27 Things You Didn’t Know About NCIS

Premiering on September 23rd, 2003, NCIS revolves around a fictional team of special agents from the Naval Criminal Investigative Service.

It is a spin-off from JAG, and to date has aired fifteen full seasons. It is the second-longest-running scripted and non-animated U.S primetime TV show, surpassed only by Law & Order.

The show has spawned two spin-off series, NCIS: Los Angeles and NCIS: New Orleans. 

On April 13, 2018, NCIS was renewed for a sixteenth season, which premiered on September 25, 2018. Diona Reason over joined the main cast in season sixteen, following the departures of Duane Henry and Pauley Perrette.



With it continuing to be a massive success, let’s look at some things you might not have known about the hit show…

27. Michael Weatherly also contributed music to the soundtrack

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When he was only 12 years old, Michael Weatherly’s wealthy father cut him out of his inheritance, after he decided to pursue a career in acting.

This didn’t deter him, and he clearly went on to have a successful acting career, portraying Anthony “Tony” DiNozzo in the series.

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The actor is also a musician, and has contributed two tracks to the NCIS soundtrack. These tracks are “Bitter and Blue” and “Under the Sun.”

26. Pauley Perrette is a fully-qualified forensics expert in real life

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Pauley Perrette, who portrays Abby, graduated from college with a degree in Forensics.

Little did she know she would be putting those skills to the test whilst also acting. Originally Perrette took her degree subject because she wanted to become a police officer, but instead she ended up becoming an actress!

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Producers say that most of the interests and quirks displayed by Abby are merely just Perrette playing herself.

25. Gibbs’ tools actually belong to Mark Harmon

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When you see Mark Harmon using the hand tools on the set of NCIS, these are mostly his own.

They are tools that he uses in his own personal workshop.

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23. Bert the ‘farting hippo’ has to be locked away at the end of each day so nobody steals him

Fans of the show will definitely know who we’re talking about here!

The flatulent puppet, which belongs to Abby, became a fan favourite and has since made an appearance in more than a dozen NCIS episodes.

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However, it seems as though some people who watch the show have become a little too attached to Bert, and have even been putting his life on NCIS in danger…by attempting to kidnap him!

Apparently, at the end of every shooting day, Bert has to be locked up because production interns try to steal it.

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22. Jennifer Aniston almost had a starring role in the show

It seems as though even the biggest Hollywood stars are fans of the show!

Jennifer Aniston was just finishing up Friends when she got wind of the new series and desperately wanted to try and get the role of Caitlin Todd. But executives had to deny her, despite the fact that Aniston was one of the biggest stars on the planet in the late 90s.

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Aniston wanted to play the part of Kate, and asked the producers to wait until she finished filming the final season of “Friends.”

Sadly, the producers had to stay on schedule.

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21. A pre-High School Musical Zac Efron cameos in one episode

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Before appearing in High School Musical, heartthrob Zac Efron had a cameo in an episode of NCIS.

He appeared in the 13th episode of season 3 as Danny, a young teenager who has Lieutenant Commander Amanda Wilkerson’s missing mobile phone.

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20. One DiNozzo line makes fun of Michael Weatherly’s engagement to Jessica Alba

It’s good to see that Weatherly isn’t afraid to joke about himself…

And we wonder how he felt when he opened his script to see this particular line from the show.

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Ine one episode, Michael Weatherly’s character notes that a certain woman is attractive, but she is “no Jessica Alba.”

Michael Weatherly was engaged for a time to Jessica Alba and starred opposite her on Dark Angel.

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19. That sound bookending each act is the show’s creator blowing into a microphone

It’s the most distinctive noise in any crime drama.

That thumping noise at the end of each reveal or act – every fan of NCIS knows what we’re talking about!

But what exactly is this sound? And where does it come from? We’ve got the answer for you right here…

The creator of the show wanted a unique sound to begin and end each act, when the scene goes to black and white. Notice the thud at the end.

This noise is actually Donald P. Bellisario making the sound into a microphone.

The use of black and white stills or clips are intended to add a cinematic feel to the look of the show.

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18. Family members play younger versions of the characters in flashbacks

You can’t say that Bellisario and co. don’t pay attention to details.

And that includes everything from the costumes to the flashbacks. Ever wondered why in all of the flashback scenes, the actors look so similar to the present day characters they are portraying?

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In a couple of episodes, there are flashbacks featuring a young Gibbs, played of course by Mark Harmon.

To ensure that they actually looked alike, the younger version of Gibbs is played by his son, Sean.

Meanwhile, Troian Bellisario, who plays Sarah McGee, is the daughter of NCIS producer and creator Don Bellisario, and his son Michael Bellisario took on the role of Charles “Chip” Sterling.

