‘NCIS’: How Pauley Perrette Nearly Missed Out on Her Iconic Abby Sciuto Role

by Suzanne Halliburton

Seems difficult to believe now, but NCIS producers once thought about hiring another actress for the part of Abby Sciuto.

Pauley Perrette defined the role and made the pig-tailed Abby the quirky genius everyone adored. Even a Washington, D.C. madame eyed Abby’s platform, studded Goth boots with approval.

But the early leader to earn the role of Abby was Katee Sackhoff, who’d auditioned for NCIS early in the process. She’d also tried out for a part in Battlestar Galactica. Ultimately, Perrette earned the role after Sackhoff became Kara “Starbuck” Thrace. She now stars in the Mandalorian.

Katee Sackhoff could’ve played Abby on NCIS. She now stars in the Mandalorian. (Jesse Grant/Getty Images for Disney)

Perrette, in all her goofiness, was soothing and charming. Gibbs liked her so much he’d often give her a kiss on the cheek. He’d even bring her a Caf-Pow, Abby’s favorite energy drink, if he really needed her genius to start percolating. Meanwhile, Abby loved everyone in the office and was especially protective over Ducky (David McCallum). She was the NCIS forensics research analysis and there didn’t seem to be a problem she couldn’t solve. She liked skeleton and the Goth culture.

Perrette started on NCIS in its back door pilot on JAG in spring 2003. She finally left her most significant acting career to date in 2018. There were rumors that she’d had a run-in with Mark Harmon. In her last-ever episode, Abby survived an assassination attempt and decided she wanted to run a non-profit in London. She told everyone in the office good bye, in person, save for Gibbs. She wrote him a letter, which he read alone. Perrette since basically has retired from acting.

Mark Harmon, Pauley Perrette is a scene from NCIS in 2016. (Sonja Flemming/CBS)

Meanwhile, Harmon left NCIS after the “Great White Open” episode last October. But it seems that Harmon had some casting issues, too. Show creator Don Bellisario thought Harmon was too much of a “pretty boy.” After all, he was People Magazine’s Sexiest Man Alive back in the 80s.

But it was Harmon’s arc in another show that convinced Bellisario. Harmon was in four episodes of the West Wing, playing Secret Service agent Simon Donovan and protecting the press secretary.

”What I saw was a very controlled presence, a quiet strength,” Bellisario said. ”That’s what I was looking for. Leroy is Mark’s kind of guy. Mark has that jock mentality — you tough it out no matter how tough it is.

Show producers initially thought about casting Harrison Ford. So yes, Han Solo could’ve been Leroy Jethro Gibbs. We’re thinking that Ford could pull off the appropriate grumpiness. But whether he could pull off the rules remains to be seen.

But Ford did have a tiny impact on the NCIS series premiere. It was called “Yankee White,” and it was set mostly on Air Force One. NCIS recycled the set from Ford’s blockbuster Air Force One to use for the premiere. The traitor in Air Force One was Agent Gibbs, so Gibbs got a good laugh out of that bit of trivia in the premiere.