‘I’m glad I did it’: Ziva’s return to NCIS
THE decision to bring Ziva back on NCIS wasn't one Cote de Pablo made lightly.
Her role as the tough-as-nails agent made the Chilean-born actor a household name. But after eight years on the long-running procedural crime drama, de Pablo decided to hang up her badge - breaking up Ziva and Tony (played by Michael Weatherly), one of TV's most beloved pairings.
"It was a very bittersweet thing," she tells The Guide. "It was not an easy decision, but it was the only decision at the time that I could make. It was very sad and that came with its own set of challenging emotions. I kept in touch with Michael, Mark (Harmon, who plays Gibbs) and Brian Dietzen (who plays Jimmy), but I have to say the process of stepping away from those shoes is a very long one. It wasn't until I thought about going back that I was really contemplating should I revisit? Should I not?"
Luckily for fans, de Pablo answered that question with a yes thanks to a storyline by writer Gina Monreal which enticed her to come back after a six-year absence.
"I get asked everywhere I go 'Is she going to come back?'. I didn't think that door would reopen the way it did with such a fun and interesting storyline, but I'm glad I did it," she says.
"Gina was a tremendous force. She understood what I wanted to accomplish when this character was built and it years it took to build her. She needed to be treated with a lot of passion and respect. Ziva is such an important influence for so many women around the world. Gina understood I how much I loved her. She has no issues going head-to-head with men or women about what she believes in. (When the show originally premiered) it was a good time for women to come face-to-face with a character who was very empowering.
After a sluggish start, NCIS has become one of America's most-watched scripted shows and spawned two spin-offs.
De Pablo says in the early years she had no inkling of how popular the show would be come.
"It's funny, you go into these things never knowing what they're going to be," she says. "You just fully commit to the storylines presented at the time. I had no idea Michael and I would have the chemistry we had and have. I had no idea Mark and I would become great friends and confidants, and also develop a chemistry that would translate to the fans watching the show on an international level. Over so many years working day in and day out, we never got to see the fruits of what we were doing. It wasn't until I left that I fully understood what we created."
Season 17 of NCIS opened with the surprise return of Ziva, presumed dead, to warn Gibbs his life was in danger.
De Pablo's guest role continues this Sunday.
"The past comes back to haunt her, and all the ends she thought were tied up are still loose," she says. "She comes back in full force to finish what she started. Some interesting things come of that, and some really wonderful relationships are rekindled."
Does that mean the reunion of Ziva and Tony fans have been waiting for?
"I agree with you, people are waiting for that to happen," de Pablo says. "He's (Weatherly) a very busy man, so a lot of that is on his shoulders."
What she can guarantee is more screen time with Wilmer Valderrama, who joined the show three years ago as Special Agent Nick Torres.
"I'm getting to know the new guy," she says. "When I first came back they kept our relationship more mysterious, which I like, but at the end of an upcoming episode there's a really fun bit between the both of us."
Despite returning to the spotlight, de Pablo says NCIS fans are very respectful of her privacy.
"Fans are very respectful of my space … they usually approach me by saying 'I don't want bother you', which is very cute and I very much appreciate," she says. "I'm a very private person. When I work I'm between the set and home. I'm not on social media. I prefer it a bit more old school. Privacy is a very hot commodity, and there's something to be said about a bit of mystery. I'm not saying I'll never revisit social media but I think for me it's been the right path for me to be able to travel the way I travel, to have the life I want to have."
NCIS returns Tuesday 9pm on Ten/WIN.