If you couldn't get enough of the men of NCIS talking amongst themselves in our cover story this week, here's more where that came from. In these lively bonus outtakes from TV Guide Magazine's roundtable interview, NCIS' deeply sexy six discuss subjects like: being mistaken by fans for their characters… how old is too old to drive 100 mph… and whether the series is highly topical or secretly set in the 1990s.
*MURRAY:* First jack deals!
*WEATHERLY:* Ante up!
*TV GUIDE:* The photo shoot you just did is probably a pretty good emulation of how you guys usually spend your weekends.
*MURRAY:* Yeah, hang in the Hollywood Hills, doing photo shoots. No one's actually running the photos - we're just doing it amongst ourselves.
*DIETZEN:* We always pick an era. Today just happened to be the Rat Pack era.
*TV GUIDE:* Most of you have been playing these characters for a lot of seasons. This may be a stretch, but are there ever moments where, having been in character for so long, you find yourself off-camera doing or saying something that seems more like your character than what you might have done or said if you'd never taken on these roles?
*McCALLUM:* I talk about death a lot more when I'm at home.
*HARMON:* But you live alone! [laughter]
*CARROLL:* I have found myself running a federal agency sometimes.
*WEATHERLY:* Sometimes you will meet people in an airport or a mall or wherever you are - parking lot - and they will expect that you are of course the way that they have seen you.
*McCALLUM:* Aren't you?
*WEATHERLY:* This may be why my wife doesn't like the character so much. Because I will jump right into character. I mean, I don't have any problem just going DiNozzo on people. And then they'll leave, and my wife will turn to me and say, "Do you HAVE to do that?" [laughter] "Can't you just let them meet Michael?" But I think there's a switch, you know. I don't know about anybody else. I know that when I get to work, I get out of my car in the morning and walk to whatever stage or location we're at, ready to go, and I've turned a corner where I'm seeing everything from that character's perspective.
And we're at the end of our term here, the 10-month term. I think everybody's looking at this hiatus coming up and saying, okay, we recharge our batteries. Because I think it's a lot of [commitment]. Especially for Mark, I think more than anyone else. Mark carries this show with an amazing, quiet grace. Because you don't know how many people have questions all day long, from the moment Mark gets there to the moment that episode is done. I would say 10,000 questions. And he's still there every day, doing that thing. And we all I think look to him as our sort of spirit guide in how to handle it.
*McCALLUM:* I like our association with the Navy and the Marine Corps, too... During the hiatus I'm going to be able to go back to Washington, and I have a visit planned to [the real] NCIS.
*CARROLL:* So am I. I'm planning to go to NCIS, too.
*McCALLUM:* And I'm going to meet again with now-Captain Mallak, who is the chief pathologist of the army. That's all set up. So we keep that side of it going as well during the hiatus.
*MURRAY:* Now, David, remember in year 2 when we went to FLETC, the federal law enforcement training center in Brunswick, Georgia? We were up in the building being escorted around to see some of these things, and you had just gone through a door in front of me. And I see a woman just screaming down the hall, running as fast as she can. She practically tackles me, and goes "Was that David McCallum that just walked through the door?" and I went "Uh, yeah," and she's like "All right"… [He makes a motion like he's being violently tossed aside.].
*McCALLUM:* And she came rushing up to me and she said, "I never knew!" I said, "Never knew what?" "That you guys really are special agents!" She thought we were there being trained.
*CARROLL:* It kind of puts it all in perspective.
*McCALLUM:* They took me out in a police car on the high speed driving course…
*MURRAY:* Weren't those fun?
*McCALLUM:* …and you're strapped in, and we go off a bend like this at 100 mph, and I've never felt my stomach or my heart go down and my stomach come up like that.
*MURRAY:* They've got this thing that's like the size of a football field that's got little sprinklers that constantly put a little level of water, so we're hydroplaning all over the place. I remember I had a lot of fun.
*McCALLUM:* And I was saying to myself, if they knew how old I was, they wouldn't let me do this. [laughter]
*WEATHERLY:* Was that on the 405?
*CARROLL:* You know, I always assume - and sometimes it's true and sometimes it's not - that people know that we're professional actors.
*MURRAY:* Yeahhhh…. They don't know.
*McCALLUM:* They think we're buddies, because we're in their living room.
*MURRAY:* They've spent hours with you personally.
