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When writing an ensemble drama, it’s a blessing to have an ensemble as gifted as this one. You can’t go wrong with Mark Harmon, Michael Weatherly, Pauley Perrette, Cote De Pablo, Sean Murray, Rocky Carroll, Brian Dietzen, and David McCallum. They play their characters to perfection every week. But with an ensemble, it’s sometimes rare that we get to focus an entire storyline on one character in particular.
In the case of NCIS Director Leon Vance, it’s generally accepted that he’s a tight-lipped, no-nonsense administrator, who can be downright adversarial with Gibbs. But there’s also great complexity and compassion always bubbling right beneath the surface. And in this episode, we leapt at the chance to explore that. F. Scott Fitzgerald said intelligence was “the ability to hold two opposing ideas in one’s mind at the same time, while still retaining the ability to function.” In other words, dichotomies exist for all of us, and Vance is no different. In this story, we had the opportunity to introduce his Achilles’ Heel: His brother-in-law Michael Thomas. Skillfully portrayed by Jocko Sims, Michael represents a character we’re all familiar with. What family doesn’t have someone who never quite lives up to expectations? Someone you love unconditionally, even when they keep breaking your heart? Vance is not immune to this dynamic, but how he deals with it reveals a side of him we’ve never quite seen. Michael’s more than a cross to bear – He’s a labor of love. And Vance walks a delicate tightrope between his beliefs and his ideals, his instincts compromised by what he sees versus what he wants to see.
Few actors can walk that tightrope better than Rocky Carroll. A master of his craft, Rocky brings such depth of feeling to each episode, and this one is no different. Again, we see a complicated and emotional side. And when paired with Harmon, it turns positively electric. We not only get to witness a match between two of the best, but also get to advance the relationship between Gibbs and Vance. The scene between them outside interrogation is one of our favorites. Also, special thanks to the team of actors who gave great performances as Vance’s family – Paula Newsome, Kiara Muhammad, and Akinsola Aribo. The grace and warmth they brought to each scene gave the episode real heart, and the last scene between Rocky and Akinsola ended up breaking ours.
And finally, thank you to the awesomely talented Terrence O’Hara for his brilliant direction. He’s a collaborator in every sense of the word. A true joy to work with on set, Terrence navigated the sometimes-tough emotional terrain of this episode with the utmost skill. Thanks also to Mitch Stanley and James Hightower for their fantastic work in post-production. These guys bring the scripts to a whole other level in the editing room each week, and we’re beyond lucky to have them. Last, but of course not least, thanks to the very best crew in television. You keep it fresh and fun, even in the wee hours of the morning. You are what makes NCIS a privilege to be a part of.
Nicole Mirante-Matthews, Co-Executive Producer
Scott Williams, Co-Executive Producer