What better way to prepare for playing a coroner than to visit an actual morgue?
That's exactly how CCH Pounder researched her NCIS: New Orleans character, Dr. Loretta Wade. "I went to the morgue in Los Angeles," Pounder tells TVGuide.com. "I saw about 20 bodies being worked on at the same time. ... And all the people that I met before I actually got into the morgue were very, very cheery. Like, 'How are you doing?!' I heard them before I saw them, and there was lots of banter and chit-chat. And I kind of went, huh. You would think that people would come to work at the morgue like, (subdued whisper) "Good morning, hey ... Yeah, I got a couple of bodies to do today." No. It's about your wife, your kids, your family and everything else. And then they go to work. So I wanted to remember that — that it's a place of mystery-solving, for the most part, and trying to keep the families that have had a loss comforted and comfortable."
It was that energy and joie de vivre that Pounder says she was really drawn to when developing the character. Though Loretta is no-nonsense in the lab, she definitely has a more playful side. "Because she's working with death as a profession, she has a great sense of joy and a great appreciation for life," Pounder says of the character.
Still, she couldn't convince her co-star Rob Kerkovich, who plays Loretta's counterpart Sebastian Lund, to take the same approach.
"Production called us and said, 'We're taking you to the Jefferson Parish Morgue.' And I said, 'Great, let's do it,'" Kerkovich recalls. "So we went there and we're sort of walking around ... and then they say, 'You guys are also here to see an autopsy.' That was the first time anyone had ever said that to me, so I was like, 'Oh.' And then CC just says, 'Well, you know, I went to the morgue in L.A., so I saw one. But Rob, if you want to check it out ... !'" And everyone just sort of turns to me and I have to say, 'I'm good. You know what? I'm okay.' So I dodged a bullet, I think."
Kerkovich says he's "not losing a whole lot of sleep" about refusing to take the extra step, but he has had some second thoughts. "When is anyone ever going to offer me a chance to watch an autopsy?" he says. "Maybe I should have done it, because that's just something you don't get to see every day."
Check out the video below to hear Pounder and Kerkovich's take on their characters' "Mutt and Jeff" relationship:
NCIS: New Orleans airs Tuesdays at 9/8c on CBS.
(Full disclosure: TVGuide.com is owned by CBS.)