Even after seven seasons, CBS' juggernaut procedural NCIS is still hitting 'em out of the park, thanks to a solid, diverse lineup. TV.com spoke to Cote de Pablo, who plays Special Agent Ziva David, about her role on the show.
TV.com: What’s it like to play someone with such a complicated, tumultuous past?
Cote de Pablo: I really love it and I’ll tell you why. It never gets boring, and you always have something to draw from. It’s sort of like an actor’s dream, that you’re able to constantly feed the character [from the] character’s past. And, so that’s always a fun thing and also a huge challenge because you feel like you have to really deliver. It keeps you on your toes. You have a responsibility to the character and you have to try to respect it as much as possible and try to do your best to honor it.
Have you studied any of the languages that Ziva speaks?
I actually speak fluent English and Spanish and ... I dabble in a couple of languages, but I’m not fluent in German, Russian and Arabic. [Ziva]’s like a little prodigy when it comes to languages and that’s what makes the character fun to play. And it obviously presents a huge challenge to me because whenever they throw something else at me. I just have to sort of tackle it and go with it. But it’s not easy. Especially given the time that they give us to get on with all these things. And they bring in people to help you phonetically and all of that. But, it doesn’t seem to ever be perfect enough, especially when you try to be as perfect as possible, and you have twenty-four hours to learn a language phonetically.
What do you think drives Ziva to act the way she does?
Well, definitely her past. I think she’s been thrown into this American situation. That’s what I label the NCIS world. It was not her choice to come to the United States to be a part of this agency. She was sort of thrown in here because she was covering a mission from Israel ... and I feel that she used this group of people as her dysfunctional family. I think she’s really learned to love them and, at times, especially towards the end of last year, it became very confusing to her where her loyalty was. Was it her family in Israel or was it her family in the United States? And so it’s a tug of war between the most important things to a lot of human beings, which [are] family and blood.
Do you relate to Ziva at all?
I relate to her a lot and then at times it just feels like ... she’s so not like me. I would have to say, of course, you draw from you own personal experiences to make some of Ziva’s experiences as real as they can be. I haven’t lived [a] dramatic life. But there are things that you obviously draw from. I came to the States when I was ten and that was, in many ways, very hard. I left a world behind and I sure can relate to that -- to being taken from one place and placed into another land and then start[ing] from scratch.
What do you think Ziva’s future is going to hold at NCIS?
I sure do hope that she stays with NCIS. I think she really does see them as her family and I love every person that’s there. However, I think later on in this season, things are going to be questioned by something coming from far away lands, maybe a father figure.
You've described Ziva as someone who’s not afraid of men. Does that affect her relationship with Tony (Michael Weatherly)? Why is Tony different from all the other guys?
You know what it is? She calls him “idiot” so many times. And she’s got this brother-sister relationship with him. But at times it crosses the line and goes into sexual tension territory. The only way I can describe her feelings for Tony is that they get blurred and then it’s a lot deeper than what it seems. They trusted each other and they lost their trust in each other. But I think the underlying emotion is always love ... However, she’s always thinking, "My God, he’s such an idiot!" But at the same time, she knows that all of that is sort of like a cover-up for something that’s really soft and mushy on the inside. Because if you see the episodes with him, he comes across as a total idiot.
Do you and Michael Weatherly ever discuss your characters' relationship?
[Tony and Ziva's] relationship is -- people just love it and I think they love it for a reason. Michael and I, when we get together and we work on scenes, we never talk about what our intentions are. We never talk about what he wants to get out of a scene. He’s got his own set of intentions and I’ve got my own set of intentions and within that, when we get together ... we don’t know what the other person is going to put into the pot.
Why you think this show has become so popular?
I’ll tell you why. This has been something that we’ve talked about, Rocky Carroll, Brian Dietzen, David McCallum, Michael Weatherly, Sean Murray, Pauley Perrette, Mark Harmon and myself. The success of the show is based on this perfect chemistry. If you take any of these characters away and tried to do the show, it would not be the same thing ... I think the show is a character driven show in a procedural format and I think people tune in because they like to see these relationships. These relationships are based on the fact that we get along and that we genuinely like each other and we trust each other.
NCIS airs Tuesdays at 8 p.m. on CBS.