early on because no one cared," Harmon said half-jokingly.

-- Because the show -- and others with similar formulas -- do well internationally, Frazier asked what the response has been like worldwide. "When it's an international customs agent who starts looking at you strangely and there's a line forming [behind you] ... 'Do I look like a smuggler?,' " Michael Weatherly, who plays Anthony DiNozzo, joked. According to co-star Cote De Pablo, who plays Ziva David, Weatherly gets "slaps on the head" a lot too. To further the international resume, De Pablo just returned from Switzerland on Sunday and Pauley Perrette (Abby Sciuto), who was supposed to attend the panel, was in Paris. Some members of the audience came from as far as Australia.

-- Frazier asked a question submitted via Twitter to Rocky Carroll (Leon Vance) about whether his character was good or bad. At the end of the episode, "people know their (Gibbs and Vance's) methods may be different ... [but] they're on the same side," Carroll said. He referred to the end of "Mother's Day," when a pivotal scene between Gibbs and Vance played, several audience members began clapping indicating they knew Vance's true intentions.

-- It's rare on a procedural show to root for two characters to potentially be romantically involved, but with two polar opposites in Tony and Ziva, the chemistry caught the actors by surprise. "It's not something me and Michael planned," De Pablo said. "It was an unplanned Tiva." The lack of fulfillment in the Tiva pairing may be a way to keep both camps happy, as there were supporters for both sides.

-- In the "Mother's Day" episode that screened, Harmon's real-life son played a small role. To date, he has been on the show three times.

-- When asked about their experiences working with notable guest stars, Weatherly gave an anecdote that may be best deciphered on one's own time. "I was chained to Frank Whaley for 10 days in Season 2. Unless you've been chained ... need I say more," he said. De Pablo made the point to also mention Zac Efron (appeared in a 2006 episode) several times, and every time she did it was clear she was somewhat smitten.

Ncis weatherly harmon paleyfest -- De Pablo and Weatherly's onscreen chemistry is no smoke and mirrors. Weatherly even created a game where he would yell out a city and de Pablo would name a sports team from there. Harmon joined in, shouting "Miami!" It took de Pablo, who knows nothing about sports, a few moments (longer than it should take) to gather her response: "That's the ... Dolphins!" Cheers all around!

-- "After Season 4, it was 'one more?.' After Season 5, it was 'still alive.' " Weatherly said, when asked if they ever thought the show would reach Season 7. Caroll added, "My running joke with Harmon is [to] run longer than 'Gunsmoke.' "

-- The cast discussed their favorite episodes: Sean Murray (Timothy McGee) liked "Probie" because his character was able to deal with something major. De Pablo's favorite was a scene with Harmon where he remembered what happened after he woke up from his coma. Weatherly, who tries to watch each episode at home or on the set, thinks every show is his favorite. Harmon recounted a story when he was in a Montana coffeeshop and overheard two guys talking about their favorite "NCIS" episodes, without knowing he was there. He also enjoyed the DiNozzo father episode and Season 2's "Call of Silence."

McCallum, who lives mostly in New York, liked to study the way people acted onscreen and how they shaped their performances. If he had to choose, the "Heartland" scene when Harmon's character sees his father for the first time in a long time is his favorite. Brian Dietzen (Jimmy Palmer) said "Requiem" stood out because of an out-of-focus shot that came into focus and zoned in on Weatherly. I "thought, 'That was so cool! I've gotta have Jimmy do that!' " Dietzen also liked "About-Face" because he was in it a lot. Carroll, whose character originally had a four-episode arc, considered this season's Christmas episode to be his favorite. He said it was the perfect episode for someone to watch who didn't know anything about "NCIS" and why it was so popular.

Ncis dietzen mccallum paleyfest Glasberg spoke like a true writer, saying the episodes he enjoyed the most were the ones that delved into the characters and their backgrounds. He credited "Heartland" as the catalyst for "Faith." Executive producer Charles Johnson, "the diplomat of the group," said he had five or six that ranked atop his list. Executive producer Mark Horowitz agreed with Glasberg, saying character-centric episodes where there's a personal dilemma often rated high, like "Truth or Consequences."

-- Some nuggets by the producers: 1) A "NCIS" board game will be released in late summer (July or August). One of the producers just saw a mock-up of the game. 2) There is also an iPhone app in the works, which Murray got incredibly excited by.

-- During the Q&A session, a fan asked how far the writers plot the storylines. According to Glasberg, they try to enter the year with an idea of where they're headed and the pros of having such layered characters is the ability to go back and pull things out from past seasons. In earlier years, the writers wouldn't necessarily know where they were headed exactly, Horowitz added.

Weatherly offered an example of decisions made on-the-fly that end up being a defining character moment. When they were shooting Season 1's "Bete Noir," he and then-co-star Sasha Alexander (Kate) got the script literally 15 minutes beforehand for an elevator scene. That ended up being a crucial aspect of the characters.

-- One of the only twentysomethings in the crowd asked Harmon if he was was as illiterate with technology as his character was. De Pablo chimed in, saying that she helped program his phone. After some ribbing from his co-stars, Harmon finally said, "Yes ... slightly."

-- De Pablo revealed that she and the writers discussed the events that transpired over the summer, and though it hasn't been shown, she knows what happened to Ziva.

-- "It's the central relationship of my adult life, next to my wife," Weatherly said, when asked about the unique relationship between Gibbs and (Tony) DiNozzo. "Mark as an actor is a tremendous leader, which we appreciate. Gibbs is not as nice as Mark Harmon, but we work the same amount of hours with Gibbs so it's clearly one where DiNozzo is following a leader."

Harmon added his two cents: "For Gibbs, [the role] was passed on. ... Gibbs is rougher the most on himself. I don't know what he does when he goes home, but I'm sure it's uncomfortable."

-- McCallum's dream when he dies? Easy, to see every character he's played waiting for him. "It would be fascinating to talk to them," he said, excitedly.

-- Best moment of the night: True to form, while Weatherly was using a boating term to describe "NCIS," Harmon head-slapped him.

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