Viewers got their first look at NCIS A.D. (After DiNozzo) with Tuesday's Season 14 premiere.
Joining the team are Alex Quinn (Jennifer Esposito), a brash, no-nonsense agent who isn't afraid to make her opinions known to anyone, including Gibbs (Mark Harmon); and Nick Torres (Wilmer Valderrama), a former deep undercover agent who's brought into the fold after his sister's car is targeted in a bomb attack. They track Torres down in Argentina, where he's been masquerading as Capt. Miguel Lorenza, and he helps the crew take down the Argentinian criminal who was targeting his family.
According to Quinn, who trained Agent Torres at the Academy, he has all the traits of a sociopath, including instability, but he's the "good kind" of sociopath (does that exist? Discuss), so she decides to recommend him to replace Tony. Vance (Rocky Carroll) also endorses Torres as one of the best undercover agents he's ever seen.
After Quinn tells Gibbs why she thinks Torres and NCIS would be perfect fits for each other, he tells her he'd like to bring her on board as well — and not just for his and Fornell's (Joe Spano) nightly poker game. (Side note: I would totally watch an NCIS spin-off about Gibbs and Fornell's adventures as roommates.)
TVGuide.com chatted with Valderrama to see what's ahead for Agent Torres, and whether he'll be a great addition to the team, or a liability.
Valderrama: I feel very excited. I think it's a new chapter for NCIS. I think the fans are ready for the world to expand a little bit. ... And the audience, as much as they love the show, I think it's exciting to continue to love the show as you continue to explore. And having Jennifer and me join the cast ... it's going to be the same show but with a little bit of a different energy, a little bit of a different dynamic.
We got to meet Nick a little bit in Tuesday's premiere, but what else can you tell us about him?
Valderrama: There's a whole division of deep undercover agents that not even Gibbs knew was around. Nick Torres is someone that doesn't show up in any of the profiles or anywhere in the system in NCIS. He's an undercover agent that's been in the force for eight years. In the last six months, he went missing, and he's believed to either be dead or somehow given himself to the bad side. It's a very unpredictable type of job for these agents who are believed to not even exist. There's no record of them at all. So that, to me, is already a notion of where NCIS can go, the territories that haven't been explored.
We can already see that Nick's having a hard time acclimating to "normal" life. Will we see more of that?
Valderrama: For sure. He's going to be struggling a lot. He's going to unfortunately have a tough time working and playing with others. He's been a lone wolf for so long that he's going to have ... a little bit of trauma and a little bit of post-traumatic stress that's going to be manifested in the way that he assimilates, and all of a sudden returns to some type of team. The other thing that he's going to have a tough time with is announcing himself, anywhere. Wearing the NCIS jacket, wearing the NCIS hat, for him, he thinks about it as a bullseye. And it brings about a certain level of stress, and a certain level of troubled thinking that makes him unstable. To me, that's important, because that's a very realistic aspect of this job. ... All of a sudden he has to return, and pretend like for a year or two years he wasn't just somebody else, with 15 names and 22 different home addresses. You forget who you are. I think he'll feel a little bit of that. That's what's going to make this character so multilayered and complex and mysterious. We're going to keep him mysterious for as long as possible, because we're going to discover as we go, and we're going to experience through his struggle.
Does that make him a liability to the rest of the NCIS team?
Valderrama: Absolutely. ... He'd much rather break a rule than follow it.
This is a very different role for you. Did you do any research ahead of time?
Valderrama: I've talked to a few undercover agents. I talked to one that's actually in service right now. I talked to him under a different name, on the phone, didn't see what he looked like. But that was one aspect that I thought was really fascinating, the fact that it's tough for them to assimilate or come out of deep, deep cover where they become who they investigate. They become part of that world that they infiltrate.
What is his relationship with Gibbs and the rest of the team?
Valderrama: I think he's working really hard and being open-minded, and allowing the rest of the team to be part of his new beginning. He'll start getting along well with Bishop, and also he'll have a good dynamic with McGee (Sean Murray). His relationship with [Gibbs], it's complex, because in a way, Gibbs sees a lot of himself in Nick Torres. He understands the struggle. Without the job, Gibbs would probably fall apart. And for Nick, it's the exact same thing. If he didn't have this purpose, he wouldn't know who to be. So they can bond over that. They clash in the sense that Gibbs understands how to follow the rules and bend them when he has to, but Nick Torres would rather break the rules in order to get the bad guy. You're going to see the rough around the edges, and Gibbs trying to mold [Torres] into the right agent for his team. He sees potential, and he's going to give him a shot.
What do we learn about Nick's personal life?
Valderrama: He [was] in a relationship ... and then eventually his cover's blown, and he's forced to leave that life. And with that, he's leaving the comfort zone of who he was or who he thought he was for that moment, and he leaves someone behind. But at the same time, there's two things we know about him. There is a baseball, and then there is a picture of him when he was like 18 or 19 years old, right before he really enlisted. Those are clues to who he is. We know he has a sister ... but other than that, we know nothing. We don't know where his parents are from. We don't know how he grew up. We don't know anything. ... Right now he's a very unpredictable and very mysterious character that seems familiar, but then he flips it on you and then you go, OK, never mind. I thought I knew him.
Will Nick's backstory be teased out through the rest of the season?
Valderrama: What we're going to try to do is really take our time with this character and spell it out as we go. And that's the right thing to do. The show is picked up for the next [two] years, so we have time. We have many episodes to let these characters breathe. So we're going to allow for that to happen while still doing our jobs and catching the bad guys.
NCIS airs Tuesdays at 8/7c on CBS. What are your first impressions of Agents Torres and Quinn?
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