You can't make an omelette without breaking a few eggs—and you can't become the number one drama on television without generating at least a little bit of offscreen drama. That's certainly the case with "NCIS." The hit procedural might be beloved now, but it wasn't an easy path. How did it become one of the most popular shows on television? That's a question worthy of its own investigation—one we'll call the untold truth of "NCIS."
Few people remember it now, but when "NCIS" first spun off from parent show "JAG" in 2003, it was far from a guaranteed success. In fact, CBS was so worried that the show would be overshadowed by the network's runaway smash "CSI" that they actually called the show "Navy NCIS" for the first season in order to minimize confusion over the similar acronyms. Showrunner Donald Bellisario eventually convinced the network to drop the "Navy" part because it's totally redundant: the "N" in "NCIS" already stands for "Naval."
Showrunner and creator Donald Bellisario abruptly left "NCIS" in 2007 for a very unexpected reason: star Mark Harmon forced him out. Reportedly, the two tangled behind the scenes for months over Harmon's dissatisfaction with Bellisario's "chaotic management style." It led to a showdown, and the network decided they could live without Bellisario, but not Harmon. Bellisario was forced to resign and the show continued with a presumably happy Harmon sitting in the catbird seat.
Given the huge success of "NCIS," it seems like a no-brainer that they would eventually have a spinoff. But the creation of "NCIS: Los Angeles" in 2009 actually led to a major lawsuit. That's because "NCIS" creator and former showrunner Donald Bellisario (that guy again!) had a clause in his contract giving him the right to create the first spinoff, but after he was forced off the show, CBS hired Shane Brennan to create it instead. After years of legal wrangling, they settled out of court for an undisclosed amount.
In 2013, star Cote de Pablo, who played fan favorite "NCIS" agent Ziva David (a character with quite a backstory), abruptly announced her departure from the show. It was a surprise not only to fans, but to her co-stars. Around the same time, Perrette posted a tweet of herself wearing a shirt she'd received in 2007, which said "I love my job." It seems innocuous enough, but it set off a minor Twitter war against de Pablo's fans, who saw it as an attack. Allegedly, de Pablo called Perrette to ask that she stop tweeting about the situation. Perrette shut down her feed for less than a day. Drama not quite worthy of television.
Pauley Perrette's feud with Cote de Pablo wasn't exactly a high point for either of them. But while Perrette has sometimes been the subject of real-world drama, she's done her best to turn lemons into lemonade by using those events as a platform for advocacy. In 2006, in an attempt to help women suffering from domestic abuse, she publicly revealed that her former husband Coyote Shivers had subjected her to years of physical and emotional abuse. And just last year, after she was randomly attacked by a mentally disturbed homeless man, she began championing the rights of the homeless.
In 2013, the "NCIS" franchise was poised to add yet another series to its umbrella in the form of "NCIS: Red." Introduced in a two-episode arc on "NCIS: Los Angeles," "NCIS: Red" was going to star John Corbett as the leader of Red Team, an anti-terrorist unit within "NCIS." The network, however, decided they didn't really dig what they saw in the backdoor pilot and the series was canceled before it ever began, opening the door for "NCIS: New Orleans" instead.
Mark Harmon has been the face of "NCIS" for well over a decade now, but viewers could have seen a very different face in the role of Agent Leroy Gibbs. That's because the role was actually offered to Don Johnson first—and he turned it down. He wasn't the only candidate, though; rumor has it that "NCIS: New Orleans" star Scott Bakula was also on the original shortlist for Agent Gibbs way back in the day. Sometimes these things have a way of working out.