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Interview: Kyle Harimoto & Andrew Bartels on the Making of “Humbug”

NCISLA Harimoto_Bartel_Humbug_Interview

For those of you who missed our interview last year with Kyle and Andrew, we thought we would post it again as the network airs this special Densi holiday program tonight….Enjoy!

It was the moments all Densi fans had been waiting for… a declaration of love between Kensi and Deeks.  A vow of boldness and an affirmation of their love story finally took place on a skating rink during the final moments of “Humbug”. Just when we thought it would never be safe to believe in a future together for Kensi and Deeks, the writers and producers of NCIS: Los Angeles decided to give the fans a long awaited holiday present. The meltdown on social media was instantaneous and the hysteria continued even into last week as we got to see a more physical side of their relationship on screen.  We wanted to find out a little bit more about the backstory of this episode so we went right to the source(s). The writers of “Humbug”, Andrew Bartels and Kyle Harimoto agreed to sit down with us and answer a few questions regarding this iconic Densi episode and the progression of Densi’s relationship and how it all came together. Let’s see what they had to say….

On NCISLA there’s a balance between what happens in a single episode and all the ongoing story arcs… sometimes there is a recurring villain, a workplace development, or something personal going on for one of the characters. How do you work with the producers and writing supervisors to achieve that balance? In “Humbug”, what were your instructions regarding the developments for Densi on this episode? How specific do they get?

NCISLA Humbug collageWe approached “Humbug” as a gift to the fans who love following our characters’ ongoing personal storylines. Because of this, it seemed the perfect time to hit on a number of those stories: Callen/Joelle, Sam and his family, Kensi/Deeks, Eric/Nell – even Hetty and Granger! Obviously Callen is the character with the fewest outside relationships so we thought it could be interesting to explore where he was with Joelle, and more importantly to give the fans a glimpse of how Callen relates to her. That’s where we started in developing our episodic plot. The holiday theme allowed us to explore Sam’s family life and finally introduce his son, Aiden. And of course, we had to address the status of Kensi and Deeks relationship. In a discussion with Shane, it became clear we wanted to tell the fans definitively where Kensi and Deeks were in their relationship. And now you know!

What’s the process of co-writing like? Does one writer write and then another does extensive edits, or do you split up the scenes by character (one takes a scene with Callen and one with Densi), or is it more collaborative?

Co-writing on this episode was a breeze. We tackled this episode by splitting up storylines. Kyle took the bulk of the Kensi/Deeks scenes, and Andrew took most of the Callen/Joelle storyline. We then swapped scenes and gave each other our thoughts on them. There was only one fist-fight that resulted from this (but that was only Kyle trying to show Andrew how the end fight sequence would play out).

Fans loved seeing the annotated “Praesidium” script, especially the Densi scenes because it gives us some insight on what it takes to get a scene just right. Any chance you could share something similar for the “Humbug” kiss scene? If not, how difficult or easy was it to construct that scene, particularly knowing the Densi fandom was counting on you to deliver the perfect moment between these two characters?

Unfortunately, we don’t have an annotated script. But the most important part of writing that scene was to make it clear and definitive that Kensi and Deeks were going all in on their relationship. Fans couldn’t come away from this episode wondering, “Are they really…?” There would be no rug pulled out from under them.  

NCISLA Humbug DeeksThe process of filming has to be a collaborative effort between you, the director, and the actors. Can you talk specifically about what Eric Christian Olsen brings to that collaboration?

What Eric Christian Olsen brings to the process is honesty. He makes an effort to find the truth in each scene and each piece of dialogue. He understands how important that is to the show and to the fans. He doesn’t want to cheat them.

“Spiral” was actually shot before “Humbug”. How did you work with the script supervisors and Dave Kalstein to ensure the continuing stories would flow together? Did Kalstein actually write his script before you did?

We worked very closely with Dave, and we wanted to be very true to the characters – as adults. Knowing that they wouldn’t let this new version of their relationship affect their work as federal agents. 

NCISLA Humbug Callen Deeks KensiDoes it sometimes feel like there are two distinct groups of fans out there:  the vocal minority of diehard shippers who want character development, and the overwhelming majority who turn in each week for explosions and banter? Do you ever find yourself thinking about how one of these groups might react to a scene or an episode, or is fan reaction something you try to block out when you are writing?

