Pauley Perrette, NCIS
As the hip forensic specialist Abby Sciuto on CBS' NCIS (Tuesdays at 8 pm/ET), Pauley Perrette lends an air of edginess to the sometimes-staid HQ. The charmingly quirky actress and aspiring documentarian chatted with us about Abby's road to forensic fame.

TV Guide: So what's your character's real appeal?
Pauley Perrette:
I think part of it is that she's supersmart. I want to be her when I grow up. She's certainly not your typical one-dimensional anything: scientist, alternative person or genius. She's like the girl next door — in chains and a choker collar. [Laughs]

TV Guide: In tonight's case, you examine a tattoo in the lab. How many does Abby have?
Perrette:
Abby has a lot of tattoos. She has more than I do. I think I have 10. It's the only job I've ever had where my bosses are excited when I get new tattoos!

TV Guide: Is the spider web on your neck real?
Perrette:
That one belongs to [creator] Donald P. Bellisario. [Laughs] [It's] so that no matter what I'm wearing, there's a very visible tattoo.

TV Guide: You must have a lot of Goth fans.
Perrette:
Yeah. It's great. Especially when I have young girls who see it as "Goth girl being smart." Don told me that when he wrote Magnum, P.I., he wanted to show a different example of a Vietnam vet, and when he wrote Abby, he wanted to show alternative culture, but someone who is smart and good at her job. I tend to never use "Goth." I don't want to pigeonhole her.

TV Guide: What do you see for her this year?
Perrette:
Apparently, this season, everybody has secrets. And I want to know as much as everybody else what Abby's secret is! [Laughs] I don't think it's just gonna be a hidden tattoo.

Procedurals fans, be sure not to miss the new TV Guide, featuring CSI's Jorja Fox and William Petersen on the cover.

Send your comments on this Q&A to letters@tvguide.com.