Cote de Pablo starred in NCIS from 2005 to 2013 — embodying Agent Ziva David with each passing season — but she abruptly left the show after multiple trailblazing years. She later cited personal reasons and a poorly planned character trajectory as catalysts behind her decision. The show treated her well for many years, as it was largely responsible for cementing her name in mainstream media. She went on to star in The 33 and The Dovekeepers before eventually returning to NCIS in the final moments of season 16.
Because de Pablo left with little notice, the showrunners had to find a replacement, and rewrite several scripts with the new character in mind. Emily Wickersham — who had previously boasted small roles in Gone, Glitch, and I am Number 4 — snagged the leading role.
During an interview with DigitalSpy, David McCallum — the man behind the NCIS Former Chief Medical Examiner, Donald Mallard — discussed de Pablo’s departure and Wickersham’s subsequent entrance.
David McCallum said Emily Wickersham is ‘a complete antithesis to…Cote de Pablo’
David McCallum explained to DigitalSpy that he faced some frustration following de Pablo’s exit, as she just “walked out” on them, which led to multiple rewrites. Yet, the NCIS team, as always, was able to roll with the punches. Mallard said:
This business is merciless so right away the whole team of writers gets in and re-writes the first five shows. They then go out with CBS and [network president] Les Moonves and they find Emily Wickersham. She is a complete antithesis to everything that Cote de Pablo was…
Why David McCallum felt Emily Wickersham was the right pick for ‘NCIS’
McCallum explained that Wickersham and de Pablo were not comparable, as they complete opposite. He went on to reveal how he felt about Wickersham, noting why she was the perfect fit for NCIS at the time:
Emily is quite enchanting and a delight to be with and a wonderful actress. She’s also young and inexperienced in many ways, so that leaves a wonderful door for people like Mark Harmon and the directors to teach and encourage and help her so she can grow as an actress.
In short, David McCallum was happy with the choice that those behind NCIS made. Because Wickersham was not a very experienced actor, those involved in the production were virtually working with a blank canvas. They were able to paint her character as they saw fit (with ease).
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