We don’t see it as two distinct groups – more of a spectrum. And we believe the best episodes of our show include a bit of everything – character development, action, humor, and intrigue. It’s not just the fans who want to see all this; we do, too!

Big thanks go out to Andrew and Kyle for spending some time with wikiDeeks and answering our questions regarding “Humbug”.  We look forward to all their future NCIS:LA episodes!  Big thanks also go out to CBS Press and Christine Park for her assistance.

About Diane (404 Articles)
Founder, Writer and Contributing Editor of wikiDeeks. Always wanted to put together a talented team of writers and graphic designers who loved NCISLA and Marty Deeks in particular! My dream came true! Hope you enjoy what we have created!

15 Comments on Interview: Kyle Harimoto & Andrew Bartels on the Making of “Humbug”

  1. Rhonda Lara // March 2, 2015 at 9:48 AM // Reply

    Wonderful Insight!


  2. Wonderful BTS into how things are created and developed. So appreciate the crew taking time to provide us these additional golden nuggets. This is something that sets this show apart from so many others and demonstrates their commitment to and understanding of the fans! Kudos to Diane for another unique offering, which makes WikiDeeks a true champion of this energetic fandom!


  3. More Kyle Harimoto writing Densi…and I thought Bartels did a masterful job with Callen and Joelle..but, that photo doesn’t due him justice. He spoke at a conference I attended in LA and he’s a lot cuter than that picture posted above. Thanks Di for wrangling another terrific interview with our favorite crew.


  4. Great read. Thanks for the interview.


  5. As a big fan of “process” (how things are done), this article was so great. From who wrote what to how it worked in the schedule – this was just a great, informative read. Thanks so much to both the interviewees and the interviewer!


  6. Brenda (@bpnp) // March 2, 2015 at 7:14 PM // Reply

    Loved this article! Great to hear the BTS. Kudos to you for getting this interview and huge thanks to the writers for agreeing to it!


  7. Reader1976 // March 2, 2015 at 10:37 PM // Reply

    Great job interviewing Harimoto and Bartels. This was so much fun to read. I was wondering if they had an annotated script and you asked the question, Di! It’s too bad they didn’t. I enjoyed all the BTS on this episode. Loved this! Great interview and insights😄


  8. Thanks for this interview and many thanks Kyle Harimoto and Andrew Bartels for making all Densi fans’ wishes come true in “Humbug”.
    When I read back in December that the episode was supposed to be for every die-hard Densi fan, my hopes started to grow.
    Honestly, the episode went beyond my expectations because, apart from the beautiful ice-rink scene, which was alone worth-watching, we clearly understood, without doubts, where Deeks and Kensi stood and that they both wanted to move forward.
    After the frustrating first episodes of the season where their interactions were very ambiguous (were they together off screen? were they just friends?) we finally were rewarded with a moment of perfection!
    “Humbug” was a gem also because its spotlight was also on the other memebers of the team.
    I liked to see all the Callen and Joelle scenes. I would have liked to see a little more domestic Sam, but I understand everything couldn’t possibly fit with the storyline.


  9. hermionesmydawg // March 3, 2015 at 4:15 AM // Reply

    Wow, this is really great, guys.


  10. Glad so many of you loved the BTS stuff! It is fascinating and we hope to do more in the future. Thanks for all the great comments.


  11. Very nice interview. They sound like a couple of nice, down to earth guys.

    It’s interesting that several of the points they made about what they wanted to show were things that fans and reviewers have mentioned in the past: showing clearly where Deeks and Kensi stood with each other, not leaving us wondering what the heck just happened, being true to the characters “as adults” and not letting their personal relationship interfere with their work partnership.

    Whether these things were the writers’ idea, or whether they listened to the fans, they put together a well constructed and satisfying episode. Kudos to them both.


  12. I love this! It’s so great to hear that they wanted to give that episode to their fans and leave no doubts about Deeks and Kensi. It is one of my favorite eps of the whole series; not just for the Densi goodness but I loved getting to see a bit of everyone’s life outside of work.

    Thank you!


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