Real Reasons Behind the Departures of Beloved Stars from NCIS

This demonstrates that NCIS being called the “most-watched drama in the world” is no idle boast. As a spinoff, it has significantly outperformed its predecessor, JAG. With more than 400 episodes to its name, the show has managed to keep audiences hooked by introducing its own spinoffs, along with a variety of cases and characters that allow fans to form deep connections.

However, like many long-standing TV series, the NCIS team has seen a revolving door of actors coming and going over the years. It often leads to speculation about why certain stars would depart from such a renowned show. Here are the reasons behind the departure of many stars from NCIS.

When Pauley Perrette expressed to ET Canada in 2018 that television had never seen “a character like Abby,” she was earnest. Perrette portrayed the gothic forensic scientist Abigail Sciuto on NCIS for the first 15 seasons before her unexpected departure. As she later explained to CBS Sunday Morning, the three-time People’s Choice Awards nominee sought a break and was uncomfortable with the fame associated with her role, describing it as “dehumanizing.”

Behind the scenes, there were significant tensions. The Wrap reported that after a dog belonging to Mark Harmon, another lead on the show, bit a crew member in 2016, Perrette’s relationship with Harmon deteriorated. Over time, Perrette made several accusations about her experiences on the show through tweets, and in June 2019, TMZ reported her claim that Harmon had “body checked her on set in 2017.” In the same month, she tweeted, “I am terrified of Harmon and him attacking me. I have nightmares about it.” TV Guide reported that CBS President of Entertainment Kelly Kahl, when questioned about the allegations at the 2019 TCAs, stated, “We immediately investigated it and we resolved it to everyone’s satisfaction.”

In July 2020, Perrette supported a Vanity Fair article that brought to light misconduct by CBS showrunner Peter Lenkov, who was dismissed. She praised the “great reporting” and revealed that she had testified hearing “racist,” “misogynistic,” and “homophobic” slurs on set, which she found “hurtful.” She concluded, “And y’all wondered why I quit? Those producers are still there. All of them. Including HIM.”

Before Michael Weatherly’s departure from NCIS in that spring season, he expressed to Live with Kelly his desire to explore different characters, suggesting that “the writing was kind of on the wall” indicating it was time for him to leave. Merely three months later, Weatherly candidly shared with journalists at the Television Critics Association’s summer press tour, as reported by The Hollywood Reporter, that he felt “burnt out” and was “ready for a new challenge.”

Weatherly soon took the lead role in the CBS drama series Bull, starting in the fall of 2016. However, he faced accusations of sexual harassment by his Bull co-star Eliza Dushku, who was subsequently removed from the series. The New York Times disclosed that the network compensated Dushku with a $9.5 million settlement. Weatherly provided a statement to The New York Times, reflecting on the incident, he acknowledged that his comments were “both not funny and not appropriate,” expressing his regret and apologizing for the distress he caused Eliza.

In 2012, Sasha Alexander shared with TV Guide that she found the grueling schedule of working “10½ months a year, 17 hours a day” to be overwhelming, describing the experience as “hardcore.” Don Bellisario, the creator of the crime drama, recalled to the Chicago Tribune in 2005 that Alexander had tears in her eyes when she confided in him, saying she “just can’t work this hard.” Bellisario advocated for Alexander with CBS executives, convincing them to release her from her contract by emphasizing, “You don’t want to force someone to work when she says this is not what she expected it to be.”

In a typical NCIS fashion, the series concluded with a shocking twist in the finale, a move the show is fond of making. Following her departure, Alexander went on to star in Rizzoli & Isles for seven seasons and appeared as a recurring guest star on Shameless. The decision to kill off Special Agent Caitlin Todd turned out to be a mutually beneficial move for all involved.

In that year, Cote de Pablo shared with USA Today that she was “not ready to talk about” the specifics that led to her character being written off as a regular in 2013. She hinted at a future revelation by stating, “someday” she would share the full story, emphasizing, “I didn’t leave because I wanted to go or because I was ready or because I was tired. I didn’t really have an option.” Speaking to ET Canada, de Pablo mentioned that stepping away from the show allowed her to “rekindle” personal relationships, thanks to the newfound time.

Although it seemed her exit from the series was not entirely her choice, de Pablo has maintained a positive relationship with the show’s cast and crew, who were delighted by her return to reprise her beloved role as Ziva. This suggests that her initial departure might have been more about creative direction than any discord behind the scenes. The show has kept the possibility open for Ziva to return again, hinting at future appearances.

In 2016, Jennifer Esposito became a part of the NCIS cast for Season 14, portraying Alex Quinn across 24 episodes. Her character was written off in the season finale of 2017, sparking speculation regarding her departure. Some recalled her previous collapse on the set of CBS’s Blue Bloods due to Celiac disease, leading to rumors that health issues might have been the reason for her single-season stint on NCIS.

Esposito promptly addressed these rumors on Twitter, stating, “No, I am not ill.” She clarified that her role on NCIS was never intended to be long-term but expressed gratitude for the experience and the new friendships she formed. Her earlier departure from Blue Bloods after 46 episodes was due to her health condition, with the network explaining in 2012 to Deadline that Esposito could only work on a very limited part-time schedule, which did not align with the demands of her role, leading to her character being put on a leave of absence. Esposito later shared with Dr. Drew that she was required to work more hours than initially agreed upon.

Esposito’s tenure on NCIS seemed to reflect a reconciliation with the network, ensuring a mutually beneficial agreement. Her brief engagement with the show introduced fresh dynamics following Michael Weatherly’s departure, maintaining viewer interest in the long-established series.