NCIS boss credits this actor with saving the show (and it’s surprising)

NCIS has hit a major milestone. The procedural show recently celebrated its twentieth anniversary, which means there are people watching it who weren’t even born when it premiered back in 2003! It’s a testament to the writers and producers, as well as the talented ensemble of actors who have driven the cases.

That being said, there was moment where the future of NCIS looked uncertain. The Hollywood Reporter ran an oral history on the show to celebrate its two decades on the air, and executive producer Charles Floyd Johnson admitted that he was very concerned when star Mark Harmon decided to leave. He used the words “death knell” to describe the show’s chances of surviving if they couldn’t find a suitable replacement.

Is Gary Cole returning for NCIS season 21?

Thankfully, they did. Johnson credits Gary Cole with saving NCIS, and nailing the tricky balance between maintaining the formula and changing things up enough to keep the show interesting. “There were a lot of names bandied about”, Johnson explained. “When everybody finally decided we’d make an offer to Cole, we didn’t pitch it to him as, ‘He was going to become the new Gibbs.'”

The distinction was crucial, for both the actor and the audience. “We pitched it to him that he was going to come in and wasn’t sure he was going to stay with the team, so that he didn’t have to feel like he was stepping into the shoes of someone who had been there for 18 seasons”, the producer added. “[We] hit gold.”

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Johnson isn’t wrong. Cole’s character, Alden Parker, is different from Harmon’s Gibbs in terms of demeanor and general approach to cases. From the moment he was introduced in the nineteenth season, it was clear that he was going to bring about a new era of NCIS, and he’s done just that. Not an easy job, but Cole was up to the challenge.

NCIS has been renewed for another season on CBS, and the franchise has even spawned another spin-off, NCIS: Sydney. No death knells in sight, and we couldn’t be more relieved.

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