‘NCIS: Los Angeles’ Star Linda Hunt Didn’t Always Want to be an Actor: Here’s Why

by Lauren Boisvert

We know Linda Hunt in her award-winning role as Hetty Lange on “NCIS: Los Angeles”; she also had an Oscar-winning role in “The Year of Living Dangerously” as Billy Kwan. She played the Shadout Mapes in David Lynch’s “Dune,” and also did voice work as Grandmother Willow in “Pocahontas” and as Narrator for the “God of War” game series. Despite her impressive acting credits now, it’s a little-known fact that Linda Hunt wasn’t originally going to be an actor.

Her parents initially suggested that Hunt go into directing instead of acting, due to her stature; Hunt is 4 foot 9 because of hypopituitary dwarfism. She heeded her parents’ advice and moved from Connecticut to New York to pursue directing and stage management. Though, that wasn’t her dream.

She eventually returned to acting after realizing, “I was a good enough actor, at that point, to know I didn’t know enough to be a director,” she has said. By chance, she took an acting class headed by Robert Lewis. Lewis was a prominent acting teacher and director; he founded New York’s Group Theater in the 30s, and became head of the acting and directing departments at the Yale School of Drama in the 70s. According to The List, he was sure Linda Hunt was going to be an actor. He told Hunt that she “must stop pretending that she wanted to be a director.”

Linda Hunt started her career on stage; “Ah, Wilderness” was her Broadway debut. She starred as Aunt Dan in “Aunt Dan and Lemon,” had multiple roles in a production of “Hamlet,” and portrayed Sister Aloysius in a production of “Doubt.”

In an interview with BOMB Magazine in 1986, Hunt spoke about the phenomena of stage acting. She said, “Acting on stage is like an explosion each night. And what comes in at you all the time as you are trying to […] create something which is a tremendous act of organization and concentration.”

Linda Hunt’s Current Role on ‘NCIS: Los Angeles’

Now, Linda Hunt is most loved for portraying Hetty Lange on “NCIS: Los Angeles.” Hetty was the Operations Manager for the Office of Special Projects. Currently, she’s on a mission overseas and doesn’t appear on the show. Linda Hunt hasn’t been on seasons 12 or 13 of “NCIS: LA” because she’s been taking COVID-19 precautions.

Hunt’s co-star Chris O’Donnell once spoke about what it’s like to work with her, calling the experience of acting with Hunt “exhilarating.”

“Some of the scenes with Linda Hunt,” he said, “she’s such an amazing actress you don’t know what to expect. “I read the script and I read the scene out loud, but she has such a way with the English language and the way words roll off her tongue that it’s never what I expect.”