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The Road to Deeks


How ECO’s Early Roles Shaped the Character of Marty Deeks

There’s one thing that fans of NCIS:LA and Detective Marty Deeks know for certain, that we could imagine no one but Eric Christian Olsen (aka ECO) in the role. Olsen has the ability to bring levity to an otherwise serious show through his comedic skills, while also possessing the dramatic acting talents to handle the most serious of situations that Deeks may find himself in. Sure most of this is pure talent that ECO was probably just born with, but it’s also interesting to take a look at his past roles to see how they may have contributed to the skillset that ECO needs to portray everyone’s favorite LAPD Detective.

Cameron Green in Get Real

ECO-GetRealOne of ECO’s first major roles was on the short-lived FOX dramedy Get Real. Eric played Cameron, the older of two brothers in the semi-dysfunctional Green family of Los Angeles and starred alongside other soon to be stars Anne Hathaway and Jesse Eisenberg. Marty Deeks has been known to have a way with the ladies, and it may have all started for ECO with Cameron. He was your basic self-absorbed 16 year old boy whose favorite pastime was picking up girls. But just like Deeks, while it’d be easy to see him as only two-dimensional, Cameron would turn around and stick up for his younger brother and show a more complex and dramatic side to him. Get Real seems to have been a great first starring role for ECO and Cameron had just the right mix of comedy and drama that would prove to be beneficial when he got the role of Marty Deeks.

Lloyd Christmas in Dumb and Dumberer

ECO-DumbAndDumbererEveryone makes mistakes. It’s just part of life and part of growing up, especially as an artist. After Get Real, Eric made the jump to the big screen and garnered what could have been one of his most prolific roles, starring in the Farrelly brothers prequel to Dumb and Dumber. However, the movie was poorly received and ECO himself has said in the past that it was unwatchable. Nevertheless, we have to think that his comedic skills got some work in and he gained experience trying to emulate Jim Carrey. Hey, if nothing else, ECO got to costar with comedic greats such as Eugene Levy and Cheri Oteri, from which he could gain knowledge about honing those comedic skills of his that he channels so well as Deeks and his many undercover personas.

Sully Sullivan in The Loop

ECO-TheLoop2After appearing in other movies such as Beerfest, The Last Kiss and Cellular, ECO returned to the small screen in the comedy series The Loop playing Sully Sullivan. Sully was the carefree and jobless older brother to the main character Sam. We all know how much Deeks loves to get a great surf in when he can and while he may look the part with his shaggy blonde hair, Deeks is not your typical surfer dude. No, the typical surfer dude was Sully and ECO played this California airhead to perfection. Sully could often be found trying to hold down odd jobs while partying it up and this often added humor to the show as he butted heads with his much more serious and career focused brother Sam. I guess we can see why ECO is so at home with having Deeks clash with a “Sam” of his own. It’s not his first time at this rodeo.

Nick Brady in Fired Up!

ECO-FiredUpAfter finishing up on The Loop, ECO got another starring role on the big screen, as high school football star Nick Brady in Fired Up! In the film, two high school football stars decide to ditch football camp in favor of cheerleading camp. Once again ECO found himself playing a role where the character’s sole focus was on how to get girls. We all know Deeks claims to be a ladies man and we’ve seen evidence of this when he’s been undercover (hello Max Gentry!) so I’m sure roles like this have attributed to ECO successfully playing that side of Deeks. Nick Brady was also yet another role that found ECO playing a lovable stoner. It seems that having the shaggy blonde hair may have led to him getting typecast. However this character also had the ability to come off as very sharp witted and intelligent. Hmmm sound like another goofy, silly yet highly intelligent LAPD Detective we know?

