It all started with a photo. Pauley Perrette as a little girl – curious eyes, precious smile, and an unstoppable spirit that radiated even through a moment frozen in time. Gary Glasberg took one look at that picture, and he knew the story of little Abby on her first case could be magic. When he asked me to go along for the ride, I was thrilled. I was a kid in a Goth candy store. What would little Abby be like? What kinds of treasures would fill her room? How would remembering an experience from her past affect Abby in the present?
It's easy to see why Abby Sciuto is one of the most beloved characters on television. Beautiful, brilliant, passionate, whimsical, and a heart of gold to boot. We knew that finding someone to embody these qualities in her younger form was going to be no simple task. But Brighton Sharbino was up to the challenge. Alongside Cole Sand's adorable Luca, Brighton brought little Abby to life with more nuance and vivacity than we ever could have dreamed. And alongside our remarkable core cast, Pauley herself wove a stunning performance. Let's face it – the reason we love Abby is because we love Pauley.
But this episode was special for another reason, as well...
It all started with Season One. Dennis Smith directed his very first episode of NCIS, High Seas. Fast-forward nine more seasons, and Hit and Run marks Dennis' 50th episode of the show. That's five-zero. And that's amazing. To celebrate, I thought you might enjoy a little segment I like to call, "Five Questions with Dennis Smith."
1. When did you know that you wanted to direct?
I started out as a Director of Photography. Directing came to me in the form of Tom Skerritt and Kathy Baker, who told me on "Picket Fences" that I would make a good director.
2. What's your preparation process for directing an episode of NCIS?
Make the story track and make sense to me, track each character's through-line. I let the story drive everything.
3. Can you tell us about a memorable moment that happened while you were on set?
When I realized that the actress playing "Little Abby" could handle the complicated staging and characterization I'd given her. A big challenge for a young actor.
4. What's the hardest thing about directing NCIS? What's the best thing about it?
Hardest: Making every episode the best one I've ever done. Best: Working with this great cast of actors and crew.
5. How was directing your first NCIS episode different from directing your 50th?
My first episode was a blur the first two days. It was a bit overwhelming. New cast, sets, crew, and trying to find everyone's strengths and weaknesses. My 50th came with many more years of experience to draw upon. But the responsibility to the show and all involved to deliver a great story is always huge.
Congrats, Dennis! And from everyone here at NCIS to each of you out there – we hope you enjoy watching Hit and Run as much as we enjoyed making it.
Gina Lucita Monreal