Tuesday night was far from the first time that I’ve been incredibly thankful to be the only wikiDeeks correspondent based in Los Angeles. I was very lucky to be able to attend the 2017 Paleyfest celebration of NCIS: Los Angeles at Hollywood’s Dolby Theater. If you’re not familiar, The Paley Center for Media hosts an annual festival that features a variety of television shows. Each event includes the airing of an episode followed by a panel discussion and Q&A with the show’s cast and creative team. Before I give you the rundown on Tuesday, I should warn you of some potential – but vague – spoilers ahead…
A New Venue
There were a few differences between Tuesday night and the previous NCIS:LA Paleyfest event, which I was also ridiculously lucky enough to attend. In 2015 it was held in a relatively small theater at The Paley Center’s own facility in Beverly Hills. This time we moved to Hollywood, to the Dolby Theatre, home of the Academy Awards. I was amazed at how much smaller the theater looked in person, and how much less sparkly. It was actually a little on the drab side- I think they must really do a lot of set decorating for the Oscars. The good thing about the smaller than expected size was that we didn’t lose too much of the wonderfully intimate feel of the first event. They didn’t sell seats in the balconies, so the entire audience was clustered together in front of the stage.
A Jumpstart on the Next Review
Things started off with a screening of the next scheduled episode, “767,” written by Kyle Harimoto. I won’t give anything away, but I will say that again, it was wonderful to watch NCIS:LA on a big screen with an audience full of people. The jokes seemed funnier because everyone laughed together. The action seemed more cinematic because it was shown in such large scale. And I definitely enjoyed the episode, but you’ll have to wait until Sunday to see why. I wish I could say more but I think you’d all misinterpret my comments. Ooh, mysterious- sorry!
Emotional and Hilarious
The cast was introduced, minus Linda Hunt. I didn’t get the feeling she enjoyed herself at the last event, so I wasn’t surprised she skipped it this time. Another difference between the first Paleyfest and this one was the moderator. Last time we had Entertainment Tonight’s Kevin Frazier. He skillfully led the cast through a series of questions. This time it was a Los Angeles DJ named Ellen K. It was unclear whether she had ever seen the show, and she had come up with her list of questions by asking fans to tweet them to her. While most of them were quite good, the discussion tended to veer from one topic to another with only occasional follow-up questions from Ellen. The wonderful thing about this cast though, is that they almost don’t need a moderator. You just need to get them started and then sit back and watch them interact. [Everything below is paraphrased from memory, so be sure to watch it when it becomes available on Hulu for the full and accurate version!]
Ellen began with a question to showrunner R. Scott Gemmill about how Season 8 had been going. He talked about the challenges they had faced, both with losing Miguel Ferrer and with Daniela Ruah’s second pregnancy. He talked about the family that is the cast and crew, and how they had experienced losses (Miguel as well as someone from the sound department), but also happiness, with four new babies. But all in all, I got the feeling he was more than ready to move on to Season 9. He described it as being a chance to “reset” things. He said most of the ongoing storylines would be resolved this season. My interpretation was that he was anxious to fully put his vision into reality, maybe implementing some of the plans he had to put on hold due to Daniela’s maternity leave.
She moved on to other random questions, but after a short time, LL Cool J intervened to bring Miguel Ferrer back up. I was so glad he did, because to that point there was an awkwardness to the conversation because they had needed to fully address it in detail right at the start. LL spoke about how tough Miguel was (he called him Miguel Eastwood), and how he worked right up until the end, and was even responding to group email strings until the day he died. LL credited CBS and the showrunners with allowing him to work, and talked about how the way they left his character alive will allow them to work mentions of him into the show from time to time. From this Paleyfest and the last one, I couldn’t have been more impressed with LL. He is bright and funny, and I think a real leader too.
Another question was about Kensi’s recovery storyline, and Daniela Ruah spoke about how she had approached the part by interviewing someone who had experienced the same condition. She talked about she had learned how important it is to ask for help. She said that while strength comes from within, being able to ask others for help is difficult but vital. She actually got choked up while discussing it. She also shared that the sweet scene from “Home Is Where the Heart Is” where Deeks wakes up by Kensi’s hospital bed was written on the fly. They apparently called Scott Gemmill in when they felt things were getting too dark and they wanted to interject some hope into the story, and he drafted the scene on the spot.
Then Renée Felice Smith jumped in and spoke about how much she had enjoyed watching Kensi’s story unfold. She noted the ups and downs of recovery, how it’s not a linear process. Then she started to get choked up too. But leave it to LL and Chris O’Donnell to break up the seriousness. They hilariously started talking to each other about how moved they had been by their various action scenes, hugging one another as if to provide comfort. It was one of the night’s high points.
