‘NCIS: LA’ Boss Reveals What Finale Could’ve Looked Like (Hetty!) & What Was Cut
[Warning: The below contains MAJOR spoilers for the NCIS: Los Angeles series finale “New Beginnings.”]
NCIS: LA says goodbye after 14 seasons by looking to the future.
Callen (Chris O’Donnell) and Anna (Bar Paly) get married at city hall. Kensi (Daniela Ruah) and Deeks (Eric Christian Olsen) find out she’s pregnant. A letter from “Hetty” lures Callen and Sam (LL Cool J) to Morocco, where Nell (Renée Felice Smith) is waiting, with her team — including Nate (Peter Cambor) and Sabatino (Erik Palladino) for their help rescuing Hetty. And that’s how it ends.
Here, executive producer R. Scott Gemmill shares what would’ve changed if the show had been renewed, explains decisions behind some big finale moments, and more.
How much of the finale lined up with anything you came up with over the years for the eventual end? Because it was so fitting to have it be Callen’s wedding considering where he was at the beginning of the series.
R. Scott Gemmill: At one time, one of the things that we are going to find out by the end was his first name, but we gave that up a few seasons ago just because I felt like the audience had waited long enough and so had Callan as a character. It just seemed in terms of what we had done with his character and what he had been through that he certainly deserved sort of happily ever after and we’d laid in Anna over the years and it just seemed like a perfect time to finally pull the trigger on that.
What would the finale have looked like if you’d been renewed?
I’m not sure. I think we probably would still be talking about wedding plans and I don’t know if Kensi had gotten pregnant. I think a lot of things would’ve been different, to be honest, because some of those have repercussions down the line that we would’ve had to deal with.
What about the Hetty of it? Was that just because of Linda Hunt’s availability?
Yeah, that was just about Linda’s availability. I’d hoped that if Linda was available, the finale would’ve been a rescue mission to find Hetty and whether we would’ve rescued her or not, I’m sure we would’ve put our guys — if we knew we had another season and Linda had been available, we probably would’ve gone to rescue Hetty and wound up in trouble and then had to have resolve that in the next season.
Nell used subterfuge to bring Sam and Callen to Morocco for the mission to rescue Hetty. Was the letter from Hetty but the “side project” bit from Nell, or was it all Nell?
That was basically Nell’s way of getting our boys to Morocco to help Hetty because they had wanted to go earlier, but Kilbride [Gerald McRaney] had sort of put the kibosh on that. So the whole plan was, Nell sort of got them under some sort of a little bit of false pretenses because Hetty was theoretically in trouble, but it was also a good excuse to bring back Nell and Sabatino and Nate and the young man who was there was actually Chris O’Donnell’s real son.
Speaking of that, how did you come up with who would be part of the team? Was that about availability? Who you wanted to bring back?
Yeah, it was really about just looking at who was available, who we thought would be fun to show again. I would’ve loved to have had more time and more money, I would’ve had even more people from the past probably, but that was just who was available and what we could afford to do. Sabatino’s been a great character for us. Nate’s part of the original team. Nell obviously wasn’t part of the original team, but became a very big part of our family. So we tried to have as much cross section of what we’ve done in the past. And then that was the only one of Chris O’Donnell’s kids, of his five children, that hadn’t been on the show. So we thought it fitting to throw him into the last episode with his dad.
I love everything with Sabatino and that they still haven’t really warmed up to him completely.
Yeah, he’s a great character and I’ve known Erik going back to the ER days, so we always have fun when we get to work together.
Talk about crafting the scene with Kensi telling Deeks she’s pregnant. It’s so emotional and the family moments with Rosa were so good.
Yeah, my experience, the better the actor, the less you have to write for them. And so that’s a lot on Dani in terms of what she brought to the table and as a mom, too, so she knows what that feels like. And same with Eric. Eric has children of his own. So I think they just tapped into something that the actors are so good at and she just hit it out of the park and it was really emotional, and with a scene like that, you write it, you expect it to be pretty good, but then the actors and the director make it even better. That was a tearjerker for me, even though it was all good news.
Was there anything you had to cut from the finale for time or any other reason?
There were things cut for time, but nothing that I think really affected the episode. I actually just watched for the extras for the DVD release, they had some of the scenes that were cut and one of them was a scene between Deeks and Kensi about Rosa [Natalia Del Riego] and just about family life. It was a nice scene but not necessary. That was one of the ones that were cut and then the episode is better for it because it just moves a little quicker.
For the finale’s opening credits, you included the scenes from Season 1.
Yeah, we decided to do that just for nostalgia’s sake.
How do you want the show to be remembered?
I hope it is remembered as a really fun hour of television that entertained people and made them laugh and took them away from the troubles for an hour on a Sunday night or whatever night we were on at the time they were watching.
It was entertaining throughout. The undercover stuff was so great. There were always explosions.
We tried to have a really a little bit of action, a little bit of personal drama, and it’s really about a family that works together and gets into a lot of pseudo-dangerous situations but always saves the day and has a lot of fun along the way. That’s sort of how I saw the show. We were not there to send any big messages as much as just come on, grab your popcorn and enjoy the next hour of television.
And we watched the team become a family. Then bringing in Sam’s father was amazing, seeing Callan get a family, Kensi and Deeks becoming a family…
Yeah, I really enjoyed working with the storyline of Sam and his father because there was a little bit of poignancy there and it’s definitely something a lot of people are going through. And then it was also for Sam a little bit of not a wake-up call but a glimpse into possibly his own future because of the things our guys go through. There’s no way that they don’t have sort of long-term health effects in terms of the number of times they’ve been knocked out or suffered a concussion from an explosion. So it was a little bit of foreshadowing in terms of Sam, in terms of what he might be faced with in his future as well.