The season nine finale of CBS's long-running procedural "NCIS" ended with a big boom as villain Harper Dearing (Richard Schiff) was yet another step ahead of our team, led by Supervisory Special Agent Leroy Gibbs (Mark Harmon), and had set a bomb to explode near the NCIS offices putting everyone's life in jeopardy. Also, beloved Chief Medical Examiner Donald "Ducky" Mallard (David McCallum) suffered a heart attack on a beach after attending the wedding of assistant Jimmy Palmer (Brian Dietzen).
However, as the tenth "NCIS" season begins tonight, Dearing remains on the loose and is still wreaking havoc. Will our fallen heroes be down for the count for long? Will Ducky survive? Will any of our team ever have a healthy romantic relationship? Our Jim Halterman went to the man who knows all, Gary Glasberg, Executive Producer of "NCIS," for the answers.
Jim Halterman: When you and your writers go into a new season, are you thinking about what the theme for the year or are you thinking how do we need to infuse some new juice into the machine? What are your thoughts before you dive in?
Gary Glasberg: Well. Look. This is an exciting thing for us because it's season 10. You know, to be 10 seasons into a show and have the success that we're experiencing right now is... everyone's very much aware of it and thankful and embracing it. You know the old saying, 'If it ain't broke, don't fix it?' We completely understand that and recognize it and there are elements of the show that will continue just as they always have but I'm also happy to occasionally rattle the cage a little bit and throw some new elements in and keep things fresh for the actors and for the writers. And we like to surprise people on occasion so I have no problem coming up with something fresh and different as well.
JH: I love what you guys did last year with Richard Schiff and even Scott Wolf coming in and playing against type so what comes first? Is it a character you have in mind or sometimes you see the actor first and think how can we build this guy into the show for a few episodes?
GG: I think we try to focus on the story first and the characters first and how they interact with our characters and that sort of thing. I always really enjoy finding terrific actors that want to play against what people expect of them. I find that you end up really getting some actors excited about the idea of playing something that's different than what they're usually offered. And in the instance of both actors that you just mentioned, Scott is so terrific and such a sweet guy and a really talented actor and to give someone like Richard Schiff the opportunity to play against what would normally come his way, that was a lot of fun.
JH: I know it seemed from what I saw that people either loved or hated Jamie Lee Curtis on the show last year as Gibb's love interest. Will we see her again?
GG: And I'm happy about both of those, honestly. Jamie is fantastic and the character [Dr. Samantha] Ryan was terrific, and I'm thrilled with what she brought to the show. She's a dear friend of Mark's and we were over the moon having her here. I'm not saying that she's not coming back. The door is open. Right now that story line... we're not focused on that story line. It's certainly a possibility, and I would be happy to work with her anytime, anywhere.
JH: That instance also made me just think about any of the people in the team having a healthy, good relationship. Palmer just got married but is that something these people can actually have with their jobs being so all consuming?
GG: You know, one of the fun things is seeing characters like this constantly want to be happy and constantly striving for the simplicity of finding someone, a good and righteous someone that they can connect with. And I know they all want it, but like you said, it's really hard to do the jobs that we have these fictitious characters have and find the right person at the same time. And that is something that we will touch on quite a bit through the season, and whether we're looking at how it relates to Gibbs or whether we're looking at how it relates to Tony (Michael Weatherly) and Ziva (Cote de Pablo). And you know the Tony and Ziva of it all is a big part of the show.
JH: The last time we saw poor Ducky, unfortunately, he was having a heart attack on the beach. How much of his health is going to play in these first episodes? And how does that affect Palmer, who is his assistant?
GG: It's a significant part of I'd say the first three or four episodes of the show. I mean Ducky really got knocked down and Palmer, as much as he has to take a step backward, Palmer has to take a step forward. And it absolutely has an effect on them and their relationship and how they work together and what the expectations are for both. And there's a really lovely scene, not only between the two of them but between Gibbs and Ducky and how he interacts with everybody, and then a really fantastic episode that I'm excited about where Ducky has to sort of step up and get his mojo back. And it's a nice arc. It worked out really nicely and David McCallum has been very, very happy with it, and we're very happy with it.
JH: Talk to me about the cases we're going to see, Gary. Are they pulled from reality or are some completely fictional?
GG: This is a unique series in that it's an investigative team that is grounded in the military and so it gives us the opportunity to not only draw stories from military-related scenarios that we read about or that we hear about but also tell traditional whodunits of murders and fraud and counterfeiting and anything else we can come up with. So it's a little bit of letting our own imaginations run wild, of really understanding the kind of stories that are fun for these characters now after 10 seasons, and then periodically drawing off of something that we hear about or that we read. To be honest, on occasion we get a call from the Navy or from the Pentagon and they say, 'Okay. How about a story that's affecting us right now?' And those are always really interesting for me and I'm happy to do it.
JH: In terms of your staff of writers for such a long-running show, does it tend to turn over at all or do people tend to stick around? I'm not sure who's on the staff this year, but...
GG: For the most part we really do stick around, and in a lot of ways I'm a baby on this now. You know, I'm going into season four of my experience here and then we have George Schenck and Frank Cardea, who've been here since season one. You know, people recognize that this place is different and special and it's hard to find a place that you want to come to work every day and this show has proven to be that and people are happy to be here.
"NCIS" airs Tuesdays at 8:00/7:00c on CBS.