NCIS Producers Open Up About Pauley Perrette's Exit, Mark Harmon tension, and the Void She Left Behind
On September 23, 2023 NCIS will celebrate 20 years since its premiere on CBS – and it shows no signs of slowing down. The hit procedural has been through numerous cast changes but Pauley Perrette's Abby Sciuto has remained a fan favorite, even five years after she stepped down.
Now, show bosses have praised the actress for making "Abby one of the most beloved characters on television in the 21st century".
"Don Bellisario [co-creator] said to me he wanted the show to have a lot of humor, which is where the Abby character came from," said co-creator Don McGil to The Hollywood Reporter.
"I was a huge fan of CSI, and I loved the Greg Sanders character. So I thought creating a quirky lab character, and pushing it a little bit further, would satisfy Don Bellisario’s mandate to bring humor to the show."
But former CBS head of casting could not originally see Pauley in the role, adding: "Personally, I loved Pauley Perrette as an actress, but I thought, “Boy, this does not feel like someone who works in a lab."
Pauley ended up leaving in 2018 and was replaced by Diona Reasonover as new lab tech Kasie Hines, but her absence was felt, as director James Whitmore revealed: "Diona was wonderful and brilliant, and the work is great. But you walk onto that set sometimes, and you miss Pauley."
The foursome were speaking to The Hollywood Reporter for an oral history with the creative forces behind the long-running show.
Pauley's exit at the end of season 15 at the time came as something of a shock to fans.
On the show, her character resigned after an assassination attempt, but it later emerged that an incident on the set of the show had left her feeling unsafe.
"In Pauley Perrette’s case, there was an incident with the show with a dog. The dog was Mark Harmon’s, and apparently the dog bit someone. Pauley was a huge, huge SPCA [Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals] animal person. And then the dog kept coming with Harmon, and she felt it wasn’t safe for the show," executive producer Charles Floyd Johnson revealed.
"By the end of that year, she just felt like it wasn’t working for her anymore, and it was time to move on."
Tellingly, Pauley and Mark, who played Robert Gibbs, did not share the screen together during Pauley's emotional final episode, and instead fans saw Abby bid farewell to her other colleagues at NCIS HQ and simply delivered a letter for Gibbs, watching him from across the street as he read it.
In the days following the episode's broadcast, Pauley took to Twitter with a series of vague tweets which referenced the incident with the animal. "I refused to go low, that's why I've never told publicly what happened. But there are tabloid articles out there that are telling total lies about me. If you believe them? Please leave me alone. You clearly don't know me. (Sorry guys, had to be said)," she tweeted.
The following day, she added: "Maybe I'm wrong for not 'spilling the beans.' Telling the story, THE TRUTH. I feel I have to protect my crew, jobs and so many people. But at what cost? I don't know. Just know, I'm trying to do the right thing, but maybe silence isn't the right thing about crime. I'm... Just... ?"
At the time, CBS released its own statement: "Pauley Perrette had a terrific run on NCIS and we are all going to miss her," it read. "Over a year ago, Pauley came to us with a workplace concern. We took the matter seriously and worked with her to find a resolution. We are committed to a safe work environment on all our shows."