PAULEY PERRETTE IN NCIS
Fast- talking, tattooed and utterly charming … wait a minute, is that Pauley Perrette or her NCIS character? As Guy Davis found, the lines can get a little blurred.
Now seven years into its run, NCIS – which follows the crime-busting adventures of the Naval Criminal Investigative Service – is not only continuing to attract a huge audience worldwide, it’s drawing even more viewers with each passing year.
Perrette, who is almost as animated as her highly caffeinated NCIS character, said: “ In television, that’s amazing. And extremely odd.”
“ We’re getting bigger every year. Season seven was bigger than six, six was bigger than five – usually shows will start with a bang and fade out over time. But we’re the opposite.
“ We had very little promotion when we began in the States but we’ve had this steady build-up of viewers. You see it once and you’re like ‘ What the heck was that?’ You watch it again to figure that out and then you’re hooked.”
The key ingredient, she said, is the show’s offbeat sense of humour, which she admits a lot of people probably wouldn’t expect from what appears at first glance to be a straightforward procedural drama.
“ That’s the secret: it’s a crime drama that’s hilarious. Nothing in life is 100 per cent dramatic or 100 per cent hilarious. Life will throw you a combination of both, and we acknowledge that on NCIS.”
The show’s intriguing line-up of characters, and the familial relationship they share, is often cited as another reason for its popularity, and Perrette said she was thrilled that Sciuto – a tattooed, black-clad wildcard with an irreverent sense of humour – is an integral part of the team.
“ It makes sense that she was this genius who was so completely capable and focused on her work,” she said. “ But the thing about NCIS personnel is that these people are civilians – they’re not military. It’s a federal agency but it’s not military, so they can hire whoever they want. I’ve heard people say ‘ You wouldn’t be able to dress like that in the military’. Guess what? She’s not.”
Viewers of NCIS have learned more about the show’s characters as the series has gone along, but the makers of the program have resisted any urge to take them in unexpected new directions, something Perrette appreciates.
“ There haven’t been wild changes with Abby, and I like that,” she said.
“ I think there’s something cool about her consistency. I mean, she’s already the smartest person in the world, and every week we’re finding out something new about her – some new hobby, some new talent. So it’s a matter of just uncovering new layers rather than changing the essence of the character.”
That uncovering of new layers has resulted in the character displaying some hitherto unrevealed talents … and Perrette rapidly picking up a few new skills of her own.
“ They try to throw me as many curveballs as they can,” she laughed. “ Over the last seven years, I’ve lost count.
“ During the first year of the show I was at home studying my lines when I got a phone call – ‘ Oh, by the way, we’re going to have Abby doing her lines in sign language, so there’s a guy coming over to teach you sign language’. My doorbell rang, and sure enough there’s a guy to teach me sign language.
“ And I’ll get scripts where Abby’s on rollerskates or turning cartwheels or doing yoga – there’s always something, and that’s great.”
Q&A WITH HAMISH&ANDY
At your service: Inset, the cast of naval investigators. Web of intrigue: Kat Stewart’s illustrious
co-stars include ( clockwise from top left) Ben Mendelsohn ( as Vince), Justine Clarke ( as Ally), Matt Day ( as Gabriel) and
Catherine McClements ( as Christine).