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[Caution: spoilers about upcoming episodes of NCIS: LA ahead!]
The cast of NCIS: LA got a bit misty-eyed at PaleyFest in Los Angeles Tuesday as they said words of remembrance for their late colleague Miguel Ferrer and talked about Kensi's (Daniela Ruah) recovery arc.
To boot, fans got treated to a preview of the series' March 26 episode "767," which ends with Hetty (Linda Hunt) giving a well-earned toast to Sam (LL Cool J) and Callen (Chris O'Donnell) after the duo pulls of a high-stakes act of heroism on a plane. Although Sam and Callen's daring, action-packed work doesn't prevent casualties, their quick thinking and training averts a big disaster and when it's all done, Hetty acknowledges that they've had a rough year and they're now focused on moving their family forward.
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It was symbolic for the series, as Ferrer's death in January was a blow to the crew. His co-star LL Cool offered up a sweet memorial to his pal. "I called him the coolest guy of all the time," the actor said. "He was amazing. A lot of people don't know he worked up until the millisecond [he died]. He came to work after chemo... he could hardly speak. He would fight through it. Until the day he died he would respond to group emails," he said, adding that executive producers R. Scott Gemmill and John P. Kousakis as well as CBS let him work until the end. They need to be commended for the way his character's disappearance was written, he said. "We can keep his character alive." The audience applauded.
Daniela Ruah began to get a little choked up when talking about Kensi's recovery arc. She said she had to research stories, and talk to someone who'd been through the same experience. She learned a lot in the process. "You don't always have strength," she said. "It's ups and downs. I learned something really, really important: It's really hard to ask for help, but it's important." Strength has to come from you, she said, but it's okay to hold someone's hand in the process. Renee Felice Smith nearly got emotional in talking about that arc, saying she was impressed with Ruah's work.
That somber and challenging note for the team is part of the reason Season 9 will be something of a reset, executive producer R. Scott Gemmill said. While it's early to think about specifics, there is a cliffhanger coming. "Sam's life is going to change. Kensi and Deek's life is going to change based on the finale."
NCIS: LA airs Sundays at 8/7c on CBS.
(Full disclosure: TVGuide.com is owned by CBS.)