How ‘NCIS’ Alum Pauley Perrette Stumbled into Acting Through a Chance Encounter: ‘Suddenly I Was in This Business’

by Keeli Parkey

You know, life is funny. It’s also unexpected and strange and sad and wonderful all at the same time. You never know what hand life is going to deal you. For most of us, that hand is almost always unexpected. For “NCIS” star Pauley Perrette, the unexpected hand that life dealt her was one of a popular television actress.

This role was a surprising one for the now 52-year-old actress. Unlike many people who end up famous thanks to their acting careers, Perrette didn’t set in her professional life with the goal of becoming an actress. She didn’t train at a fancy drama school. In fact, her education was focused on disciplines other than acting.

The “NCIS” star shared details about her educational background, as well as details of how she became an actress during an April 2007 interview with Pop Entertainment. Turns out, some of what she studied as part of her education was helpful to her role as the forensic scientist Abby Sciuto in “NCIS.”

During her undergrad years, Pauley Perrette studied criminal justice – not acting. After she earned her bachelor’s degree, she decided that continuing her education and pursuing a master’s degree was the path for her. So, that’s what she did. Turns out, her educational background is not exactly how so many reports have portrayed it. Many outlets have reported that this “NCIS” star has a master’s degree in criminology. That is not the case.

“I started my master’s degree, but the real story is actually more interesting. But, you know the grand old internet … once anything is written anywhere, it keeps coming up over and over again,” Pauley Perrette said in 2007.

‘NCIS’ Star Pauley Perrette Said She Studied Sociology, Psychology and Criminal Science As An Undergraduate Student

The “NCIS” actress then went on to give details about her educational background. She gave details of her academic work as an undergraduate and her time as a student pursuing a master’s degree.

“The real story is undergrad. I studied sociology, psychology and criminal science. I started my master’s degree in criminal science, but then I moved to New York and I was broke and bartending,” Perrette also said.

It was while she was working as a bartender – while at the same time pursuing her master’s degree in criminal science – that a chance encounter set Pauley Perrette on the path to stardom with “NCIS.”

“When I was bartending I started working with this director that put me in 15 back to back … everything from commercials, music videos to short films. Then, suddenly I was in this business,” Perrette recalled.

Unsurprisingly, Perrette’s acting career got in the way of her education. But, as of 2007, completing her academic pursuits wasn’t out of the question. “I never got to finish (the masters). I’d still like to,” the former “NCIS” actress also said.