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?
We 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.
The 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.
Does 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.