NCIS will set the stage for its upcoming New Orleans-based spin-off on Tuesday's episode (8/7c, CBS), the first of a two-parter that follows Gibbs (Mark Harmon) to the Big Easy. There, he teams up with his former colleague Dwayne Pride (Scott Bakula) to investigate the murder of a former NCIS member who was Pride's mentor.
"They were all together part of a group called the Fed 5, which was this very strong group of NCIS agents," creator Gary Glasberg tells TVGuide.com. "This is really a look back at who and what they were as a team. ... It was an opportunity to cast some really special actors to come in and help us, and have some fun with the folklore and the history of Gibbs."
As previously announced, Bakula's character will anchor the spin-off project and is based on the real-life D'Wayne Swear, an "eccentric, fantastic individual who ran the real office for almost 25 years" and is now serving as a creative consultant for the show, according to Glasberg. In fact, it was learning about Swear in his preliminary research that made Glasberg wonder whether he had an entirely new series on his hands.
"Last hiatus, I was talking to Mr. Harmon, as I always do, about story lines that I wanted to do in the coming season. I had learned that the office that's in New Orleans is very small and unique and was run by a really unique individual in real life," Glasberg explained. "And what started off as a sweeps episode quickly became a pilot pitch. We went in with sort of an elaborate pitch that included some music and all kinds of visuals, and really all about the city of New Orleans, kind of a love letter to the city. And the next thing I knew, here we are. It's been a lot of fun."
Should the new series get picked up, Glasberg said he hopes to fuse the strong military presence in New Orleans with the city's vibrant cultural elements. "The base headquarters for Marine reserves is located in New Orleans, [and] you've got Naval air bases spread all over the Gulf," he notes. "And that's all part of the jurisdiction of this NCIS office. So, from a story standpoint, there's a lot to do and a lot to draw off of. And then to have the added bonus of the color and fun and flavor and music and just the backdrop of New Orleans is just the icing on the cake for me as a writer."
It's unclear how much of the show would be shot in New Orleans going forward, but the backdoor pilot contains plenty of local flavor, according to Glasberg. Does that mean we'll get to see Gibbs wearing Mardi Gras beads? (Doubtful, but one can hope.)
"We really made an effort in shooting there to capture iconic imagery, to include local music. All the musicians that you see on the street are local musicians, and then we incorporated their music into the show," Glasberg says. "It was a lot of fun, because we were recording people on the street and using ambient sound. Just like when you're walking down the street in New Orleans, in the French Quarter, and you just pause for a moment and listen, we really wanted to capture that kind of sound and bring people right there, and make it a part of every exterior that we filmed there. That kind of effort and that kind of tonal specificity is what we were trying to hold onto."
NCIS airs Tuesdays at 8/7c on CBS. Would you watch a spin-off set in New Orleans?
(Full disclosure: TVGuide.com is owned by CBS.)