NCIS, with many spinoffs and 20 seasons and counting, has seen actors leave on multiple occasions. But Cote de Pablo’s exit and return impacted fans.
The successful naval/police procedural NCIS said goodbye to Cote de Pablo in 2013 but wrote her back into the show 6 years later. NCIS has said goodbye to a number of cast members over its 20 seasons, such as Sasha Alexander (who played Kate Todd in season 1 and 2). Alexander’s exit from the show is what led to de Pablo’s addition to it, a choice initially met with reservation by fans since Kate quickly became a beloved character.
However, de Pablo’s Ziva David was met with praise, and she stayed a series regular for 8 years. Ziva joins the show as a control officer for her half-brother Ari Haswari after he kills Kate. She experiences many deeply challenging events, such as struggling to find acceptance at NCIS, being framed for murder, losing her job and working undercover in Morocco only to get injured in an explosion, and dealing with familial tensions. The impact, such as Ziva’s captivity in Somalia being NCIS’ most influential story, and the cultural significance of an Israeli lead character, make her departure all the more upsetting and her return all the more exciting.
Cote De Pablo Left NCIS After Becoming Dissatisfied With Her Character
During the course of her run as Ziva, de Pablo’s portrayal of this strong Israeli woman had a major cultural impact. Her presence as a main cast member on a popular American TV show brought attention to facilitating fair representation in media. However, once Ziva’s direction was no longer going the way that served her impact, de Pablo left the show, marking Ziva’s original last appearance in season 11.
In a 2016 Q&A, de Pablo explains what the plan for Ziva was prior to her departure. “They were going to send her back to Israel and make her an unfortunate, miserable woman. I said, ‘Well, what do I leave all the women that have watched and followed the show for so long? And I didn’t think that was fair.'” Based on the popularity of the character, the praise in Ziva’s strong, dependable and complex nature, and her role in Israeli-Jewish and women’s representation, de Pablo’s choice to leave is all the more understandable.
Producers Convinced Cote De Pablo To Return In NCIS Season 17
De Pablo elaborates in 2019 that some of what was said in the 2016 Q&A was taken out of context. “I didn’t leave because I wanted to go or because I was ready or because I was tired. I didn’t really have an option,” she says (via USA Today). Her love for the character and production leaving space for her return by faking Ziva’s death makes her return even better. Executive producers Frank Cardea and Steven Binder contacted de Pablo and the discussion about Ziva’s return in season 17 started, paying attention to writing a believable reason to bring her back, namely warning Gibbs of a threat.
De Pablo describes her return fondly, saying, “It really felt like just slipping back into a really comfortable slipper.” Ziva’s story ends with her leaving to try and reunite with Tony and her daughter Tali after defeating Sahar, a Hamas splinter group member who sought revenge for Ari’s death. NCIS bringing de Pablo back, even only for a few episodes, allows more closure for Ziva’s story, despite fans hopes for her reunion with her family to have been onscreen.