‘NCIS: LA’s Daniela Ruah on Why Kensi’s Not as Worried About [Spoiler] as Deeks
[Warning: The below contains MAJOR spoilers for Season 12, Episode 5 of NCIS: Los Angeles, “Raising the Dead.”]
The second of the December 6 double helping of NCIS: LA is one of the best episodes of the series — and the most terrifying one since Season 9’s “The Monster.” That makes sense since both were written by Frank Military, who also guest stars in “Raising the Dead” as David Kessler, who so badly wants to haunt Kensi Blye’s (Daniela Ruah, who delivers one of her best performances of the series) nightmares.
The agent must speak with the man she helped put away prior to joining the Office of Special Projects (among his crimes: human trafficking of minors) because he knows where a man who wants to kill the president is and will only tell her. Among his chilling words during the Hannibal-esque conversations is a promise to hunt her down, have sex with her, and kill her when he escapes, “maybe not in that order.”
He shares what he knows only after a secret phone call with the president(!). “You’ll never get me out of your head now,” Kessler promises as Kensi leaves. He may be right because that call also results in his release, by presidential executive order, for undisclosed national security issues. And he’s not alone: his girlfriend, Michelle (Izabella Miko), is with him after fooling Callen (Chris O’Donnell) into thinking she was terrified of him.
Meanwhile, Deeks (Eric Christian Olsen) finds out that not only has his liaison position with NCIS been terminated permanently, but the agency never takes people his age — and there’s nothing Hetty (Linda Hunt), from an undisclosed location, or Nell (Renée Felice Smith), filling in for her, can do.
Here, Ruah breaks down “Raising the Dead,” “Densi” this season, and more.
How soon are we going to revisit Kessler? Will he return or will we see more of the psychological first, with him in Kensi’s head like he said he’d be?
Daniela Ruah: We haven’t shot any episodes where he comes back, but I know for a fact this is one of those seeds that gets planted, as NCIS: LA tends to do, where later on when you least expect it, it just blows up in your face. It surprises the audience.
In the [December 13] episode, there’s obviously a concern from Deeks — “You shouldn’t be doing this, Kessler’s still out there” — but Kensi seems to be a little bit less concerned than he is. She’s dealt with this guy. She definitely knows how dangerous he is [and] what he’s capable of. But her mentality is, “I’ve caught you once, I can catch you again.” She’s too smart, too mature.
Even during this episode, she definitely shows some cracks as he’s trying to manipulate — he keeps knifing, right? He’s trying to look for that weak spot until he finds one, when he talks about her inability to have children — but she’s a mission-first woman. “I’m not going to let this guy break me. I need to find this other guy before he tries to kill the president.”
I think he’s going to come back in the future to haunt them, but for now, we’ve gone on with our lives.
I loved that this brought up someone from Kensi’s past before the team. What moments from the past 11+ seasons equipped her to handle talking to Kessler and him being free?
The [Season 3] episodes, “Blye, K.” and “Blye, K., Part 2,” when she confronts the guy who killed her dad and he’s coming after her and she’s gone rogue, I definitely think handling that particular situation. If you can confront the guy that killed your own father, the person you looked up to the most — that’s pretty dark — you’re pretty invincible, psychologically. She fights him one on one. He calls her when she’s alone in the bathroom, “I’m going to get you.”
There’s also just the maturity over the years, handling different situations. Other Frank Military episodes, not directly towards her, but the episode [“The Monster”] where you have this criminal who’s cutting people up and sewing them back together with different people’s body parts, that’s so dark. She’s just seen some darkness.
In Season 5, she gets captured by the Taliban when she’s in Afghanistan. Season 8, she has to work through half her body being paralyzed. There’s just a lot of overcoming really dark obstacles that have definitely equipped her for this moment and for any moment that’s to come. I think that’s one of the reasons the audience loves Kensi, why I love her: She’s just resilient. It doesn’t matter what you throw at her. It may take her a little longer to recover, but she’s going to.
And the things Kessler was saying to her, just hearing him say touché…
Right? Because now you don’t know how long he’s been watching them for or if it’s a coincidence. Frank is such a brilliant writer.
Kessler is the second foe the team has dealt with this season with D.C. connections, after Argento. Is that going to be an ongoing theme?
It is not the last time we are going to see connections to Washington. After this long, how do you up the stakes? What haven’t we done on the show that is going to keep the audience interested and feeling like what we’re dealing with really matters? The higher up you go, the harder it is to solve because the more protection there is.
Kessler also has Michelle, who fooled Callen completely.
When I was reading the script, I was so caught off guard at the end. How did the actress play that? Were you genuinely surprised when it made that turn?
Yes, but I also had a feeling when Callen showed up at her house how it would play out.
Oh, really? I just assumed she freaked out and ran away because this horrible man is on the loose.
Deeks’ liaison position was terminated permanently, and becoming an NCIS agent isn’t an option. How will he and Kensi deal with that? It affects them professionally and personally. It’s so hard to imagine the two of them not partners in the field for a significant period of time.
Yeah, that’s definitely true, it’s the personal side and it’s the professional side. That’s probably the biggest downfall of getting involved with your partner. Now you have two major things at stake. It’s interesting to see how last season, she was so sensitive about not being able to get pregnant after three months, which I think anybody who’s tried to get pregnant knows that it probably takes more than three months to actually make it work out when it works out, and he was the one, “It’s OK, we’re going to figure this out.”
This season, he’s the one who’s down in the dumps and Kensi’s the one whose glass is half-full. “We’re going to make it work. We’ll figure it out. This is going to work for us.” “No, but we can’t afford it.” “But we’re going to do it anyway.” I don’t know if she’s just genuinely believing they’re going to figure this out or if she’s in complete denial because she spent so long not necessarily wanting to become a mother and not being ready for it and now she’s just set her mind to it. She’s decided, “I will be a mother.” She’s the one holding him and helping him through this phase.
But at the same time — and this is harder to play as an actor — you want to be on that phone, “Babe, I love you and I want to listen to what you’re going through, but I got bad guys to catch. I can’t be consoling you all day long because I gotta be focused on these cases because I do still have a job.” I don’t say this coldly. She still has to do her job. But you know NCIS: LA will run its circles and its course and then some stuff develops and changes and happens and I’m being really elusive on purpose.
I remember when Kensi and Deeks were talking in metaphors about knives and raccoons and now we have them talking about houses and kids. They’ve come so far! Are we going to continue to see those adult conversations?
[Laughs] That’s right. It’s like we’re all growing up. That stuff is always speckled through because I think the personal lives, the backstories is part of what keeps people hooked onto our show. They feel like they know us. Even if two characters are having an argument, it’s hard to pick who’s right because even though you may not agree fully with either one, you see where they’re coming from. That’s the human condition, always trying to evolve and grow and adapt and pivot and figure stuff out. If this path isn’t working, I gotta turn around and try something different. It’s the humanity in each character that evolves as we watch the show.
We’ve all changed so much in real life in 12 years. My relationship with these guys has always been good, but it’s never been as good as it is now. The bond we all have now is so different than it was in the beginning because we know each other well. Maybe since I’ve become a mother, it’s added a different weight to how I see the world and what I expect from it and what I want it to be for my kids. Age changes you, and I mean that in the best of ways.
NCIS: Los Angeles, Sundays, 9/8c, CBS