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17. The show originally had the lengthy title NCIS: Naval Criminal Investigative Service

Nowadays everybody knows the name NCIS.

It’s short, classy and gets to the point. But the show’s name has actually had an interesting history over the years.

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Before the launch of the first season, the show was titled ‘NCIS: Naval Criminal Investigative Service”‘ but when it aired, executives shortened the name to Navy NCIS. 

This sounded extremely odd because most people actually knew that the ‘N’ in ‘NCIS’ already stood for Navy, making it completely pointless.

Eventually, CBS decided that this name was completely redundant and the show became ‘NCIS’ as we know it today.

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16. Mark Harmon’s first-ever acting gig had him wearing a gorilla costume on the street

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During a radio interview, Harmon and McCallum were asked to reveal what their first ever acting jobs were. Harmon confessed that his first gig was wearing a gorilla suit and having to make gorilla sounds on the street!

McCallum got extremely nostalgic about his first acting job and recalled that in 1948, when he was only 12 years old, he performed as one of the Princes in the Tower on a BBC radio play.

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15. Creator Donald P. Bellisario was in the Marines with Lee Harvey Oswald

As we’ve seen, Bellisario actually had a distinguished career in the armed forces before going into television, and he uses plenty of his experience to produce NCIS. 

Furthermore, he also based an episode of Quantum Leap around the character of Lee Harvey Oswald…after spending time with Oswald when they were both in the Marines together!

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Bellisario came away from his encounter with Oswald convinced that the future assassin of JFK was a communist nut. Bellisario recalled: “I encountered him once and I never forgot him for a good reason. I stopped to ask him where I could find a duty roster to check out my buddies.

“Oswald was sitting cross-legged on the floor reading ‘The Worker.’ I sat down, surprised. You just didn’t see Marine privates reading communist newspapers 30 years ago — at least not me, a 22-year-old sergeant at the time.”

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Bellisario continued: “He looked up and made some inflamatory comment, the exact words of which escape me now. It was like listening to Russian propaganda on the radio.

 So we got into a heated polemic on communism versus democracy, which still stands out in my mind. To this day I remember his arrogance and his sneer. I remember our verbal battle, which went on for 10 or 15 minutes. As I walked away I passed another private and asked, ‘Who is that little (bleep)?’ He told me he was a harmless little jerk who argued and fought with everybody.

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“Kennedy was shot in 1963, about four years later, and when Oswald’s picture appeared on my TV screen, I came out of my chair. I said to my wife, ‘I know that guy!’

But I couldn’t remember where or when. The name meant nothing to me.

“When they announced he was an ex-Marine, it clicked in. I saw him sitting on the floor with the paper. I remembered the argument and his arrogance. It all came into focus. I was scared because I thought at first that Oswald being a communist might lead to war with the Soviet Union.”

14. Abby’s Caf-Pow energy drink doesn’t really exist

Abby is rarely seen without a cup of Caf-Pow energy drink in her hand.

In some episodes, viewers have even seen Abby wearing a special Caf-Pow hat which feeds her twice the usual amount of energy drink!

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But in real life the brand doesn’t exist, despite the fact that you can buy plenty of Caf-Pow merchandise on the CBS online store. Perrette actually varies what she drinks in each cup…

In the first seasons of NCIS, the actress preferred sipping on Hawaiian Punch during scenes. However, she made the decision to cut down on her sugar intake and instead her Caf-Pow became unsweetened cranberry juice.

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13. Cote de Pablo learned Hebrew for the show

Chilean-American actress Cote de Pablo really took her time on NCIS very seriously.

De Pablo joined the cast of the series as Ziva David, a Mossad special agent who obviously spoke Hebrew as well as English.

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To prepare for her role, de Pablo hired a language coach to help her pronounce all of the Hebrew words properly.

The actress also lent her singing voice to some scenes in the show. She can be heard singing a cover of a Tom Waits song in one episode from NCIS. Nice!

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12. The show is actually filmed very far from Washington, D.C.

Most fans of the show will know by now that the real-life NCIS headquarters are located in Washington, D.C.

Of course this is where the fictional series is based too, with plenty of references to D.C. and the surrounding area appearing in the show.

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However, filming actually takes place on the other side of the country in Santa Clarita, California (which is just north of Los Angeles).

On occasion, the cast and crew will relocate to Washington D.C. in order to film scenes outside the actual NCIS headquarters. But most of the time, filming takes place on the corner of Avenue Hall and Avenue Crocker, which contains buildings that house several NCIS sets.

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11. Mark Harmon got Bellisario sacked from the show

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Mark Harmon and Bellisario seriously fell out after the latter’s management of NCIS led to 16-hour working days and a “chaotic management style” (according to Harmon).

