It’s official, Emily Wickersham is a permanent addition to the cast of the number one television drama, “NCIS,” it was reported Nov. 4 on the CBS blog site, and also by Nellie Andreeva on the Yahoo Deadline blog. In Sept., 2013, Wickersham’s character, Eleanor Bishop, had been mentioned in show publicity quotes as a “could-be, might-be permanent” addition to the cast, but nothing was fixed early on. It would be decided who might fill the empty desk, only after a rotation of several females into and out of the NCIS squad room in the first six or seven episodes of season 11.
Wickersham is a blonde beauty with 19 acting credits on the IMDB database, but they’re mostly forgettable one-shots in a multitude of medium-to-good shows. She was in last year’s movie “Gone,” starring Amanda Seyfried. The most prestigious TV dramas she’s been in include three episodes of the 2013 FX show “The Bridge,” and four episodes on HBO’s “The Sopranos,” and so she is perfect for NCIS. There are no preconceived pre-identifications of Wickersham with any alternate TV character.
Producer Glasberg shared:
Emily Wickersham’s Ellie Bishop is proving to perfectly compliment the NCIS team,” said Executive Producer Gary Glasberg. “Her energy and enthusiasm is contagious. Great things are planned for Bishop and we couldn’t be more thrilled to have her on board.
Best case scenario: as Wickersham shall become Bishop and Bishop shall forever be identified with Wickersham. The payoff will be when viewers stop talking about Wickersham and instead talk about “Ellie” with the same fluidity as “Gibbs, Ducky, Vance, McGee, DiNizzo, Abby, and Palmer,” but time will tell.
It’s subtle, but some actresses are so identified with a single role that they cannot easily break out of, or into, a new TV show or movie easily. No matter the actors’ chops, typecasting is a possible casualty when one actor plays a role for too long. Mark Harmon has been tremendously successful in creating several different memorable characters and moving on with each show.
Still, it’s hard to imagine Pauley Perrette easily jumping across to “Covert Affairs” or “White Collar” without someone yelling out “Hey, Abbs!” any more than one can imagine Criminal Minds actress Kirsten Vangsness exiting the “Penelope Garcia” character in any future transition when a show finishes its ultimate run. Then again, on one Halloween episode, Perrette donned a blonde wig and "became" Marilyn Monroe so convincingly that her acting skill will overcome any role definition. But, NCIS can't survive without her character, and the producers are all well aware of her irreplaceability.
Founding cast member Michael Weatherly had a one-off guest spot on TNT’s “Major Crimes” as a criminal two years ago, but it was hard to separate Weatherly from “DiNozzo” in a non-NCIS role. Good news is that Wickersham has a clean slate. Glasberg will, of course, create a tremendous character with all kinds of undiscovered nuances to intrigue viewers for weeks ahead and seasons to come.
Actress Sasha Alexander successfully portrayed NCIS Special Agent Caitlin Todd for two years and then graduated to a starring role on TNT’s “Rizzoli & Isles,” carrying her own show together with Angie Harmon and a tremendous supporting cast. But, Alexander was only “Kate” from 2003-2005. She’s Maura or Dr. Isles right now, and extremely believably so. Author Tess Gerritsen has expressed how perfect the casting of Harmon (Angie) and Alexander (Sasha) are to the roles of her character creations Rizzoli and Isles.
However, after eight long, faithful seasons, de Pablo’s “Ziva David” could potentially typecast her for a while. Given that she was a Chilean-born beauty who could sing too, portrayed an Israeli-born Mossad agent and martial arts master so convincingly, her chances are better than great that she’ll break out into another TV show or movie role down the road.
What’s poignant is that back in 2005, NCIS fans posted multitudes of protest and outrage at Kate Todd’s being killed by Ari, and this time the anger was directed at Donald Bellisario, the show’s creator and early series executive producer, having spun “NCIS” off of his hit show, “JAG.”
Flashing back to Bellisario’s own 2005 message to fans included an explanation that Alexander had left of “her own volition...she just didn’t think she had the stamina to do it...” At the time, his revelation of what would become Alexander’s replacement was in his own words:
Alexander will be replaced with a new female lead character, who Bellisario hopes will be quite different from the conservative Agent Todd. "I want to go for a European or Australian girl who is very comfortable with her femininity and sexuality," he says.
Upon the early summer’s announced departure of de Pablo, whose eight years of playing former Mossad operative turned NCIS special agent and American citizen, set a particularly high bar, series executive producer and creative guru Gary David Glasberg was presented with an unplanned crisis on the “what next” for the show’s future.
