NCIS star Cote De Pablo almost didn’t play Ziva David as show bosses ‘weren’t convinced’

NCIS star Cote de Pablo became a household name for many when she joined season three of the iconic crime show as Ziva David, but the Hollywood star almost missed out on the show entirely.

NCIS season 20 finale promo

NCIS star Cote de Pablo joined the ensemble show in 2005, sailing through the peaks of the show’s fame until her exit in 2013 which for many marked the end of an era as her leading co-stars slowly followed suit.

However, despite her immense popularity as the former Mossad agent, Cote almost never got the opportunity to take on the role as some show bosses needed a bit more convincing when she first auditioned.

After Sasha Alexander (Caitlin Todd) left the series in season three, NCIS was in desperate need of a new female lead and casting director Susan Bluestein felt she found a perfect fit when she brought in Cote, who she had been a longtime fan of from the series The Jury.

Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter in celebration of NCIS’ 20th anniversary, the casting director insisted there was also “instantaneous” chemistry between Cote and NCIS star Michael Weatherly.

Head of casting Peter Golden was convinced by the actress within seconds, recalling: “I remember she walked in the room, and we all were like; ‘Oh, my God, who is this woman?’ Which doesn’t happen now that much at network tests.”


Cote de Pablo initially joined the CBS show in 2005 (Image: GETTY)

Unfortunately, the show’s creator Donald P. Bellisario wasn’t “100 percent on board right away” according to Peter.

While Donald seemed to adore the Hollywood star as an actress, he reportedly had a different casting choice in mind for the role of Ziva that he “felt as righter”.

Luckily for Cote, she had made such an impression on so many of the other show bosses that Donald was eventually convinced by his own colleagues.

Executive producer Mark Horowitz highlighted that something very similar happened between audiences and Ziva as well, revealing that she wasn’t initially as popular as they thought she would be.


Including her brief return in 2019, Cote appeared in a staggering 194 episodes of NCIS (Image: GETTY)

However, he added: “It took time for the audience to be involved in the relationship between her and Tony and really appreciate her kick**s status.”

Cote ultimately left the show in 2013 leaving fans distraught but she also made a surprise return in 2019 for season 17, giving viewers a unique insight into Ziva’s life away from the NCIS team and providing some extra closure to her character arc.

The 44-year-old’s original exit also sparked a slew of leading departures over the next few years, including Michael Weatherly in 2015, Pauley Perrette in 2018 and Mark Harmon in 2021.

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