Apparently cast members were also forced to work six-day weeks for months at a time. Eventually something had to give…

Harmon talked to CBS executives and Bellisario was promptly sacked as producer. However, he still retains credits as the show’s creator and is still working with CBS on the Magnum, PI reboot. Meanwhile Harmon has become an executive producer on the show and currently earns $525,000 an episode. Wow!

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10. Sasha Alexander asked for Agent Todd to be killed off because she found the hours so exhausting

Speaking of long working hours, Sasha Alexander quit the show in 2005 in protest at Bellisario’s ridiculous workload.

Fans were gutted when Caitlin Todd only managed to last the first two seasons of the series, but there’s actually a very interesting reason behind Alexander’s departure from the show.

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She requested that her character Caitlin Todd by killed off in the line of duty because she desperately wanted to leave.

Alexander later stated that she found working on NCIS completely exhausting, despite the fact that her ‘official reason’ for leaving was that “she asked to be let out of her contract to pursue other opportunities”. Riiight…

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9. David McCallum didn’t take kindly to Harmon calling him ‘Illya’ after his Man from UNCLE character

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When Harmon first met David McCallum on the NCIS, things didn’t exactly get off to the smoothest start.

Before joining the crime scene drama, McCallum was very well known for playing the lead role of Illya Kuryakin in The Man from U.N.C.L.E.

Harmon went up to David and instantly called him “Illya” as a joke, to which McCallum replied “Good God, that was 40 years ago!”

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8. Some of the show’s opening credits is taken from the Harmon-Sean Connery film The Presidio

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Fans of the show will know that in the opening credits, we see an aircraft carrier travelling under a bridge before each episode begins.

This is actually a clip taken straight from The Presidio, a 1988 film starring Harmon and Sean Connery. Harmon plays a San Francisco police inspector who is investigating a murder on the Presidio army base. Gripping!

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7. Abby’s middle name is ‘Beethoven’

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Only the most devoted NCIS fans will have noticed this one – did you know that Abby’s middle name is actually Beethoven?! Very musical!

You can catch a glimpse of her full name during the season 12 episode ‘The Lost Boys’. Abby is filling out some paperwork and the camera flashes to her name, which reads ‘Abigail Beethoven Sciuto’.

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6. Harmon built his NCIS trailer from the shell of a 1972 Airstream

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Harmon has a pretty cool trailer to relax in when he’s not filming scenes for NCIS. Apparently the actor enjoys use of a reconstituted 1972 Airstream trailer, which has to be one of the most unique dressing rooms in Hollywood!

Harmon has claimed that some of the crew members helped him to make the inside of the Airstream good as new. Nice job guys!

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5. Real NCIS agents make cameos on the show

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NCIS tries to be as realistic as possible, often using old newsreel footage to make events on the show seem even more genuine. However, did you know that the series has also played host to a number of real-life NCIS agents?

In the season three episode ‘Frame Up’, Special Agent David Brant (pictured above) appears in a brief cameo talking to Harmon. Meanwhile, former director Thomas Betro appears in the ‘Identity Crisis’ episode two seasons later. Both men appear under their real names in the show.

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4. The different-coloured badges don’t signify rank

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Have you ever noticed that some of the agents were gold badges, while others wear silver? Well, it doesn’t really have anything to do with rank at all.

In fact, agents who wear gold badges are full-time employees, while those with silver badges are part-timers.

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3. Rocky Carroll is a trail-blazing character

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Rocky Carroll plays the role of director Leon Vance, a character who has flown the flag for diversity in NCIS.

Vance is the first-ever black director of the organisation and is also the longest-serving, having been in the role for over six years. Nice work!

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2. Gibbs has a comet named after him

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It turns out that some of the astronomers at NASA are huge fans of NCIS – because the show’s biggest character has a comet named after him!

That’s right, Gibbs has a comet named in his honour, and its official title is P/2007 T4 (Gibbs). Cool!

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JAG had a very distinctive Naval theme, which might have something to do with the fact that Bellisario was a Gunnery Sgt. in the US Marines from 1955 to 1959.

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1. One of the show’s creators features on the NCIS Most Wanted wall

If you take a close look on the “NCIS Most Wanted Wall,” then you might well be able to see a picture of Donald P. Bellisario.

Although the set decorators like to change the pictures on the wall, Bellisario has featured on their plenty of times – which might be an inside joke referring to his chaotic time as executive producer?!

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Donald is the American television producer and screenwriter who created NCIS along with Magnum P.I, Airwolf and Quantum Leap.

In the past it has included Ari Haswari (Rudolf Martin), Rene Benoit (Armand Asante) a.k.a La Grenouille, Harper Dearing (Richard Schiff), and even real life terrorists such as Osama Bin Laden, whose portrait was X’ed out with red tape when he was killed.

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