“NCIS” has seen its share of cast shake-ups over the years. But for the bulk of its run, the series was headlined by Mark Harmon.
And when asked about the series’ strongest lineups, longtime fans would likely be quick to rank the eight-season run in which Cote de Pablo was working alongside him among the best.
The actor joined the cast of “NCIS” during Season 3, portraying Ziva David, a daring Mossad agent who eventually goes to work for Leroy Jethro Gibbs (Harmon) full-time. Over the years, she became an integral part of the team and a sort of daughter figure to Gibbs himself. That relationship became a major point of narrative interest for fans, in no small part because Harmon and de Pablo displayed incredible onscreen chemistry during the almost 200 episodes they worked together on the show. And yes, it was well on display during a Season 7 scene in which Gibbs leans in to whisper something into Ziva’s ear.
Gibb’s words are not heard in the scene, leading to much speculation among fans. But it seems we’ll never actually know what was said, with Harmon refusing to spill the beans during a 2019 interview with TV Insider, coyly noting, “You’re not getting this from me.” He did admit, however, that the words between Gibbs and David were inconsequential because it was actually Harmon talking to de Pablo as a scene partner. “It’s not so much a secret, but an actor thing,” he told the publication.
That whisper was apparently just one of Harmon’s old actor tricks
As for that Season 7 whisper, it came upon Ziva David’s surprising return from a shocking Season 6 twist. And it drew further intrigue among many not only because the words are muted, but also because it’s a touch more paternally intimate than we’d generally seen from Gibbs — even in regards to Ziva David. As it was, “NCIS” fans were no doubt bummed Mark Harmon wouldn’t reveal what was said. They were likely even more so when he revealed he was speaking to his co-star out of character.
Nonetheless, Cote de Pablo was quick to tell TV Insider the whisper was indeed an actorly trick Harmon used often. “Mark does that all the time,” she said. “He’ll whisper in your ear right before a take or talk to you about stuff you don’t want to talk about.” The actor went on to say, “And then afterward he’ll go, ‘Oh, by the way, I was just doing that so we can get a take.'” Harmon added to the conversation, admitting he only uses the approach with actors he’s very comfortable with. “When you know people well and you know how they work, it comes from respect,” he claimed, “It’s not about manipulation. I know how she rolls. And she knows me the same way.”
Still, it’s unclear why this particular whisper made it into the final cut of the episode, other than to add an additional layer of drama to the scene in question. Thankfully, the impact of the moment is not diminished even after the actors de-mythologized the context. And it’s nice to know that Harmon and de Pablo are as close out of character as they are in it.