In 2013, Cote De Pablo walked away from NCIS only to reprise her character six years later. And doing so posed a very specific challenge, but it had nothing to do with Ziva David’s persona.
When De Pablo originally exited the series, her character had supposedly died in a mortar attack. But during Season 16, the team learned that she had faked her death to protect her friends and family from the people who had attempted to murder her.
After a five-episode arch, the character left once again. But the second time, it was under much better conditions. Ziva quit her job and flew to Paris so she could be with Agent Tony DiNozzo and their daughter Tali.
While she was back on set, De Pablo effortlessly eased into her character. But she struggled with the physical demands of the job.
During a 2019 interview with Build, the actress admitted that she had forgotten how taxing the job was. And though she considered herself fit, she lost a lot of ground during her NCIS hiatus.
“You know it’s funny,” she said. “I mean, I’m a gym person, and I go all the time and everything. And I think you try to stay active as much as you can, in the city you’re always walking.”
“You read a script and all of a sudden, you see, ‘Fight sequence’, and it’s like, ‘Oh, here we go again,” De Pablo continued.
“So you show up to set and you do the best you can with the fight sequence and you do it once but then you know you’re going to do it for three hours because it takes three hours to shoot one.”
Cote De Pablo Remembers Her First ‘NCIS’ Fight Scene Following Her Hiatus
In the series, Ziva David was a badass special agent who could always battle her way out of danger. And when she returned from her presumed death, she was ready to get back into action. But De Pablo wasn’t in the same mind frame. And she remembers exactly how that first physical scene felt.
“The crazy thing about that is the first time we did it, once, completely from beginning to end, and I thought to myself, ‘Oh, my God. How am I going to get through this for three hours?'” she continued.
“We got it done with the magic of TV, you pick up little chunks here and there but they’re challenging. There was like 150 people going, ‘Oh, my God, you make it look so easy and I was like, ‘It’s not.’ I’m just looking down going, ‘Don’t worry, don’t have a panic attack you’ll get through it’ – it was not easy.”
Ziva David hasn’t returned to NCIS since she reunited with her family. However, there are rumors that Micheal Weatherly (DiNozzo) may be returning for a cameo or two during the upcoming milestone 20th season. And that may mean that Cote De Pablo will come along for the ride—find out when the series comes back to CBS on Monday, September 19.