‘NCIS: LA’: Daniela Ruah on Serial Killers’ Return, Threat of Kessler, Directing & More

Daniela Ruah in 'NCIS: Los Angeles'

NCIS: Los Angeles is officially back for its 14th season, and while there might have been a scare in the premiere about Hetty (Linda Hunt) — the body with an ID of one of her aliases’ was not hers — there are more of those to come (not involving her).

After all, the team will once again be dealing with a case that was left very open-ended from Season 9, and for Kensi (Daniela Ruah), the threat of Kessler (Frank Military) is very much ever-present. When will he make his move?

When TV Insider recently caught up with Ruah, who directed Episode 5, she teased what’s ahead there and more.

The serial killers from “The Monster” in Season 9 are coming back — that’s the most terrifying episode of the series.

Daniela Ruah: Yes! You can thank Frank Military for that, and Adam George Key, who wrote it with him.

I’m not surprised considering Frank Military is Kessler.

Right? Yeah.

What can you say about their return?

Thus far the episode that we shot will once again finish with an open ending. So that’s pretty fascinating. Yeah, it’s kind of scary, but the conclusions we come to at the end are pretty terrifying. And I don’t want to say anymore because I really want people to watch. [Laughs]

Caleb Castille, Daniela Ruah, and Eric Christian Olsen in 'NCIS: Los Angeles'

Michael Yarish/CBS

Speaking of Kessler, I need something to happen with him because that threat’s just hanging over them.

I know, me too, trust me. I have no idea when he’s coming back. But I really hope he does. Frank Military created that character, which is so funny because Frank Military as a human is the lightest, most positive, kindest person you’ve ever met. And he really goes down the rabbit hole of creating these awful characters, dark characters. I hope that he comes back and plays him again because I think Frank was brilliant and it was such an interesting dynamic with Kensi.

So it sounds like you haven’t done anything with that yet, but do we see Kensi doing anything to protect her family in the meantime? Or is that kind of just falling to the background because of everything else?

It’s always there. We always know it’s there. But it has fallen ever so slightly to the background right now because there’s so much else going on.

Kensi Kessler NCIS Los Angeles Season 12 Episode 5 Cell

Ron Jaffe/CBS


Callen (Chris O’Donnell) and Anna’s (Bar Paly) wedding is coming up and chances are it will be as exciting as Kensi and Deeks’ was. So do you know anything about that?

What do you know about that?

I don’t know anything yet.

[Laughs] I don’t know anything either. I wish I did. I was trying to get a scoop from you. It is discussed in Episode 5. And Callen is concerned that Hetty is not present and this makes him hesitant, if you will.

I hope we get some good Kensi, Deeks (Eric Christian Olsen), and Arkady (Vyto Ruginis) scenes leading up to it because those three together…

Oh my gosh, I love Arkady. He’s such a phenomenal actor and character. How often does the character like that get called back over and over and over again? He’s so wonderful.

Eric Christian Olsen, Daniela Ruah, and Vyto Ruginis in 'NCIS: Los Angeles'


Will we see him in the early part of the season, say in the episode you directed? Since you mentioned the wedding…

He’s talked about, but he will not be physically in the episode I directed.

Is there anything you got to do as a director you haven’t yet with that episode?

Here’s the interesting thing. It’s a network television show, which means that we have certain aesthetic parameters that we tend to stick to and the place where most directors are going to have a lot of fun with tends to be the cold open because it typically is different than the stuff we do throughout the episode. It’s usually not in the OPS Center, it’s usually not in the boat shed. It’s a new location. It’s might be at night. You can get super creative. And so every time it’s time to shoot the cold open of an episode, I think that’s where I have a lot of fun because it’s just a little bit more open-ended aesthetically on what you’re allowed to do.

A couple of seasons ago, when we had the sailor who was on an LSD trip — he took too much LSD, he was supposed to be micro-dosing — and it was written by Indira Wilson and the whole opening was him on a trip. And so he’s in the ship and he’s coming down and we have smoke and then we filmed it in a way where the camera sort of goes over him and ends upside down as he’s running away from camera. Little details like that from a directing standpoint are really fun to do. There’s probably not much of a reason in a regular episode or while we’re doing a case for the camera to be flipped upside down. So things that may not seem a very big deal to an audience member, to me as a director it’s like, oh, I got to play with the camera. I got to play with its direction. I got to play with what it’s looking at.

Will we see Sabatino (Erik Palladino) again this season?

We will see him this season, yes. We have not shot it yet, but I believe we will see him, so I’ve been told.

I like the way that his relationship with the team has gone over the years. It’s crazy the paths it’s taken.

I agree. And the fact that we met him working with Kensi in Afghanistan in Season 5 and that relationship developing, that banter. Erik Palladino, the actor who plays him, has chemistry with everybody. Put him in a scene with Callan and Sam [LL Cool J], put him in a scene with Kensi and Deeks, he’s gonna be funny and he’s gonna be good at action and he’s just a really good, fun actor to watch, and I love him as a human.

What else can you preview about the season for Kensi?

We’re only on Episode 8. I think it’s just so far struggling with the parenting aspect of it, having to deal with a mother-in-law [Pamela Reed’s Roberta] who she does love, but watching the dynamic between Deeks and Mama Deeks is very funny. They go a little bit into Deeks’ past, his father being an aggressive person towards his mom and him when they were little. We explore that a little bit in Episode 5.

So are we getting the “Deeks, M.” episode this season?

He’s the one person we’re missing. I don’t know when that’s happening, but it should happen, for sure.

NCIS: Los Angeles, Sundays, 10/9c, CBS