Back in April, JAG spent two episodes "Ice Queen" and "Meltdown" introducing new characters from its fall spinoff, Navy NCIS. They were played by Mark Harmon, Dark Angel's Michael Weatherly and Savannah's Robyn Lively. JAG fans have some nagging questions about the new show, and here, we've got answers!
NCIS stands for Naval Criminal Investigative Service. So isn't the Navy part of the title redundant?
"Oh yeah. It's only going to be called Navy NCIS for a very short period of time," says Donald Bellisario, creator/exec producer of both series. "I don't know how long it will go, but we would never refer to [the crime-fighting unit] in the show as anything but NCIS. It's only on the screen that it's called Navy NCIS. CBS thought and I think it's a legitimate concern that they want to get JAG viewers to try it out and see what it is, because most people don't know what NCIS is. Most people have no clue when they hear it."
Okay, so what is NCIS?
Like JAG's Judge Advocate General, Bellisario points out, NCIS is a real life agency. It's made up of "civilians, mostly former cops, some FBI agents and people in the military" who investigate military crimes. "They're independent of the Navy," he explains. "They answer, I believe, only to the secretary of the Navy so they can go in and investigate, and they don't have to deal with command pressure."
Why has Robyn Lively been dropped from the cast?
"Robin is a very good actress, very sweet girl," Bellisario says. "We were kind of unfair to her, because she did not even get cast until the day before we started shooting [last season's JAG episodes], so she did not have the advantage of coming in and knowing anything about this show. But she was a little soft for this kind of role."
Sasha Alexander late of CBS's axed Presidio Med now fills the female slot. Is this a recast?
"No, completely different woman, completely different character," he emphasizes. While Lively was playing NCIS agent Viv Blackadder, Alexander portrays Kate Todd, who will start out as a Secret Service agent on presidential protection detail in the first episode. "Not that Sasha isn't soft," Bellisario laughs, "but she wears a jockstrap."
Lately, Mark Harmon has excelled at shady roles, like the serial killer in a recent CBS TV movie. Is NCIS agent Leroy Gibbs yet another nice guy with a dark side?
"I don't know what Gibbs's underside is yet," Harmon teases, "but I expect he's a nicer guy than some of the [characters] you're referring to. It's nice to play a blue-collar, hard-working regular guy. He enjoys being a public servant."