‘NCIS: LA’: Prepare for a ‘Satisfying’ Series Finale With Big Returns & Surprises

LL Cool J, Medalion Rahimi, Eric Christian Olsen, Daniela Ruah, R. Scott Gemmill, David Stapf, Chris O’Donnell, Gerald McRaney and Caleb Castille for 'NCIS: Los Angeles'
Sonja Flemming/CBS

The good news and the bad news is that NCIS: Los Angeles executive producer R. Scott Gemmill wasn’t always sure the last few seasons whether or not the show would be returning for another year. So, he crafted season finales that he could live with also being series finales if it turned out the show wasn’t getting another season.

“The last thing I ever want is to find out over the break that the show is not coming back,” Gemmill told TV Insider on the historic Paramount lot at a wrap party for the show. “We wouldn’t know sometimes till the upfronts [in May].”

This time, however, Gemmill got official word from CBS that this season would be the last one for Sam (LL Cool J), Callen (Chris O’Donnell), and the OSP team. He went ahead and did what he’d done the last few years by leaving the show’s characters in a place that would be satisfying to the audience. “We knew it was the end this time,” Gemmill says. “[So], we went a little further than we might have [in terms of showing] what’s happening in their lives.”

The show is coming to a conclusion on Sunday, May 21. One of the show’s relationships that will be explored between now and then is the one between Retired Navy Admiral Hollace Kilbride (Gerald McRaney) and his son Alex (played by Christopher Gorham).

Alas, given that NCIS: Los Angeles is wrapping up so quickly, viewers might not to get see the father/son dynamic delved into too deeply. “Unfortunately, we were just trying to explore that,” Gemmill says. “I was hoping we’d have more time, but that’s the nature of the beast.”

McRaney also was hoping to go deep into the dad and son bond especially, as he says, Gorham is “dynamite…a really good actor.” Given that Alex is a grown man, can he and his father really repair what’s gone on in the past — or should the goal be to move forward?

“That’s the key,” McRaney says. “Just move forward. It takes a little time to repair dysfunction. Taking that first step, though, is monumental.” The actor doesn’t think that scripted drama can help audiences automatically heal their own family dynamics, but “they can inspire people to solve [conflicts] for themselves.”

McRaney says he greatly enjoyed working with Marilu Henner, who plays Hollace’s ex-wife Elizabeth. “She’s just a joy, a sweetie,” the actor says. “I’d known her for a long time but I’d never worked with her.”

Gerald McRaney and Marilu Henner in 'NCIS: Los Angeles'


Is McRaney aware that Henner has HSAM (Highly Superior Autobiographical Memory)? “We talked about it a lot,” he says. “She remembered every detail of our first meeting at a charity event years ago in my home state of Mississippi. She has a remarkable memory. I don’t know if that’s a gift or a curse? There are a lot of things I’d rather not remember!”

Gemmill hopes that folks will remember the finale of NCIS: Los Angeles. He promises a few familiar faces will pop up before the last case is closed and there will also be a few surprises. “Writing a finale is tough because there’s so much expectation,” he says.

What are some of his favorite series finales? “I remember Homeland. They did a misdirection and then, [you learn] Carrie [Claire Danes] was still working for Saul [Mandy Patinkin]. It was brilliant. Also, the M*A*S*H finale, of course. And Newhart where Bob [Hartley, played by Bob Newhart] wakes up in bed with Emily [Suzanne Pleshette].

Pretty much all of the cast is up for reprising their roles on another NCIS series (yep, they’ll hop on a plane for Hawai’i), but first, they have to make it out of their own show’s finale alive.

“I have built such an amazing relationship with the studio and the network,” says Eric Christian Olsen (Marty Deeks). “I think there are opportunities for Deeks to pop up [on other shows] and help tell story.” In the meantime, he’s off to produce the Matlock pilot starring Kathy Bates for CBS.

“These characters aren’t going anywhere,” offers O’Donnell when asked if the NCIS: Los Angeles finale means we’re never going to see the show’s cast of characters again. “I love this group of people and I’d go anywhere to spend time with them — but there are no plans right now. Change is good. I’m excited to read other scripts.”

While Gemmill is saying that viewers will feel “satisfied” when they see the finale in May, there’s no guarantee everyone makes it out alive. Before Sam pops up on another NCIS show, “We gotta see what happens,” teases LL Cool J. “Does he make it out of the finale? We’ll see.”

While he concurs that audiences will feel satisfied when the curtain comes down, he points out that that word can mean different things to different people. “I think it’ll be fun, but I’m the guy who liked the ending to Game of Thrones,” he says with a smile.

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