‘NCIS’: Here’s How a Guest Star Went on to Play Major Role in ‘Top Gun: Maverick’

by Suzanne Halliburton

Avid NCIS fans probably spotted a familiar face this summer when they watched Top Gun: Maverick, the No. 1 movie in the world this year.

Did you notice that Hangman, the cocky pilot alongside Tom Cruise in Top Gun: Maverick, looked a lot like a young Marine sergeant from an NCIS two-parter a decade ago. Yes, that was Glen Powell playing the younger brother of a Marine captain suffering from undiagnosed PTSD.

And Gibbs (Mark Harmon) took a real interest in Captain Joe Westcott (Brad Beyer) and his younger brother, Evan, played by Powell. After all, Gibbs was a former Marine. He knew that the battlefield can play havoc on any soldier’s brain, especially those serving in the Marines.

The NCIS said its theme for season 10 was to honor fallen heroes. And this two-parter, called “Shell Shock 1 and 2.” did just that.

Glen Powell (far right) played a young Marine in a two-part NCIS episode that ran in November, 2012. (Monty Brinton/CBS) .

NCIS Season 10 Was All About Fallen Heroes

The late Gary Glasberg, who was then the executive producer, talked up the season 10 season during an interview with TV Fanatic. This is the season that started with a car bomb going off outside the Naval Yard and Ducky suffering a heart attack while he was in Florida.

This episode “focuses on the Marines who recently returned from the Middle East and it’s a very emotional story,” Glasberg said. “We have some terrific actors, Brad Beyer, who was on Jericho, another actor named Glen Powell, and a wonderful actor who I’ve worked with before named Mark Rolston who many people know from Shawshank Redemption. But a really, really nice story and we’re filming that right now, and I’m excited about it.”

Here’s the plot tease from CBS about the first episode, which ran on Nov. 13, 2012.

“When a Navy Lieutenant who recently returned home from the Middle East is found dead from a brutal attack, the NCIS team questions the victim’s friend, Marine Captain Joe Wescott. Gibbs realizes the Captain is suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, but knows his experience overseas may also provide a key link to the crime.

Scene from Shell Shock, part two. (Monty Brinton/CBS)

Powell, the 33-year-old Texan, was getting some decent TV work a decade ago when Glasberg cast him in NCIS. He had a bit role in the Dark Knight Rises. And he had parts in TV shows like CSI: Miami and Rizolli & Isles. He’d moved to Los Angeles a few years before after Denzel Washington encouraged him to do so.

“Denzel was the guy that said, ‘Hey, I think you should really give this a shot,” Powell told Entertainment Weekly. Powell was in the Washington movie The Great Debaters.

The NCIS episode opens with the agents investigating the death of a Navy lieutenant. And it turns into a huge story about a terrorist who wants to set off a bomb outside Congress. Throughout the two hours, we see Joe reliving a battle in the Middle East with Evan, his brother, trying to help him. Joe thinks he acted like a coward and ran away rather than helping a Marine. But that was his mind playing a trick on him. He’d actually saved his fellow Marine as the insurgents attacked. And he wasn’t responsible for his friend’s death when they got back home.

By 2015, Powell earned a role on the Fox hit Scream Queens. Then he landed the part of astronaut John Glenn in Hidden Figures. And earlier this summer, he came a major star in Top Gun: Maverick, playing Lt. Jake ‘Hangman’ Seresin. He was the sequel’s version of Iceman (Val Kilmer).

And maybe NCIS played a tiny part in it all.