*CARROLL:* But I'm not the director of a federal agency, and I have a lot more fun than that guy [Director Vance] does, and they usually pick up on that pretty quickly. But I call it the Halloween aspect. You know that one day out of the year when you dress up and play make believe? That's what I do for a living! And whatever you do or you behave on that Halloween day or at the office Christmas party, now, if somebody holds that to you for the rest of the year, you're like "Dude, I was dressed up, I was playing, it was Halloween, I was at the party. I can't be accountable for that behavior every day!" So for me, when people approach me, it's like, "No, that was the Halloween party I was at."
*McCALLUM:* I shall never think of my career as anything else but a Halloween party from now on!
*TV GUIDE:* Rocky, from my very outside perspective, you seem like the one of these six guys who is least like your character. You're outgoing and friendly…
*CARROLL:* But I'll tell you something that's really funny. Of all the characters I ever played, it's the most fun I've ever had playing a character. People will be, how can that be? Harmon says, "You love the s--- out of playing this character." Excuse me. "You love playing this character." [laughter] If I were watching this show, I'd go "Yeah, I'd like to be that guy." Because to wield that kind of power, it's fun.
*WEATHERLY:* And you are the master of the slow clap. [He does an imitation of a stoic Director Vance clapping about once every two seconds.] That was Rocky Carroll at his all-time best.
*CARROLL:* That sounds like something you pick up in Tijuana, the slow clap.
*WEATHERLY:* That takes yeaaaars of experience… It was a big season finale where you really stepped into the [Director Vance] shoes. We got those pages, and the whole crew was watching. We're rolling, and Rocky starts reassigning everybody. And everyone got frightened [thinking the show was ending]. You had the dolly grip going, "I just bought a boat! I haven't paid off my house yet. What do you mean?" [laughter]
*TV GUIDE:* Fans would probably be hard pressed to agree on whether it's essentially a comedy or drama or what the truest nature of the show is.
*McCALLUM:* It's realistic corn, beautifully served.
*DIETZEN:* And I think we do a little bit of everything.
*McCALLUM:* Yeah. It's in the execution, more than being specific about what it is. And the execution changes every time we come on the set. Every scene we do, there's always a creative thing that happens there that changes the printed word into what it is each one of these people do. Each director brings his own particular style to what we do as well. I've worked with three of them in the last 10 days, so it's fascinating to make the comparison.
*TV GUIDE:* I try to watch for different writers and directors to see if I can figure out who brings more of a different tone. There are so many different balls of "tone" being put in the air. Each episode juggles them pretty well, but I'm sure different writers and directors emphasize different things.
*HARMON:* I think it's matching up the script with the director. That's the luck of the draw. You'll get some scripts that are more defined or more emotional or more stand-alone, and you'll get some that are connected to a storyline that may go back three years. The constant is us; we're there, and the crew is there. But the first AD is different and the writer is different and the director is different and sometimes the script supervisor is different. Those variables all add to what we do, which is all kinds of different shows.
*TV GUIDE:* Some fans latch onto specific characters or actors, and they're sitting there, maybe much like your agents, saying "My favorite didn't get enough time this week."
*DIETZEN:* It's neat when you have a Tony-centric show or a McGee-centric show, and you really get to explore that character basically through the other characters and get to see who they are. But if you end up having to many of those shows - I think Mark has said this before - you get away from what the show is at its core, which is about the whole group. But I really like watching the shows that are kind of centered around one character. I love seeing each character kind of get their shot here and see their home life. Rocky had a great one this year as well. Those are some of my favorite shows.
*WEATHERLY:* You ran down a perp with your car! It wasn't this year, but…
*DIETZEN:* I did.
*McCALLUM:* They played it again the other day and I watched it, because I had to see you run him down.
*MURRAY:* Was that the one where you did the scream?
*DIETZEN:* It was terrifying! I had to drive a car, and the camera's right in my face, and they don't want me to hit anybody, but I can't see where I'm driving. I think it was [a crew member] who said, "Just make sure you don't get over 35." I'm like, I hope I don't, because…
*MURRAY:* If you hit anyone below that, they'll be okay.
*DIETZEN:* Exactly. Under 35, they'll probably be able to walk someday.
*TV GUIDE:* After seven seasons there are still new turns and different character wrinkles for you to explore. It sounds like the final arc this season will be fairly dramatic.
