Dear Mr. Gemmill: An Open Letter to the Whole Cast and Crew of NCIS: Los Angeles
Dear Mr. Gemmill and the Whole Cast and Crew of NCIS: Los Angeles,
Over the fourteen years of NCIS: Los Angeles, I have on occasion expressed frustration over certain aspects of the show. It’s only natural- we can’t see eye to eye all the time. But today, I’m writing simply to express my thanks to you all for creating a show that’s been a mainstay in my life, and in the lives of many fans, for so many incredible years.
The West Coast Avengers
First, to the showrunners, writers and actors, thank you for creating the characters we loved. Our attention here at wikiDeeks always started and ended with one Marty Deeks, and we’ve written at (tremendous) length about why he’s so special (for example, see here and here). Suffice it to say, Deeks completed the team, gave Kensi someone who would challenge and cherish her, and gave us a man with a tragic and complicated past. We got to watch him triumph over that past, refusing to become his father, choosing to fight and sacrifice for the greater good, and proving to himself that he would be a far better dad than his own ever was. Eric Christian Olsen, thank you for perfectly embodying this imperfect man we’ve rooted so hard for all this time.
Then there’s Special Agent Kensi Blye, who gave Deeks the challenge of his life and in return, provided him the love and support he deserved. She was every bit as capable as her male colleagues and went on her own involving journey, not just bringing her father’s murderer to justice, but learning to trust after a history of abandonment and finding fulfillment with Deeks and Rosa. Daniela Ruah, thank you for making Kensi a completely believable badass and a woman of courage, intelligence and empathy.
The team wouldn’t be complete without its two senior partners, Sam Hanna and Grisha Callen. Callen sat at the center of the NCIS:LA story, a man with a tragic childhood who’s been on a journey of discovery all this time. I will miss his smirky and slyly hilarious sense of humor, his calmness under pressure, and his chemistry with Sam. Thanks Chris O’Donnell for carrying the weight of the show’s central plot. Providing a perfect counterpoint to Callen’s sass was Sam Hanna, who brought gravitas and a moral center to the team that would have made him a leader even if he weren’t so physically imposing. Dependably smart, courageous, and protective, he was exactly what Callen needed to mend his lone wolf ways. LL Cool J is a terribly underrated actor who made Sam the anchor for a team filled with people seeking the stability and, in the end, family, that he helped create.
Then there’s Eric and Nell, the two adorable geniuses who kept the team safe with their technical derring do and intelligence analysis. Delightfully played by Barrett Foa and Renee Felice Smith, they often brought a refreshing lightness to show, whether they were crashing the entire Internet or preparing for the next Renaissance faire. Kudos go to their replacements, Fatima and Rountree, two interesting newbies who forged a strong partnership before our eyes. Medallion Rahimi and Caleb Castille had their work cut out for them breaking into such a long-running cast, but they made us care about their characters and look forward to watching their partnership grow.
You all hit the lottery by bringing in Linda Hunt and Miguel Ferrer to add an old Hollywood feel and raise the acting bar for everyone. Hetty was the most unbelievable creation, and yet thanks to Linda Hunt’s genius, we believed every bit of her larger than life story. And we couldn’t help but find her intriguing even when she did terrible things to those she claimed to love. Ferrer’s Granger offered a fun foil for the team who over time brought a ton of heart as well. Our own hearts broke at his passing.
We can’t talk about great characters without mentioning some of our favorite recurring ones. They included comic relief like Arkady Kolcheck (Vyto Ruginis) and Anatoli Kirkin (the late and loved Ravil Isyanov), family like Roberta Deeks (Pamela Reed), and other good guys like Nate (Peter Cambor), Bates (Patrick St. Esprit), Thapa (Ernie Reyes, Jr.), and so many others. Plus there were some very scary bad guys we loved to hate, especially Janvier (Christopher Lambert) and Sidorov (Timothy V. Murphy). Over time you built a strong bench of fantastic characters who could pop in to add their special flavor to the mix.
Bromances and Romances
These characters on their own were each wonderful, but together, they were kind of magical. Who could have predicted that LL Cool J and Chris O’Donnell would have the type of chemistry that can only be described as a bromance. They were opposites in many ways, but brothers all the same. One of the worst impacts of COVID and staff cutbacks on the show was the loss of the opening bullpen scene, a never-ending source of banter and the perfect way to start an episode reinforcing that amazing team dynamic.
The other half of the “core four” were Deeks and Kensi, who drew so many of us into the show with their own special chemistry. You guided them through such a clear progression from dislike and distrust to colleagues, friends, an undefined and un-acted-upon “thing,” and finally an epic, “to the end of time and back” true love. It was, after, a love story. And we don’t take that for granted. How many other shows have given us a couple who clearly needed to be together only to keep them apart, or bring them together and break them up? Watching Densi find true happiness with one another was incredibly satisfying; we can imagine that it must have been tempting to introduce more drama between them, but we’re grateful that they always stayed unwaveringly loyal to each other, true to one another and to their own individual characters.
Darkness and Light
The show brought more than just fantastic chemistry. It had a unique tone, especially compared to the mothership. This team wasn’t usually trying to solve a run of the mill murder each week. No, they were far more likely to be preventing terrorist attacks on Los Angeles or nuclear holocausts the world over. Upping the stakes, and giving each case a ticking clock scenario, imbued stories with energy and suspense.
