"'NCIS' moves on - Third season will be minus a team member
By Jay Bobbin - (copyright) Zap2it - Published July 17, 2005
Based on fans' reactions, it may have been the season-ending shocker that topped them all.
And it wasn't a trick. "NCIS" really did kill off Special Agent Kate Todd.
Two months later, the sudden, violent departure of Sasha Alexander's character from CBS' Tuesday military-investigation drama still has devotees of the show up in arms. Series executive producer and creator Donald P. Bellisario was sorry to lose the actress, but he isn't unhappy there's so much conversation about the Mark Harmon-starring show as it heads toward its third season.
"Any time you kill a regular character on a show after it's gone at least two full seasons and people have come to love the character, it's bound to have a ripple effect," Bellisario says. The option arose when Alexander expressed a desire to depart. "I had already started writing the last episode of the season and was getting ready to go to Australia to take a little break," he says. "Sasha came in two days before I was to leave, and with tears in her eyes, she said, 'I just can't work this hard.' "
Bellisario adds that "NCIS" is "a hard show to make. We work very long hours, and Sasha just didn't feel she was physically up to that kind of time and commitment. Although we had her under contract, I went to CBS and said, 'You don't want to force someone to work when she says this is not what she expected it to be.' I think it was just more than she realized."
Bellisario hints Alexander could reappear in the coming season's opener, as various members of the Naval Criminal Investigative Service flash back on their times with Kate. At the same time, Bellisario has the chance to shake things up. "The last thing I want to do is go back to the same character," he says. "There was a wonderful dynamic between Sasha and (co-star) Michael Weatherly. I hate to lose that, but it has to take a new form."
To that end, Bellisario looked at actresses when he got to Australia, and reports he's also considering "European actresses. I want to bring in (a new character) who is working for Interpol or the Royal Australian Navy, someone foreign who brings a whole new attitude. Kate was kind of uptight, and I want to bring in somebody who doesn't live by the three-button rule for women in business."
Such a move makes sense for "NCIS," which from the start has been quirkier than "JAG." Bellisario says, "I really had a lot of disagreement over how the show was launched, like 'Navy NCIS' (its first title). While 'JAG' was terrific and had a lot of fans, they were older fans, and that's one reason it was canceled. With 'NCIS,' I wanted a younger audience. I write this differently, and it's shot and edited differently."
Until a few months ago, Bellisario wouldn't have envisioned "NCIS" without Kate Todd. Now that she's gone, despite her presence in summer repeats of the show, he feels the change serves a purpose. "In reality, things like that happen in NCIS," he says. "People die, and I wanted to make this death really impactful when it happened."
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