In 2017, NCIS was declared to be the world’s most-watched drama TV series. Not only was this an amazing achievement in and of itself, but what made it even more remarkable was that the CBS procedural crime drama had held that title for several consecutive years — and, not for nothing, was also pretty long in the tooth by then, about to launch its 15th season. When the show’s 18th season kicked off in fall 2020, NCIS showed no signs of slowing down, remaining beloved by millions of fans as one of the longest-running and most popular series in television history.
Not surprisingly, during the course of all those seasons, there have been a lot of actors who’ve lent their talents to the show and then moved on, ranging from full-fledged cast members to recurring guest stars. Any fans of the show who’ve been wondering what those one-time NCIS actors have been up to since their respective times on the show will have all the answers, simply by reading on to discover what these former NCIS stars are doing now.
NCIS star Maria Bello made her debut as a screenwriter
Maria Bello joined the cast of NCIS in 2017 as a series regular, taking on the role of Dr. Jacqueline “Jack” Sloane. But Bello’s tenure on NCIS came to an end in March 2021, when Jack bid a bittersweet farewell to Gibbs (Mark Harmon) — and to the show as a whole (via Good Housekeeping). In a message she posted on Instagram following her final episode, Bello wrote, “I understand why this show after 18 years is the most watched in the world — you must all feel our love.”
According to her IMDb page, at the time of her exit from NCIS, Bello didn’t have any future acting projects lined up. She did, however, have a behind-the-scenes credit for writing the script for the movie The Woman King, marking her debut as a screenwriter. As The Hollywood Reporter noted, Gina Prince-Bythewood signed on to direct, while Viola Davis was tapped to star. Bello was also listed as one of the movie’s producers via her production company, Jack Blue Productions.
Fans also assumed that Bello was taking some time off to spend with her fiancée, Michelin-starred chef Dominique Crenn, who told British Vogue she was in remission after a lengthy cancer battle.
Pauley Perrette tried her hand as a sitcom star before announcing her retirement
After 15 seasons playing fan-fave forensic scientist Abby Sciuto, Pauley Perrette exited NCIS in 2018 came amidst a flurry of controversy. And while there was reportedly no love lost between Perrette and NCIS star Mark Harmon due to an infamous dog bite incident (via Vanity Fair), her exit didn’t burn any bridges with CBS.
This became clear the following year, when the network announced she’d be starring in a new sitcom, Broke, as Deadline reported. In the series, which launched in spring 2020, Perrette played a struggling single mom whose life is turned upside down when her sister and her wealthy husband move in with her after unexpectedly losing all their money. When the show was canceled weeks after its premiere, Perrette reacted with gratitude; her experience on Broke, she explained via Twitter, “restored my faith in people in this industry.”
Months later, Perrette indicated she was done with Hollywood. “I finally and happily retired!” she tweeted in October 2020. “And this is what I was looking forward to!!! My rules in life now are ‘if my #rescuedogs don’t care, it’s cool!’ I only answer to God and animals and plants now. WOOT!!!”
Cote de Pablo made a few TV movies before briefly returning to NCIS
One of the standout characters on NCIS was Ziva David, a former Israeli Mossad agent who was introduced in the series’ third season. Fans were truly shook when the actress who played her, Cote de Pablo, announced in 2013 that she would be departing from the show at the end of the 11th season, as Entertainment Weekly reported. Apparently, the network was also dismayed. “We offered Cote de Pablo a lot of money, and then we offered her even more money,” then-CBS chairman Les Moonves said at the time (via EW), claiming, “We did everything humanly possible.”
According to de Pablo’s IMDb page, her first project after leaving NCIS was a starring role in The Dovekeepers, a CBS miniseries based on Alice Hoffman’s novel. Since then, the Chile-born actress has appeared in a mere handful of projects, including the 2015 film The 33 (about the 33 Chilean miners who were trapped underground for 69 days after a 2010 mine collapse), the 2016 TV movie Prototype, and the 2019 drama Seneca.
She also made the dreams of NCIS fans come true — albeit temporarily — when she returned to the show in 2019, reprising her role in a multi-episode story arc.
Michael Weatherly left NCIS to headline his own CBS drama
In January 2016, CBS announced that Michael Weatherly would be exiting NCIS at the end of that season. As Weatherly told TV Insider after filming his final episode, he simply felt that 13 years playing Tony DiNozzo was long enough. “I meet 20-year-olds who were in first grade when we started,” he said. “Basically, their entire lives they’ve known me as ‘Hey, you’re on television, playing that guy.'”
