Erik Christian Olsen Erik Christian Olsen

Eric Christian Olsen remembers the moment he learned he'd graduated to "regular" status for the second season of NCIS: Los Angeles, after guesting on two episodes in Season 1. "I got the call while I was in Canada doing The Thing prequel," he says. "I was so excited they were picking up the option I was jumping around with a tentacle hanging off [my] back."

Deeks, an LAPD liaison officer working with the undercover NCIS team, is brighter than a lot of the characters Olsen previously played in films like Beerfest and Dumb and Dumberer, not to mention his shirtless dude on the first season of Community. In the real world, he relates to his current alter ego, who dropped out of law school to become a cop. Olsen was studying child psychology at Pepperdine U and hoping to go into medicine before acting intervened. "Everything in life is just a Robert Frost poem," he says — with one of those paths in the woods ultimately leading down the coast to NCIS: Los Angeles.

As Deeks, Olsen shares a good deal of screen time with Daniela Ruah's Kensi, which "allows a 'B' story line to be happening," says Olsen. That is, he and Ruah can follow one investigative road while Chris O'Donnell and LL Cool J follow another, "instead of the three of them always going everywhere." But c'mon — it also works because these two characters are hot for each other, right? Are they a Tiva 2.0? "Every relationship in television is a love story," he says. "It's a love story between me and Kensi and also a love story between Chris and LL and between me and Linda [Hunt]." Way to hedge!

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