*HARMON:* And that's really where you depend on your cast. I said to Michael and Cote yesterday at lunch, "For me right now, this is walking in a direction without a net, and the net is you guys. That's who I'm bouncing off." I'm working a scene with David two days ago, and we're both playing stuff that we haven't played before. The same with Rocky the other day. Sean and Michael yesterday, last night in the squad room.
*McCALLUM:* This is all deliberately choreographed by the writers. This is not us saying "Let's do something different." This is in the script.
*WEATHERLY:* I'll never forget when we came into the squad room at the beginning of season 3, after Caitlin Todd had been shot, and it was a night scene, with rain, and we came in, and Gibbs was being nice to us. And then he walked away, and you [Murray] and I were like…
*MURRAY:* You had this weird, simmering anger.
*WEATHERLY:* Like, I don't want Gibbs to be nice! I want Gibbs!
*MURRAY:* He started taking it out on me. That was all complex.
*WEATHERLY:* Yeah, it was interesting. And any time Gibbs shows up with a coffee for you, something is very wrong. Something has been broken on some fundamental level.
*HARMON:* Those long speeches that Ducky has in every show, that sometimes - often - arrive at 11:30 at night for a 7 a.m. shoot the next morning, he handles. So the template is thrown down. And for a younger actor to not measure up…
*DIETZEN:* It's great to show up for work, and every time David and I have a scene together, which is every show, I can always know that I can show up 20 minutes early and I walk into autopsy and David's waiting there…
*McCALLUM:* But that's because the autopsy scenes are driven by the props and the stuff on the wall and X-rays and files, so your choreography is dictated by what you have to do. And unless you run it and run it, it's really hard to talk and chew gum at the same time.
*DIETZEN:* It's a joy to rehearse with this guy - before the director is in there, oftentimes. Well, always. - [laughs]
*McCALLUM:* Well, we tell the director what to do.
*DIETZEN:* You tell him what to do, I don't!
*TV GUIDE:* Brian, you got a girlfriend this season. It's not clear that she'll show up very much, though.
*DIETZEN:* I said to the actress, "I think you're great. I want you to meet my family. And if my dad doesn't like you, you may get shot."
*MURRAY:* It's a true Southern family.
*DIETZEN:* Yeah, there's gonna be a couple more just photographed appearances of her before the end of the season. She's great. It's funny. Yeah, it is kind of funny that Jimmy gets a girlfriend. I think it's because, with McGee or Tony, if they got a serious girlfriend - which Tony has had one time…
*WEATHERLY:* I was undercover.
*DIETZEN* …it really ties the character to that entirely. And Jimmy I think you can take a little bit more license with.
*McCALLUM:* How important do you think it is for this show to remain current with current events and terrorism in the Middle East and everything else? How close to documentary, when fiction starts to move into the documentary - do you think it's a good idea for this show to do that? I'm just thinking about what's going on at the moment. I mean right now in the script that I'm reading, it's all about Mexico being a complete mess because of the complete lack of control of their citizens by the police forces. There are other places in the world where NCIS is involved where that happens, too. In the beginning, we didn't do it. We didn't touch current events. And now we've gotten more and more, and I wondered what you thought in terms of what percentage… how much should we go there?
*WEATHERLY:* I think the show does have a kind of timeless… it's not timeless, but it's difficult to pin down exactly what year it is. Certainly by the monitors on our desks, you can tell that it's maybe the mid-'90s… - [Laughter]
*MURRAY:* The 1987 CRT monitors?
*WEATHERLY:* But I think that's a good thing, too, because it doesn't nail you to… I mean, with the exception of those plasma screens in the squad room and autopsy and Abby's lab - which have been around for a decade… Because they were in the pilot, those things. Weren't they, those big plasma screens?
*MCCALLUM:* The autopsy room is way behind the times. But they want to keep it that way, because it looks good.
*CARROLL:* It does look good.
*WEATHERLY:* I think it's nice not to be nailed to the current events and to the ripped-from-the-headlines thing.
*DIETZEN:* You can watch 10 episodes on USA Network and they're all relevant today.
*HARMON:* I think historically the show has done episodes and all of a sudden the show will air and it'll be something that is right in the news at the moment. That's happened many, many times.
