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I was excited. My second script at NCIS. Gary could’ve told me to write an episode about a brick wall, and I would’ve been all over it. What’s this wall’s story? Is it hiding some kind of evidence? Does it remind Ducky of an interesting little tidbit concerning Edinburgh’s Flodden Wall, erected in the 16th century following the— Luckily for all of us, Gary wasn’t thinking walls at all. He was thinking a joint NCIS/PsyOps mission, the return of Jamie Lee Curtis’ Dr. Samantha Ryan, and the blooming of Gibbs’ relationship with this intriguing woman. I couldn’t wait to sink my teeth in. This script was an absolute makes-your-brain-hurt joy to write. But as we started production, it dawned on me that the words on paper certainly weren’t the only script in this process.
Director Tom Wright, for instance, wrote his amazing script just before we started shooting. A one-time storyboard artist for Alfred Hitchcock, Tom drew out every shot in the episode. During production, I watched him continually consult his “script” like he was reading some beautiful, foreign language. You can see the fruits of his labor in the interesting compositions and underlying energy throughout the episode. That energy is also due to a fabulous script written by editor Greg Gontz. Editing is often called the final rewrite, and Greg is one heck of a writer. The tension and tenderness he built into his script were remarkable.
And let’s not forget the actors. Not only do they write using the intention and emotion they bring to the dialogue, they also flesh out backstory, occurrences between scenes, and life between words. Thanks to scripts by William Russ, J. Claude Deering, John Prosky, and Lauren Hodges, we saw real people onscreen instead of characters on a page. Sean Astin’s writing gave us a faceted, fast-talking, lovable investigator, and Matt Craven’s work brought SecNav’s depth and intensity to new places. Jamie Lee Curtis wrote Ryan with such a complexity and glow that it was truly a treat to see what our favorite NCIS team members played in response. Michael Weatherly, Cote de Pablo, Pauley Perrette, Sean Murray, and Rocky Carroll shined as always, and the twinkle David McCallum put in Ducky’s eye was irresistible. Then we have our beloved Mark Harmon. When he impatiently cracked his neck in the interview scene with Wickes, no one on set could keep a straight face. Mark infused the perfect mix of comedy, strength, and vulnerability into his script for this episode. What can I say? The man can write.
Truth is, this little blog entry doesn’t begin to give credit to all the scripts that go into a single episode. “Written by” is a team sport… and I’m so grateful to be on this team. I hope you enjoy the many scripts of The Tell.
Gina Lucita Monreal