After all, Glasberg plans out the show well in advance, almost as soon as the preceding season concludes. Plus, he regularly contributes many of the scripts in whole or in part, and is the show’s Executive Producer. The man does nothing all day...except eat, sleep and write NCIS.
Realistically, Glasberg likely had most of entire Season 11 already planned out in his mind and who knows how many storyboards created with the dynamics of “Tiva” flying dialogue between Michael Weatherly and de Pablo as “Tony and Ziva,” and a host of flashbacks back to Mossad characters and hunting all the folks who needed hunting whenever the newest cases would come to light. But envision all those script notes and files hitting the trash can or the delete can, and a new blank page staring Glasberg in the face.
Resilient and creative, on Sept. 10, 2013, Glasberg posted a letter to the fans on his “Insider’s Blog” on the CBS web site. His message was strictly for the fans:
Two hundred and thirty-four episodes ago, many of you tuned in to watch the first NCIS, “Yankee White.” Well, no matter how long you’ve been on this journey, we appreciate your dedication more than you can imagine. You are the reason this cast and crew continue to work so hard. We consider all of you members of “Team NCIS.” ... Meet some other agents, different fun characters, as they pass through our world in funny and fascinating ways.
So in the past six weeks, Glasberg has delivered on what he promised: in the season’s first two episodes viewers lost, found, and bid farewell to Ziva; then in Episode 3, “Under the Radar” introduced Agent Vera Strickland, who’d been Mike Franks’ partner (that brought back some great flashbacks with beloved actor Muse Watson). Vera was hilarious, and she had “senior fever” as she was trying to just get out the NCIS Navy Yard without being killed her last two weeks of service. Gibbs was heartened by the visit from an old friend.
In Episode 4, “Anonymous Was a Woman,” another old friend of the series, Jackie Geary, returned as former polygraph girl Agent Susan Grady, and this time she showed up McGee a time or two with her newfound skills as an full agent who was able to contribute to on-site crime scene assessment. Still, viewers knew she was a gracious and welcome place-holder. Meanwhile pots of coffee were brewed and late night writing and script devising was undoubtedly flowing strong wherever Glasberg’s writing hideout was.
Then, in Episode 5, “Once a Crook” there was no key female NCIS agent in sight, and the episode’s focus was all-DiNozzo, all the time. Ziva’s absence was the “elephant in the room” and in the script, though, in the dialogue between Tony and Gibbs with the line of the week that even made the meme generators:
Tony: Maybe I was wrong about a lot of people.
Gibbs: Are we still talking about the case?
Tony: It's so interesting. No one will say her name. Have you noticed? It's like she's dead. Every time I look at her desk, every time I close my eyes....I just feel like I made a mistake. Like I made the wrong decision. Only it wasn't me who decided. So yeah - I'm probably wrong to think Anton's innocent in all this.
Gibbs: I'll trust you any time. –
Last week’s episode, “Oil and Water,” had viewers welcoming back the “female Gibbs” in Coast Guard CGIS special agent Abigail (Abby) Borin, played by Diane Neal. The brains of Borin and Gibbs are wired so similarly that it’s like having an in-house xerox machine. This means that such a female character as Abby Borin would not be a lasting show addition, with the line “Abbs-es, whaddya got?” useful only once a show. Plus Neal has been in, and out, and in again as a cast member elsewhere (Law and Order), so viewers knew this episode was just saving a place for the new “real deal” in the squad room. Meanwhile viewer response was being measured and noticed while the “new girl” character was being developed.
Word leaked out (on purpose) approximately one month ago that Emily Wickersham had been cast as the Agent Eleanor Bishop. Not much more was said other than, “she is different from the others, she’s insightful, introspective, and if people like her she may be ‘the one’ who becomes the new cast regular and addition to Team Gibbs.” That sounded promising.
Today, Andreeva’s post on Yahoo Deadline announced that Wickersham had been promoted from the “three-episode arc” deal that the public had been made aware of to full-blown season regular as announced today. That’s a firm vote of confidence from the NCIS production team, particularly as the 20,000,000+ viewers of the show have to wait two more weeks to meet “Ellie Bishop.”
Bishop’s character comes to NCIS as an NSA Analyst and that’s the key to the role she’ll be contributing to the team in weeks to come, more of an equal contributor to the team, which means no one will get to call her “Probie,” or not. So, today viewers now for certain that Bishop is officially on the team and Wickersham has her name in permanent magic marker on her chair. Look for new show opening credits to roll out in weeks to com