‘NCIS’: Why Cote de Pablo Once Had Teacher Pull Her Off Stage During Performance

by Matthew Wilson

They say greatness starts in humble beginnings, but sometimes it starts at a middle school play. “NCIS” star Cote de Pablo played Ziva David for several seasons on the hit drama. But she got her start getting kicked off stage.

The actor (whose birth name is María José de Pablo Fernández) was born in Santiago, Chile. She immigrated to Florida with her family as a child. Her mother also worked in the entertainment business for a Spanish-language network gig. That passion for entertainment quickly passed onto de Pablo as well. Growing up, she enrolled in a drama class while in middle school.

And while there, de Pablo became a bit of a hell-raiser. There was a bit of the future NCIS agent in her even as a child. According to Looper, de Pablo got on the bad side of her drama teacher. During a particular scene, de Pablo ad-libbed some colorful language for her scene partner.

“I remember, I was on stage in a scene and something happened, and I called somebody ‘a bast–d,’ […] and my teacher took me offstage, gave me detention. I said to myself, ‘There’s something very wrong with this class. …People must express themselves on stage and have to be able to get it all out there.’ I knew I just needed to find the proper class,” de Pablo said.

‘NCIS’ Star Discovers Passion for Acting

Undeterred by her setback in drama class, the future “NCIS” star decided to pursue her passion for acting further. de Pablo enrolled herself in the New World School of the Arts. As a child, she started to land her first projects. First, she worked as a co-host on “Control,” a Latin-American-focused talk show. And later, she pursued her passion further at Carnegie Mellon University.

“I always felt like they understood me. I was pretty complex: I was an immigrant, and my family was very far away. I was both incredibly fragile and incredibly strong, and I think they could see that, and I will always be grateful for that,” she continued.

Starting in Season Three, de Pablo starred as Ziva David on “NCIS” as fans know. The character quickly proved to be a mainstay and important part of the show. As Ziva, de Pablo played the most iconic character of her career thus far. On the show, Ziva and Michael Weatherly’s Tony DiNozzo became the topic of a will-they-won’t-they relationship.

For many fans, de Pablo starred in some of the best seasons of the show. The actor ultimately decided to move on from the project after Season 11. But she has returned to “NCIS” in recent years for a guest role. Perhaps, she might make a reappearance in the future.