On Nov. 7 (postponed from its previously announced airdate of Oct. 24), Susanna Thompson (Once and Again, The Book of Daniel) pops up on CBS' NCIS (Tuesdays at 8 pm/ET) as an Army investigator who catches the attention (or is that a-tenn-shun?) of special agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs (Mark Harmon). The versatile actress recently took a call from TV Guide to discuss what may blossom into a full-fledged love affair for Harmon's oft-taciturn, coffee-addicted character.
TV Guide: Cranky-pants Gibbs in love? Will this be the start of something big?
Susanna Thompson: I'm not sure where they'll take it, or how far they'll take it, but certainly they'll take it a couple steps further. I love the dynamic between the two of them. They don't give each other any slack.
TV Guide: How hot does it get?
Thompson: There's interest in the other on a suppressed level, or a hidden level, right now, because they're doing their job. But to get that out of the way, she's had to call him on some of his stuff, to say, "Look, you're going to have to trust me. If you haven't trusted other people before, you're going to have to trust me because we need to work on this."
TV Guide: As an actress, how were you able to communicate that kind of interest in him while also maintaining the seriousness of purpose of a lieutenant colonel?
Thompson: A lot is conveyed through the eyes and conveyed through humor. I think if there is something being felt and thought and the camera's there to pick it up, it'll pick it up. And so whatever is being felt, on so many different levels, it's seen. And it's not hard to do that with Mark Harmon.
TV Guide: NCIS is known to have a loose and fun set, with a cast that's fast on its feet.
Thompson: That crew has worked with each other since JAG. They like working with each other and they're respected for what they do, so it was a great environment to step into. They know how to take care of problems really fast, and the actors are just crack-ups. They're always sort of playing jokes on each other. Michael Weatherly and Cote de Pablo were doing this whole routine about what the show would be like in its ninth season, just spoofing the show. Those two, boy, when you get them started.... For me, I had to actually remove myself from it, but not all the time. I kept gravitating over towards their military advisor, this really strong ex-Marine. He'd come over and just very subtlety, very gently but with that strength and power of his stature just grab my shoulders and just say something little like, "Your arms are swinging a little too much as you go up that hill."
TV Guide: Your character gives Gibbs the opportunity for the first time to have some kind of love life in the present. It will be intriguing to see what he's like at the beginning of a relationship. We've really only seen the middle and the end of Gibbs' relationships, in flashbacks.
Thompson: Well, you'll see subtle things there because this first episode is just laying the groundwork. It's mainly about the case that they're trying to solve. But you see little moments of him holding the door, and his crew notices that. And I also think you see a sense of jealousy in his crew, like, "Who is this lady?" There's a real protective sense from them about him.
TV Guide: They all want to please Daddy. They all desperately need his approval.
Thompson: David McCallum was hilarious. I guess his character and Gibbs' are still a little bit at odds with each other, and so when I walk in, the doctor just turns all his attention to me, to my character.
TV Guide: It's going to take Ducky a long time to get over the fact that his friend and colleague Jethro left everybody and headed off to Mexico. To [creator] Don Bellisario's credit, he writes in these things to remind the actors that that's how people behave. They don't get over things in an hour.
Thompson: It's very smart writing. He's brilliant that way, because you need to give these people a backstory. You need to have a history. You need to help them to show up as real people. And that's how the writers and the creators can help the actors do that.
TV Guide: I can't have the Borg Queen on the phone and not ask a Star Trek question. Did you want to purchase a piece of memorabilia at any point during the recent Christie's auction?
Thompson: I used to joke that I was saving every piece of anything from Star Trek for my old-age pension.
TV Guide: For fanboys everywhere, you are part of the lore and legend. The Borg Queen is a humanoid we love to hate.
Thompson: I do realize that. Next Generation was one of my husband's favorite shows when it was first on, for its stories and caliber of acting. When I got a small part on Star Trek: The Next Generation, I could go home and just say, "Here's your gift. I did it, now leave me alone." But it unfolded into another Next Generation appearance, and into a Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, and then into Voyager. I had no idea it would be the first step on a path into Star Trek history.
TV Guide: Well, all I can say is live long and prosper.
Fans of CBS procedurals can pick up the new TV Guide for an exclusive behind-the-scenes look at Without a Trace's 100th episode.
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