Charles Michael Davis Says 'Vigilante' Carter Challenges the 'NCIS: New Orleans' Team

Kate Hahn
Charles Michael Davis NCIS: New Orleans
Q&A Sam Lothridge/CBS

Get ready for a shake-up on CBS’ NCIS: New Orleans this Sunday, March 8 when bold, high-achieving agent and ex-Marine Quentin Carter, played by The Originals’ Charles Michael Davis, transfers into the Big Easy office at the request of head honcho Pride (Scott Bakula).

But when Carter shows up a week early and his new boss is off solving a solo mystery, it’s trial by fire for the new guy – and the team! Davis debriefed us.

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Tell us more about Quentin Carter.

Charles Michael Davis: He’s a professional, good at his job, competitive and likes to stand on his own.

Carter has a tough path — his father is successful and well known, a Navy Vice Admiral. His mother is in the Navy as well. It’s a legendary military family. He has to make a name for himself. That’s what drives him. He’s been a star [at all his postings] — transferring in and taking on the biggest cases.

Does Carter have a love interest?

At this stage in his career, he travels pretty light. He's very independent — like [Robert] De Niro in [the 1995 crime film] Heat. He doesn't get too attached to anything that he can't drop in 30 seconds or less. But yeah, no girlfriend, nothing tying him down.

(Sam Lothridge/CBS)

What’s his wild card?

He can be a bit of a vigilante. As in: how far should we go for justice, for right and wrong, for the downtrodden? He's got a bit of righteousness to him. He knows the game has rules, but to win it you don't always have to play by those rules.

Do we see that right away?

We get to see him take over in this premiere episode. They don't have a lot of time and have to make quick decisions — so do they go by protocol or not? It is a tough case but one he feels comfortable with because it involves an AWOL Marine and they speak the same language. It's emotional, too — there’s a mother who's worried because she can't find her daughter who’s dealing with some trauma and also drug dependency.

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How does he get along with Pride and the rest of the team?

Carter comes in with a system that works well for him, but he's in a different environment. The producers said they were looking for a character to not be a protégé to Pride but to carry his own weight. Carter’s not there to be liked by Pride, win his favor or just agree with him. He's not there to be friends with Agents Gregorio (Vanessa Ferlito) and Khoury (Necar Zadegan). He's there to work well with them, voice his opinion, and challenge them. With Agent Lund (Rob Kerkovich) Carter's going to drive him, not hold his hand, baby him or be his rah-rah cheerleader. 

Carter is filling a spot left by Agent Christopher Lasalle (Lucas Black) who was killed off in the November 5, 2019 episode — to the shock of fans. Was it intimidating to take a beloved character’s place?

It's not intimidating; it is part of the situation that I'm stepping into. The way I see it, we're two different actors, two different kinds of people, two different personalities. I'm not looking to do anything Lucas did or fill that gap for the audience. I'm looking to occupy my own space in this NCIS world. My character's transferring in, everybody's getting to know him – and I'm transferring in.

(Sam Lothridge/CBS)

Right! And you’ve jumped into other long-running shows like Grey’s Anatomy, Chicago P.D., too.

This is my fourth series regular in not that many years. I usually come into shows that are already established and they're looking to add some [new] element. I know what my job is. I'm not like, "Let me just hang back and watch." I'm like, "I want to get to it!" I remember watching Scott in Quantum Leap with my sister — such a great show. Scott has been very, very helpful but I still have to prove that I am just as good as everybody else, that you can rely on me to carry some of the load. Losing Lucas, a lot of the other cast members had to take on more of the show.

Did you draw on any past experience to play Carter?

I grew up on a military base, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base [in Ohio]. My dad was in the Air Force. My father, I always see him as “Dad” — I never think of him as retired military. But [for research] I tried to think back to personal experience I have with being around people in the military. There’s respect: “yes sirs,” and “no sirs.”

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What training did you do?

I'm still doing a lot of that. I have some gun training, but I went back to the gun range and talked with a lot of the guys who have military experience and will continue to train with them. That’s tactical, but I also want to know the mindset.

How did you get deeper into that?

I watched the documentary [We, The Marines, a 2017 history of the Corps] with [Oscar-winner and Marine veteran] Gene Hackman, I’ve always loved his work.  I listened to [actor] Adam Driver’s TED Talk about the transition from Marine life back to civilian life. We have a great guy on set, former military and police officer who advises us. I've talked with Uber drivers who are former Marines — picked their brains for the hour and a half I'm in traffic in LA.

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Anything else that you learned?

One of the guys I spoke with told me about the way Marines carry themselves. He said, "They break you down and teach you how to walk. When I come back to the States I notice how inefficient people are with their walking, energy, direction — they just bob up and down." So I tried to make sure that Quentin Carter is economical, efficient, and direct. He has a kind of focus and intensity.

You played a New Orleans vampire on The Originals. Any chance the NCIS team will encounter bloodsuckers?

Maybe, when we're doing the Halloween episode and someone is dressed up as one. [Laughs] I don't think we're going to tackle any supernatural vampires, werewolves or mermaids!

THE ORIGINALS Charles Michael Davis

Charles Michael Davis on The Originals (Annette Brown/The CW Network/Courtesy Everett Collection)

What can we expect from Carter in future episodes?

He challenges the [other agents] as far as their perception of crime scenes and what's going on. He's going to make the team a little bit tougher and stronger — maybe some of his qualities will rub off on them. We'll see.

NCIS: New Orleans, Sundays, 10/9c, CBS