It didn’t take Weatherly long to line up his next gig. Two months after that January announcement, TVLine reported the actor had signed on to star in a new CBS series called Bull, based on Dr. Phil McGraw’s pre-talk show days as a jury consultant. “It came about at the right time. I was burnt out by NCIS and I was ready for a new challenge,” Weatherly told reporters attending the Television Critics Association’s summer press tour, as reported by The Hollywood Reporter. “Sometimes change is as good as a rest.”
If there were any doubts that viewers would balk at watching Weatherly playing a character who wasn’t Tony DiNozzo, Bull put them to rest; in November 2020, the series returned for a fifth season.
Jennifer Esposito continued her film and TV career
Jennifer Esposito joined the cast of NCIS in its 14th season, playing Special Agent Alex Quinn, but she didn’t stick around for long. Shortly before the 15th season was set to go into production, Deadline broke the news that she’d decided to call it a day after just one season on the show. Apparently there was no drama behind her exit; as she wrote on Twitter, she “was not meant to be there long but happy I was.”
However, an interview she gave to Power Women TV may contain a clue to explain why she left. “I never felt completely at home as an actress. I love acting, but the business was just not something I loved,” she said, adding, “I thought I was getting into a very creative field, and it’s really not. … I felt very unfulfilled.”
Since her exit, Esposito has remained a familiar onscreen face; according to IMDb, her post-NCIS credits have included the feature films Mob Town and Speed Kills and recurring roles in Awkwafina Is Nora from Queens, The Boys, and Law & Order: Special Victims Unit; in 2020, she was cast in Inventing Anna, a Netflix series from Grey’s Anatomy creator Shonda Rhimes (via Deadline).
Sasha Alexander continued to work in film and television after NCIS
Sasha Alexander was a part of the original NCIS cast when the series made its CBS debut in 2003. However, she would up exiting after the second season when her character, Special Agent Caitlin Todd, was killed off. Fans wondered why she didn’t stick around as the show’s popularity grew, and series creator and then-showrunner Donald Bellisario explained what was going on behind the scenes that led her to be written off the show (shortly before Bellisario himself exited NCIS following issues with star Mark Harmon, as noted by Digital Spy).
“Sasha came in two days before I was to leave, and with tears in her eyes, she said, ‘I just can’t work this hard,'” Bellasario told the Chicago Tribune of why he persuaded CBS to release Alexander from her contract.
Alexander went on to further fame after NCIS; as her IMDb credits demonstrate, she co-starred with Angie Harmon in the hit cop drama Rizzoli & Isles, which ran for seven successful seasons. Subsequent TV work included Shameless, Law & Order: SVU, Larry David’s Curb Your Enthusiasm, and more.
Lauren Holly starred in a Canadian crime drama after exiting NCIS
After Sasha Alexander left NCIS at the end of the show’s second season, Lauren Holly was cast in the new role of NCIS Director Jenny Shepard. In a since-deleted blog post, she wrote that she’d become “bored” with the role by the time her character was killed off.
Holly continued to be in demand after her NCIS experience, according to IMDb, starring in some made-for-TV movies before signing on to the Canadian crime drama Motive, which ran from 2013 until 2016. The “only wrinkle” about playing the series’ chief medical examiner, Dr. Betty Rogers, was that the show filmed in Vancouver, while she and her family lived in Toronto. However, as she told The Canadian Press, producers were able to shoot her scenes on consecutive days, allowing her to commute back home every few days.
After that, Holly landed guest-starring roles on such series as Lucifer and Good Witch and recurring roles on the TV dramas Designated Survivor, Tiny Pretty Things, and the Hallmark Channel’s Hailey Dean Mystery TV movies.
Matt Jones headlined his own aerobics comedy
Cast in the recurring role as probationary NCIS agent Ned Dorneget in NCIS‘s ninth season, Matt Jones quickly became a fan favorite, appearing in a total of six episodes. As TVLine reported, the character met an explosive end in the Season 12 finale, blown to smithereens by a bomb during a mission in Cairo. While Dorneget’s fate was grim, Jones’ was not, as he’s gone on to find even greater success. During the years he guest-starred on NCIS, as seen on his IMDb page, Jones had racked up supporting roles on Breaking Bad, The Office, and CBS sitcom Mom, among others.
In 2018, Jones finally stepped into a leading role, starring in Let’s Get Physical, a Pop TV comedy set in the world of 1980s competitive aerobics. “My favorite thing about the show is that it’s so stupid,” Jones said in an interview with Vulture. “It’s funny and there’s nothing political about it. … It’s just a comedy. Remember when comedy was just comedy? That’s what this is.”