Vaughn Miller in Community

ECO-CommunityJust as ECO was getting ready to begin his stint on NCIS:LA, he did a brief 6 episode stint during the first season of the NBC comedy Community. He played Vaughn, a hippie style character that was often seen around the community college campus playing hackey sack and his guitar while mostly barefoot and shirtless. The latter fact being something that was often brought up and mocked. Vaughn first was on the scene as Britta’s boyfriend and then later moved on and dated Annie. It’s easy to see Vaughn as yet another take on the typical laid back, surfer dude that ECO has played so many times before. But there was more to Vaughn than meets the eye. Once he found out the study group was mocking him, whether it be for his tendency to greet and say goodbye three different ways or the fact that he had “tiny nipples”, another side of Vaughn came out. We’ve seen it before with Deeks and Vaughn was no different. ECO has a way of emoting pain and seriousness through just a look and at times it was painful to watch the study group have laughs at Vaughn’s expense. Vaughn soon moved on from Greendale but he’ll always be one of my favorite recurring characters on the show.

This has been a look at a short sampling of the many roles ECO has had during his career (not to forget Local Boys, The Last Kiss, Beerfest, The Thing, etc). In looking back at these roles it seems that producers couldn’t have picked a better actor to play a “surfer dude” detective that joins NCIS:LA. ECO certainly has experience with that part of Deeks character but it’s safe to say that each role we’ve examined in his career was multi-faceted. There are many layers to the “Deeks onion” and ECO has proven to be very adept at unpeeling each of those. In a season that began with a whole new serious side to Deeks as he dealt with PTSD, to being in love and finally “getting the girl” with Kensi and now having to be strong while she’s away, Deeks has run the gamut of emotions. I for one, can imagine no other actor in the role than Eric and I can’t wait to see what’s in store for fans in the future!

Which ECO movie or TV role is your favorite and how did they help shape the role of Deeks? Leave us your comments below.


BridgetBridget Liszewski is a staff writer for Show Ratings TV. You can join her in the NCISLA discussion HERE.  Follow Bridget on Twitter: @BridgetOnTV

About Bridget Liszewski (7 Articles)
Bridget Liszewski can be found on Twitter at @BridgetOnTV.

13 Comments on The Road to Deeks

  1. Thanks so much Bridget! Great insight into his character development. I watched him in “Local Boys” where he also played a surfer but he was very serious. It was one of his earlier films but I was really impressed with his ability to convey his feelings through looks and body language and not just his lines. In “Death Valley” he also played a serious character who outwitted the people who were trying to kill him and his friends. It was very bloody and there was very little to smile about but I thought he did a good job breaking out of the roles he usually got because of typecasting.
    Again, great job! I love the pic from “the Last Kiss”. That was not my favorite role but I must admit, he was very nice to look at!


  2. I work at a video store and you’d be surprised how often Dumb and Dumberer is actually rented. Its really quite popular. And I grin every time someone rents it or any of his other movies or NCISLA. Fired Up is another popular rental.

    I agree with Kadiedid, his more serious roles played a huge part in this. I adore that he can make you feel the part he plays so effortlessly, whether it be humor or emotions. Someone who can make you feel so much is a top class actor. And we know Eric is a top class actor.


    • Oh and I forgot to add that performance on ER, that was so heartfelt.


    • There are still video stores near you Sue?? Just teasing! 🙂

      I’m sure Dumb & Dumberer is one of those movies that guys can rent over and over and find humor in. 🙂 He’s definitely got a huge range of talent and I love when we get to see his serious side as well!


  3. Nice insights! I too agree with Kadiedid. The serious emotional side he portrayed in “Local Boys” is probably my favorite. The end scene with Mark Harmon left me breathless. I’m glad NCISLA has given ECO the opportunity to showcase all of his acting talents, not just the comedy. When Deeks first arrived I doubt any of us expected the depth he’s shown, especially in season 5. We are truly lucky fans!


