NCIS characters who left the show unexpectedly

NCIS key art
NCIS key art /

NCIS, the beloved long-running action drama, continues to captivate audiences as it gears up for its highly anticipated season 21, set to premiere on Monday, February 12, 2024, at 9 p.m. ET/PT on CBS. However, amidst the excitement of its return, we can’t help but reminisce about the past seasons and the unexpected turns that altered the show’s landscape.

Throughout its tenure, NCIS has bid farewell to several iconic characters, leaving viewers stunned and curious about the reasons behind their sudden exits. Join us on a journey through the untold stories and enigmatic departures of these unforgettable characters.

Uncover the mysteries that surround the surprising departures, shedding light on the behind-the-scenes moments that forever changed the dynamic of this renowned series.

Which NCIS characters left the show unexpectedly?

Michael Weatherly as Anthony DiNozzo

Michael Weatherly in NCIS
“Bounce”-When an old case comes back to haunt Tony (Michael Weatherly), he and Gibbs switch positions to solve the crime on NCIS Tuesday Feb. 17 (8:00-9:00PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network. Photo: Sonja Flemming/CBS ©2008 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. /

Michael Weatherly, known for his portrayal of Anthony DiNozzo on NCIS for 13 seasons, unexpectedly bid farewell to the show. The character’s exit was depicted as a poignant departure, leaving NCIS after discovering he had a daughter with Ziva, who was believed to have died in a mortar explosion orchestrated by Sahar Azam to kill her.

So, why did Michael Weatherly leave the show?

Reports suggest there were several factors contributing to his departure. Weatherly revealed a longing for the on-screen chemistry between his character and Ziva, played by Cote de Pablo, which significantly influenced his decision. Moreover, after dedicating 13 years to the role, Weatherly felt a sense of burnout and a desire for new challenges, prompting his departure from the iconic series.

Despite this departure, there remains a glimmer of hope for fans. Executive producer Steve D. Binder has expressed openness to the potential return of Michael Weatherly as Special Agent Tony DiNozzo in the future, keeping the door ajar for the beloved character’s comeback.

Cote de Pablo as Ziva David

Cote de Pablo in NCIS
BURBANK, CALIFORNIA – NOVEMBER 12: Actress Cote De Pablo visits “Extra” at Burbank Studios on November 12, 2019 in Burbank, California. (Photo by Paul Archuleta/Getty Images) /

Cote de Pablo, renowned for her portrayal of Special Agent Ziva David on NCIS, bid farewell to the series in 2013. Ziva’s introduction in the season 3 premiere, “Kill Ari (Part 1)”, marked the beginning of her journey, eventually becoming a regular cast member starting from the episode “Silver War”. However, her unexpected departure during season 11 led to only brief reprisals of her role in seasons 16 and 17.

But what prompted her departure?

Initially, the reasons behind her exit remained undisclosed. However, in 2016, de Pablo shed light on her decision, citing dissatisfaction with the direction of her character and the quality of the scripts. She voiced concerns about her character’s treatment, feeling that Ziva wasn’t receiving the respect she deserved. This led her to step away from NCIS until a compelling storyline worthy of Ziva’s character was crafted.

Her eventual return to the show in 2018 and 2019, after a six-year hiatus, offered a more fulfilling closure to Ziva’s narrative, delving into her pursuit of reuniting with Tony and their daughter, providing a poignant resolution for fans invested in her story.

Maria Bello as Jacqueline ‘Jack’ Sloane

Maria Bello in NCIS
“Fake It ‘Til You Make It” — After Reeves sees his friend get kidnapped, the NCIS team discovers the primary suspect disappeared two days ago with confidential military information. Also, an embarrassing photo from McGee’s teenage years becomes a popular meme, on NCIS, Tuesday, Oct. 24 (8:00-9:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network. Pictured: Maria Bello. Photo: Monty Brinton/CBS ©2017 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved /

Maria Bello’s portrayal of Jacqueline ‘Jack’ Sloane, the astute forensic psychologist who joined the NCIS team in season 15, came to an unexpected end after just three seasons.

But why did she depart?

The announcement of Maria Bello’s exit from NCIS came in 2021, coinciding with her character, Jack Sloane, bidding farewell after season 18. The reason for her departure was straightforward: her contract had reached its conclusion, and she made the decision not to extend it.

Despite the contract’s expiration, Bello returned to NCIS for the first seven episodes of season 18, ensuring her character received the closure she deserved.

Additionally, sources disclosed that Bello’s choice not to renew her contract was driven by a desire to allocate more time to her family, particularly to support her partner battling cancer at that time. Her decision reflected a heartfelt prioritization of personal matters amid her successful tenure on the show.

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