Jones returned to CBS in 2019 when he joined the cast of sitcom Bob Hearts Abishola, while also voicing a role in the Netflix animated comedy F Is for Family.
Jessica Steen returned to her native Canada to star in a beloved TV drama
Canadian actress Jessica Steen played a recurring role on NCIS, Special Agent Paula Cassidy, for the show’s first four seasons. Sadly, the character met her end in a Season 4 episode, when she sacrificed herself to save her fellow agents. “It was an honor to be on that show,” she told Showbiz Cheat Sheet in 2020, looking back on being a part of the early years of NCIS. “It is a remarkable success. It’s just unbelievable because it was a little under the radar and then it just soared at year 10 to all these spinoffs. It’s kind of incredible.”
According to Steen’s IMDb page, she’s remained busy in the years since her character’s death, although much of her work has been in her native land. Post-NCIS projects have included such Canadian-made series as Republic of Doyle and Flashpoint.
Her best-known post-NCIS role, however, is in Heartland, a CBC drama set on a ranch in the Canadian prairie, which launched in 2007. Sharing some of her favorite Heartland moments, the Toronto native admitted that working on the show “provided my first sort of experiences in this area in Canada.”
After Alan Dale's exit from NCIS, he joined a reboot of a classic 1980s soap
For the first two seasons of NCIS, Gibbs and his team answered to Naval Criminal Investigative Service Director Tom Morrow, played by New Zealand-born actor Alan Dale. The actor had previously played Director Morrow in JAG, the military legal drama from which NCIS spun off.
In Season 2, recalled The Express, Morrow accepted the position of Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security, with Lauren Holly’s Jenny Shepard taking over as Director. As The Express pointed out, Dale has never publicly discussed the circumstances behind his exit from the show, but it’s been theorized his character could have been written out in order to pave the way for Holly’s character as a potential love interest for Gibbs.
In any case, Dale’s entertainment career certainly didn’t stall after he parted ways with NCIS. As his IMDb page demonstrates, among his numerous gigs during the years that followed were recurring roles on 24, The O.C., Ugly Betty, Lost, Entourage, and, as a bit of a departure, the Betty White-led sitcom Hot in Cleveland. In 2017, Variety reported that Dale had been cast in The CW’s reboot of Dynasty, playing the butler to the wealthy Carrington clan.
Scottie Thompson returned to the NCIS universe… but as a totally different character
Fans of NCIS knew Scottie Thompson for her recurring role as Dr. Jeanne Benoit, a fetching MD who was being romanced by an undercover Tony DiNozzo (Michael Weatherly) in order to get to her father, infamous French arms dealer René Benoit (aka La Grenouille), portrayed on the show by Armand Assante.
She was last seen on NCIS in 2016, and Thompson’s IMDb page indicates she’s racked up plenty of TV roles in the meantime, including recurring characters on 12 Monkeys and Graceland, along with guest-starring appearances on Training Day, Castle, Grey’s Anatomy, The Blacklist, and more.
Thompson made a return to the NCIS universe in 2020 — but not as Jeanne Benoit. As noted in a report from TVLine, the actress guest-starred on the series’ spinoff, NCIS: Los Angeles, as a completely different character. In the March 2020 episode “Missing Time,” Thompson played DIA Agent Sarah Raines, who is reticent about sharing what she knows with the L.A. NCIS team after her superior mysteriously vanished while investigating reports of a UFO sighting. “Confident, all-business and a bit cynical,” is how Thompson’s NCIS: Los Angeles character is described.
Liza Lapira racked up an impressive roster of roles after NCIS
As noted by her IMDb page, Liza Lapira played the recurring role of Agent Michelle Lee in 12 episodes of NCIS between 2006 and 2008. Since then, she’s remained busy as an actress, racking up a mind-boggling array of roles in film and television. On the big screen, her credits include Cloverfield, Fast & Furious, and Repo Men.
Her television work, however, has been far more extensive; in addition to numerous guest-starring roles on series ranging from Dexter to Power, she’s held recurring roles on several series, including Dollhouse, Traffic Light, Don’t Trust the B—- in Apartment 23, Super Fun Night, Battle Creek, Cooper Barrett’s Guide to Surviving Life, Con Man, 9JKL, and the TV miniseries Unbelievable, along with a four-episode story arc on The CW’s Nancy Drew. Most recently, she became a series regular on the Queen Latifah-starring crime drama The Equalizer, which was renewed for a second season shortly after its launch in February 2021.
Lapira also returned to the NCIS franchise in a role other than Michelle Lee when she portrayed Araminta Jax in a 2019 episode of NCIS: New Orleans.
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