  4. Great article Gayle! ECO has such amazing range, from the silly to the serious. My favorite early role is the one Kadiedid mentioned in Local Boys. His character was a laid back surfer who carried a lot of anger over losing his father, and I definitely see some of that anger in Deeks’ darker side. Like Gayle, I loved that last scene (in my head it’s “the lawnmower scene”)- so good. But I also loved silly, singing Vaughn in Community- what an adorable airhead.


  5. I missed his stint on Community so I do need to sort watching it.
    My favourite is “Not another teen movie” because that character has Deeks’ cockiness down to a tee. ECO throwing the football and crushing the drink can, awesome.
    The best bit – the guy that played his dad in the movie played Bates, Deeks’ LAPD boss.


  6. Excellent article as always, Bridget. You truly highlighted the range of ECO’s talents.


  7. Bridget, I appreciate the analysis of Eric Christian Olsen’s career as you have tracked it. I think that the variety of roles you cite is a great testimony of ECO’s superb ability and versatility as a character actor. He mastered the preppie role in “Fired Up,” and the surfer dude role in “Local Boys,” as well as the role of the perpetually horny Kenny in “The Last Kiss” and the ultra laid-back stoner-type Sully Sullivan in “The Loop.”

    These roles, along with his other character roles are good examples of how ECO could draw upon his various life experiences. I sense that he had fun putting himself into these roles, all of which served to season him as a professional actor.

    When it comes to Detective Marty Deeks, I think that we’re dealing with something completely different and unique from his previous roles. Rather than being another character actor-type role, I believe that Marty Deeks falls more into the category of a method actor-type role. It might not have started out that way; however, this is what appears to have happened.

    I make this statement based upon the interviews I’ve seen with ECO, interviews with those who are associated with him, and other biographical material I’ve read. I’ve come to the conclusion that for ECO to get “into character” as Marty Deeks, it’s not a huge jump for him at all.

    ECO is Marty Deeks; nobody else could have fit the character. It’s like Deeks was something created especially for ECO. The sense of humor, the boyish charm, the high level of integrity, the stability, the personality, the care, the compassion, the athletic ability, and the MENSA-like level of intelligence are but some of the virtues Deeks and ECO have in common. Besides that, I think that most of ECO’s interests match Deeks’ interests; e.g. surfing, motorcycles, sports, etc.

    Certainly Deeks has an upbringing that could only be described as dysfunctional and even volatile. This is something that ECO would not have experienced growing up in a normal nuclear family in a Midwestern Lutheran environment. I doubt if ECO’s father would have told him “I hate you,” and I don’t think ECO ever shot his father, accidentally or otherwise. ECO’s close relationship with his family is probably something that Deeks would wish he had. The one major difference I detect between ECO and the Deeks character, is that due to his upbringing, Deeks appears to be very guarded in expressing his feelings and emotions, which he tries to cover up with humor.

    ECO is able to make Deeks genuine. The relationship with Kensi/Daniela is also genuine, and goes well beyond the camera. I’m quick to point out that this relationship is in no way immoral or untoward, but still genuine. Their interaction on-camera just cannot be scripted or faked. This dynamic is by far one of the most unique I’ve seen, existing on a variety of different levels. But this is a topic all its own.

    ECO’s experience as a character actor can be seen as Deeks assumes a variety of undercover roles. So it goes full-circle; ECO is an actor portraying a detective who is himself a character actor.

    Even though most of Deeks’ dialogue with Kensi is scripted, I think you could place ECO and Daniela in a situation as Deeks and Kensi, and they could ad lib the dialogue in character without too much trouble at all.

    Certainly all of ECO’s acting experiences have prepared him well for his role as Detective Marty Deeks. But his best preparation has been life itself, and the opportunity to present himself as he really is.


    • Dan, thanks for the comments and added thoughts! You’re right, I think a lot of ECO goes into Deeks and it shows. That’s one of the reasons we love Deeks, is because we also love ECO! I also think something that helps Deeks/Kensi on screen is that ECO/Daniela’s relationship is so strong off-screen. Great insights & thanks for sharing!


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