What made the show more unique, though, was the wide range in tone from one episode to another. One week we might get the broad humor of a “SEAL Hunter” adjusting his toupee after an explosion, or Densi bantering about the queen’s corgis running amok, or Sam and Callen hiding from a virtual, wheeled Hetty stalking the halls. The next week, the tone could turn in the exact opposite direction and take us to a very dark place. No one mastered the darkness better than Frank Military, who gave us wonderfully competent characters pushed to their limits and relying on one another to overcome the obstacles placed before them.
The widely divergent tones might not work for many shows, but it was part of the NCIS:LA recipe for success. Going dark every week would have made for a very different experience, one that might have limited the audience and been hard to sustain for so long. Going light every week might have made the show feel more like a sitcom. By giving us a balance of the two, you offered a little something for everyone, no matter their preference.
Boom! Crash! Kapow!
One of the show’s signature elements was its stunts, and in particular, its explosions. I’ve never seen a television show that blew so much up, often in spectacular fashion. The best explosion I’ve ever seen on television is, and likely always will be, the one from “Sans Voir, Pt. 2,” a jaw-dropping masterpiece that has deservedly remained a feature of the opening credits more often than not. On top of that, you gave us great fight scenes, car chases, and shoot-outs. In short, no show provided so much action, and it was always carried out impeccably, by pros who demonstrated why they were the best in the business. Thanks to all those behind-the-scenes experts who brought the booms and more.
The City of Angels: Co-Star Extraordinaire
To be honest, NCIS: Los Angeles didn’t capture my imagination at first. (The arrival of Marty Deeks made that happen.) But I kept watching because of how beautifully the show celebrated its titular city. The sheer amount of on location filming had to have cost a ton and made shooting the show so much more time consuming and challenging than had you stayed on the Paramount lot. (Seriously, you deserve a special reward for the time you all spent in L.A. traffic just getting to each location.) But it brought such a sense of place, and a real sense of celebration of this special, and often under-appreciated city. Whether you were at a famous landmark or in a random back alley, the fact that you were not on a regular set really made the stories come alive. Thanks to the tireless crew for all their work making these scenes happen.
We very much appreciate how you’ve handled the show coming to a conclusion. Not just this year, but for the past several, you’ve always sought to leave the characters in a good place just in case the renewal notice didn’t come through. We’re confident that will be the case once again as we finally say good-bye to the characters we love so much.
Enriching the Experience
There’s not enough space here to adequately thank Eric Christian Olsen for his unbelievable generosity and support of our little website. In fact, that’s going to have to go in a separate letter, so stay tuned, Eric! In the meantime, we want to say a special thank you to all those connected with the show who have generously given their time in the form of an interview (Frank Military, Brian Avers, Adam Key, Ernie Reyes Jr., Diana Valentine, Kyle Harimoto, Andrew Bartels, Erin Broadhurst, Rafael Kayanan, Dave Kalstein), facilitating our charity work (John Scott Mills), or making a cameo in one of Eric’s wikiDeeks videos (Daniela Ruah, Eric Pot, Sarah Wright Olsen). You all enriched our – and our readers’ – experience as fans of the show in truly special ways. You never had to offer your time, and we were honored to have had the chance to hear more from you.
Spectacular, But Fleeting
As Eric often says, life is spectacular, but fleeting. Sure, fourteen years is an incredibly long time for a television show. But its length somehow managed to make us feel like it might go on forever. Now, as we approach the series finale, it somehow feels all too short. All that’s left to say is congratulations on all you’ve accomplished. By my count, NCIS:LA is the 19th-longest running scripted program in American television history. You did that despite being moved around to different nights and times, and with, as far as I could ever tell, little advertising support from CBS. I hope you are proud of the special world and characters you brought to life. Best wishes to everyone associated with the show on your future endeavors. We’ll be on the lookout for your familiar names in front of and behind cameras in the future.
Once again, you made me cry. I only have one quibble. When you said the writers always left us in a good place at the end of seasons…nope. Not always. Deeks screaming, being tortured by Siderov…something we had to live with all summer. That was not a good place. And the team being blown up? That was not a good place to spend the summer either. But…those have ended up being a couple of my favorite seasons. Good writing, good direction, good storytelling.
Great recap and thank you, Karen. I’m still going through the grieving process, but you helped put it all in perspective.
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Lindy once again I’m sorry/not sorry about the tears. 😉 Agreed about some of the seasons you mentions- I was referring to “recent” seasons, when I think they worried they might not keep going and it would be too late to change the final episode. The riskiest recent story was the whole Mexico arc, but since then they’ve generally ended with everyone in a good place. Hope you are working through the stages of grief. I’m pretty sure I’m still in denial.
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I’m still in denial too. It’s why I’m still up at 1:15 in the morning trying to find the Entertainment Tonite special about the show that supposedly followed the episode. Missed recording that. If anyone knows where I can find it, please let me know.
Didn’t mean to criticize you about the season endings. Just a small rant to blow off steam.
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I promised myself no tears til Sunday. Well said Karen.
Thank you WikiDeeks, Karen and Diane, for this community. I am so thankful to have had the chance to meet and hang with Karen and Alyssa. I met Diane on a zoom call. I probably will never have another opportunity like this. It’s a memory for a lifetime.
Thank you all
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Kudo Karen for tackling trying to concisely package 14 years into a website post. I’m as sad about losing the show as this small, but mighty group of mostly like-minded fans. I so appreciate this brought us together, even from across the country. Flying to Cali from the Midwest on a whim for a fan meet – something I’d never done in my life & so out of character – built an incredible and unforgettable chapter of my life. You all were the best people and everyone should be proud of the positive and support group this has been.
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