‘NCIS: LA’: Gerald McRaney on Kilbride’s New Official Job, Building Trust With the Team & More

Gerald McRaney as Kilbride in NCIS Los Angeles
Spoiler Alert
CBS

[Warning: The below contains MAJOR spoilers for NCIS: Los Angeles Season 13 Episode 3 “Indentured.”]

We already knew that Gerald McRaney isn’t going anywhere — he’s now a series regular, after first appearing in Season 6 — but now we know his character, retired Admiral Hollace Kilbride, is sticking out in the Office of Special Projects.

In the latest NCIS: LA, Kilbride clashes with Sam (LL Cool J) on a case when a well-connected colonel and friend of the Admiral’s, retired U.S. Army General Richard Collins (Michael O’Neill), is known to be planning to buy weapons from an arms dealer. Sam goes behind Kilbride’s back, then Kilbride surprises Sam and Callen (Chris O’Donnell) by being the one to have Collins in cuffs when they show up at the scene. It’s the start of building trust, which is good since Kilbride’s now officially running the Office of Special Projects. (Linda Hunt’s Hetty is off on her classified mission, and no one’s heard from her.)

McRaney is especially happy to be sticking around. “I’m having so much fun on this. I told some of the guys the other day, this is the most fun I’ve had on a series since Simon & Simon,” he tells TV Insider. “And it is just fun every day I go to work.”

He also loves the unique set, with OSP located in what is outwardly a condemned building. “It’s one of the most interesting sets ever, and I love it. The quirkiness of all of that stuff is appealing to me as an actor,” he says, though he admits, “I don’t know if it’s not appealing to Kilbride as a character, but I love working there.” What’s also different from other crime shows is the team uses a boat shed for their interrogations, with a trap door in one of the rooms, and it’s expanded this season. “They’ve added a nice sort of deck area in back of the boat shed itself, where we’ve played a few scenes now,” McRaney teases.

OSP’s new boss talks about taking over.

Why is Kilbride sticking around? To help Hetty?

Gerald McRaney: That’s the overall idea, because Hetty was the one who brought him in ages and ages ago on a particular case, and so he and Hetty are old friends-slash-rivals, they have their disagreements and stuff, but when Hetty needed him, he came in.

Linda Hunt as Hetty, Gerald McRaney as Kilbride in NCIS Los Angeles

Robert Voets/CBS

Speaking of that, I love the Kilbride-Hetty dynamic. It’s so fun to watch. There’s a respect, but he also clearly has his opinions on how she operates considering the brainwashing line to Callen.

The writers simply wanted some level of conflict, but not a disrespectful conflict between the Admiral and Hetty. They’re just writing good stuff for me, and I think they’ve managed to walk that line between a simple disagreement and disrespect, which they’ve managed to pull off.

Now that it’s official that he’s running the office, what does that mean for the team? Things will just continue to be as they are?

From my perspective, a good commander would say to himself, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” There may be a few cosmetic things that the Admiral might want to change, but why would he go in and want to radically change something that’s such a successful operation to begin with? … The only thing that I would imagine is that people will take the Admiral’s directives a bit more seriously because now they are official orders. It’s not that he’s coming in and sort of lending hand. He is now the boss.

Gerald McRaney as Kilbride, Chris O'Donnell as Callen in NCIS Los Angeles

CBS

Kilbride’s already clashed with Callen and Sam and the way the team operates. But he also acknowledges that they’re the kind of agents he wants in the field. What does he think of this team?

I think they’re a little too outside the box for the Admiral. The Admiral is one who believes more in a very strict chain of command than these guys necessarily do.

Kilbride and the team clearly need to build some trust — Callen’s going behind his back with sending Zasha to spy on Hetty, Sam works around him in this episode, Kilbride hides the fact that he knew Collins had the weapons. What do you think it’ll take?

That is all part of the process actually. The Admiral had his reasons for going after Collins the way he did. And I think that ultimately is what will build the trust is that realizing even though he doesn’t necessarily tell you what his plans are, all of us are after the same end. It’s just a matter of methodology.

LL Cool J as Sam, Gerald McRaney as Kilbride in NCIS Los Angeles

CBS

After he and Sam went to talk to Collins initially, Kilbride talks about how they have to proceed with extreme sensitivity, with the connections Collins has. He’s thinking about things the team doesn’t have to.

Yes. And the thing on that particular episode was you don’t want somebody at a higher level to just shut this thing down because of this man’s connections and because of his reputation as an officer. If he’s guilty, let’s nail the son of a bitch, but if you go in there charging like a bull in a china shop, you’re going to mess that up.

Then Kilbride had that great “a little late, gentlemen” line when he was there for the arrest before them. Are we going to see more of Kilbride in the field?

I hope so because I always have fun doing those things. What was it, season before last I guess, that they had me actually involved in a fight scene? That just, even for an old guy like me, sort of loosens up all the creaky joints.

LL Cool J as Sam, Chris O'Donnell as Callen, Gerald McRaney as Kilbride in NCIS Los Angeles

Michael Yarish/CBS

How might Kilbride react if any of the team goes rogue when it comes to Kessler [who’s threatening Daniela Ruah’s Kensi and is played by executive producer and writer Frank Military]?

He would officially disagree with it, but in private understand it.

Do you have a favorite Kilbride line? He has so many good ones.

One of my favorite lines was from the beginning when I came back after several years: “Is there cinnamon in this coffee?” And that whole run of Californians being fancy about everything, just give me a damn cup of coffee. That whole attitude established for the actor in me how to go about playing this character.

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Are we going to see anything from Kilbride away from the office besides him driving in?

I certainly hope so. And I think you will.

Do you know anything about his personal life?

Very little, other than he’s been married a few times.

NCIS: Los Angeles, Sundays, 9/8c, CBS