*McCALLUM:* [Writer/producer] Gary Glasberg came in at the beginning of this year, in a very strong position. And I was dead keen to see his first script. All the scripts he's written have been wonderful. But it was very interesting, because he didn't have the voices to start with. But now, a matter of a few shows later, he's absolutely nailed my character, so he can speak as Ducky. But in the beginning he couldn't. So it's very interesting to see how quickly he was able to hone in on what we are in terms of the voice, as they call it.
*MURRAY:* And also very receptive to us and the way we feel about our voices. I mean, collaborative is a word that can be used to describe so many things on what we do. It's not like the writer writes it and then just gives it to us and says, "Say that exactly as is," and we do our thing. It's always been from the read-through on, we have writers on site with us, and typically the writers of the particular episode we're doing are on-set to help work things out. Because sometimes something can be written and you don't see any problem; then sometimes on the floor, the physicality of it is a little different from maybe what was envisioned, and you work some of that stuff out with the director and the writer there and everyone's sort of on the same page - hopefully. In I think the past three or four years, we've done a read through for every show.
*DIETZEN:* And to hear Michael create dialogue - it's excellent!
*McCALLUM:* And to hear the writers trying to act!
*CARROLL:* It amazes me, because I always think a read-through would be sort of a standard, because without having a read-through or hearing it, it almost would be like taking a song and going into a recording studio and recording a song without ever hearing anybody sing it first. I'm fascinated when friends of mine who work on other shows say "Oh no, we never read through." I say, wow!
*WEATHERLY:* The first four years we didn't do 'em. The first 100 episodes, no read-throughs.
*MURRAY:* Recently, and I think this is the only time this has ever happened, we were not able to do a read-through because of a technical thing. We were on location for the week, and there was something where we couldn't do a read through on a day, and it was hard for a lot of us, because the read-throughs are where we discover a lot, and talk to the writers about what their thoughts are behind tings.
*DIETZEN:* Yeah, new pages always come out a couple of hours after the read-through.
*CARROLL:* And you're making a movie every eight days, so you don't have the luxury of time. It's not like you have three days of read-throughs and you sit around and you discuss intentions and characters.
*MW:* It's [during] lunch!
*CARROLL:* My saying is - and it has nothing to do with anybody's ability or talent - but because of the lack of time in television, "Good is by design. Great is totally by accident." [laughter] And when you still are able to achieve those moments that are great, it's like, wow, it certainly wasn't because we had three weeks of in-depth discussion. Sometimes you go beyond. It still fascinates me that sometimes you find that magic in such a short period of time.
*HARMON:* I think one of the great strengths of this show is we've been able to keep this writing team together. There's some writing members on this staff who have written 20, 25 episodes, in year 7. So there's a real continuity between them and how they do their work… And we all have favorite shows. But it's the mix of that that makes it work. You couldn't do all one writer's shows because it wouldn't work. It's the mix of all that. It's like a fraternity house. They all have ideas, they all know each other. And that's the way we work, too. It's not unusual for me to turn to Michael or Sean or Brian or Rocky or David and say, how can we make this better? What are we doing here? That comes from the writing team too. And I don't know that there's many shows - certainly in year 7 - that have kept their writers together as long as we have. And I think it needs to stay that way! - [Laughs]
*WEATHERLY:* There were a bumpy few years in the beginning.
*HARMON:* Oh yeah, yeah.
*WEATHERLY:* George Schenck and Frank Cardea]have been there from the beginning.
*HARMON:* They've been there since year 1. And then they left, and then they came back… They're all flexible to notes. It's not arbitrary. It's not like they're just gonna change 'em because Rocky goes up and says, "Hey look, Vance would say this." They'll battle you. But everybody cares so much about this show. People read scripts. Grips on this show read scripts, and they have notes! "What are they doing to DiNozzo?"
*McCALLUM:* It's interesting that everything everybody's talking about is, how do we make this show better? I mean, that's all everybody is talking about. And that's what goes on…
*HARMON:* I think there's no real secrets here. I don't think there's ever been. I think from the very beginning, we've gotten together, we've talked, to try to make everybody know everything; there's none of this going on behind people's backs. If Michael's got a problem with me, he'll come up and say, "Hey, I've got a problem." Sean, same thing. We share it all. This is again where David is so important, because he's a very clear thinker. He's done all of this before. All the highs, all the lows, all of it. And we have great guidance. So we're kind of all on the same page here, and it's working. The game now is to keep it working, and you can't forget what got you here, which is…
*WEATHERLY:* Work. - [laughs] Not a lot of coasting going on.