At some point the three Densi proposals came up, and Eric volunteered that the one with comatose Kensi was his favorite, leading to mocking and jokes from his co-stars.
Later Ellen asked a question about how having kids had changed the way Daniela and Eric approached their work. Daniela talked about how her son had come to work with her every day until he started preschool, and now her daughter comes. She spends a lot of time with the breast pump, whose sound she described in detail. Somehow this launched Chris and LL into another comedy routine, this time with Chris miming breast pumping with LL. You’ll really need to see this because it can’t be described.
Eric then responded to the question in a more serious way, talking about how having children had shown him that the capacity for love is infinite. What a sweet turn from the hijinks.
Mysteries and Hints
Another question was about the contents of The Box. No one seemed excited to talk about it, and someone said that to get an answer they would need to ask Shane Brennan. I didn’t get the feeling anyone was anxious to feature it any time soon; I think they want to leave it in the past. Another little-discussed topic was Anna. No one brought her up except that I think Chris mentioned her in reference to whether Callen would ever be happy.
We also got a number of hints about the end of Season 8. It sounds like there will be a season-ending cliff-hanger and that Densi will be a big part of it. Scott Gemmill talked about how Kensi and Deeks’ lives will change, and I believe he also singled out Sam. When a question was asked about whether we’d see more of Neric this season, Gemmill was less forthcoming, leading me to believe that we may have seen the Season 8 high point of Nericness with last week’s episode. The great news here was that everyone was discussing Season 9 as if it’s a done deal, and as if the whole cast will be continuing, participating in the fresh start Gemmill had described.
Who Said That?
Next a game was launched where everyone received a set of paper cut-outs of the cast members’ faces. Three “superfans” were invited on stage to play along. Ellen read a quote from an episode and everyone had to guess who said it. Some examples were “Sorry you got frelted” (Nell), “What kind of school gives out a hygiene award?” (Eric), and “Haters gonna hate” (Sam and Hetty). The cast tended to struggle to identify the quotes a bit more than at least one of the superfans. But at one point there was a quote about people being jealous of someone’s golden mane, and everyone immediately knew it had been said by Deeks. Eric leapt out of his chair in his complete certainty that he had uttered the line.
Questions from the audience followed. This time I wasn’t able to ask a question, so there’s no update on the status of “Deeks, M.” or any other Deeks backstory-related information to share. One person did ask about Monty’s status. Everyone seemed collectively stumped, as if they had forgotten all about him. Eric made a joke about really needing to go home and feed him, and another about how Monty was going to appear as a bad guy in the season finale. There was a lot of laughter and I couldn’t make out exactly how Scott Gemmill responded- it was hard to tell if Monty was too hard to work with, or had health issues, or that maybe he didn’t want to come out and say that Monty was (god forbid!) no longer alive.
Another question was about who had known about the moles’ identities and when they had found out. No one gave a very specific answer, leading me to assume that this had not been a storyline meticulously planned out from Season 5, but rather had been pulled together from the miscellaneous story threads only this season.
Time for Some Selfies
Finally they ended the panel, and the crowd descended towards the stage. The entire cast stuck around for a bit longer than the last time, graciously signing autographs, shaking hands, and posing for pictures. The selfie taking was made slightly awkward by the way the cast was up on the stage and the crowd was below them. Somehow Daniela managed to gracefully sit on the stage in her dress to better interact with everyone.
She and Eric were the last to leave, and they both managed to scoot their way down the length of the stage. It seemed that the majority of people who really wanted an autograph or photo were able to snag one. I managed to swap positions with a woman who was desperate to meet LL, which enabled me to give Eric a little something from wikiDeeks that we hope he’ll enjoy. Then I stepped back and snapped a few more photos. Eric was unfailingly gracious, as people yelled out to him “You’re my mom’s favorite!”and told him how far they had driven (in the Los Angeles rain!). He was particularly adorable when a sweet lady shook his hand and in her excitement almost refused to let it go.
A Great Celebration
Just like last time, I came away appreciating what a real family this group of people is. They are each incredibly talented, but what makes the show special is the chemistry between them all. It’s something that can’t be faked and it was so lovely so witness it in person once again. I know wikiDeeks reader sassyzazzi made the trip, so I hope she’ll share her impressions with us. I only wish you all could have been there.
All photos by Karen P./wikiDeeks. Please give credit.