“NCIS” has left an indelible mark on audiences around the world after more than two decades on the air. “And I didn’t realize how massive it was until I started traveling abroad,” Ziva David actress Cote de Pablo told American Latino. “People care about these characters.”
Long before she rose to fame on the iconic drama, de Pablo was growing up in South America and had never dreamed of becoming an actress, despite the fact that show business was in her blo0d. Her mother was a late-night talk show host in Chile, so it stands to reason that de Pablo would soon be on television as well.
Many fans recognize de Pablo as Naval Cr1m1nal Investigative Service Special Agent Ziva David. “However, my real name is Mara José de Pablo Fernández Chicharro Grace,” she explained. There’s probably a lot more you didn’t know about her stunning transformation in the spotlight.
Cote de Pablo grew up in Chile for the majority of her life.
When Cote de Pablo was ten years old, her mother received a phone call that would change their lives forever. She was offered a job hosting a television show in Miami, Florida, so she and her two siblings had to pack their belongings and leave their hometown of Santiago, Chile.
“I missed my country and my friends terribly,” de Pablo admitted during an interview with Prevention. There was another factor that made the move particularly difficult. “I didn’t learn to speak English until I moved to the United States,” the actress admitted.
Fortunately, she was able to quickly find a place for herself at her performing arts high school. “I had always been interested in the arts, but performing became even more important because it was a way for me to communicate with people in my new country,” de Pablo explained, and it was also what propelled her to stardom.
She followed in her famous mother’s footsteps.
While Cote de Pablo’s mother was busy promoting her new talk show, the world of entertainment began to take notice of her young daughter as well. When a producer saw a photo of de Pablo on her mother’s desk, he inquired as to whether the adolescent would be interested in appearing on television. As she told Univision.com at the time, de Pablo had no desire to appear on television – but producers wouldn’t stop asking.
De Pablo eventually agreed to come in for a screen test to be a host for the Spanish-language magazine show “Control.” When casting directors saw her, they immediately offered her the role alongside Carlos Ponce. She was only 14 years old at the time. “On that show, I interviewed some pretty phenomenal people in the Latin world,” she explained on American Latino. The performing bug, presumably, bit her hard at that point. “If I could make a living singing, acting, and doing musicals,” she told Carnegie Mellon Today.
She studied musical theater at Carnegie Mellon University.
While Cote de Pablo was in high school and hosting a national television show, she was also looking for the perfect college to attend. After researching nearly every musical theater program in the country, she came across Carnegie Mellon and knew right away that it was something special. “I said, ‘That’s my school, that’s where I’m going,'” she told Carnegie Mellon Today later.
In addition to learning everything there was to know about singing and acting, de Pablo realized she had truly found her niche among other theater enthusiasts, particularly her professors. “”They could see things in me that I couldn’t see at the time,” she explained, adding, “I always felt like they understood me.” I was a little complicated: I was an immigrant, and my family was a long distance away.” Nonetheless, her school’s support system convinced her that she wanted to pursue a career in theater.
De Pablo earned her bachelor’s degree in musical theater in 2000.
Cote de Pablo was almost a Broadway hit.
Cote de Pablo’s next big goal after graduating from college was to land a role on Broadway. She took on small roles on various television shows while waiting for her big break from her Brooklyn apartment. She appeared in “The $treet” and “The Education of Max Bickford” episodes before landing a recurring role on “The Jury.”
When de Pablo was cast in “The Mambo Kings” in 2005, she was one step closer to realizing her dream of performing on Broadway. Unfortunately, the show ended just as it was about to hit the road. “It never made it to Broadway,” de Pablo told Front Row Features in an interview. “We went to the Golden Gate Theater, but there were too many things that the musical needed, so we left.” Regardless of how upset she was at the time, taking a break from Broadway was exactly what she needed to secure her place in the spotlight.
De Pablo was called to screen test for a starring role in a new television show called “NCIS” the same year the musical officially ended its run.
She had her breakthrough role on NCIS.
When Cote de Pablo arrived at her “NCIS” audition, she was asked to read with another actor on the show named Michael Weatherly (who we all know as Special Agent Anthony DiNozzo). While she was eventually cast in the popular series, her audition with him was not as smooth as fans might have hoped. “He grabbed my hair during the audition. He refused to toe the line. He completely deviated from the script and began improvising “During an interview with Entertainment Weekly, de Pablo revealed this. “And this was my final audition with the CBS executives. ‘This guy is sabotaging my audition,’ I thought.”
To make a good impression on the casting director, de Pablo began swat at Weatherly, much like her character Ziva David on the show. “That relationship was established the moment we met,” said de Pablo.
When de Pablo found out she had landed the role of Ziva, she was overjoyed. However, the character she had auditioned for with a Czechoslovakian accent had been replaced with someone else. “Within 48 hours of getting the part, they changed it to an Israelian woman,” she explained to “CBS This Morning.” “And then I had to shoot within 48 hours of that, and then they gave me a huge monologue that I had to learn in Hebrew.”
Cote de Pablo honed her skills as a stuntwoman.
Cote de Pablo realized she needed to do more than just act on “NCIS” after landing her breakout role. She had to perform her own stunts as well. “Was I nervous?” she asked on “CBS This Morning.” “Wow, that’s an understatement.”
De Pablo spent time at a local shooting range to prepare for the role. Surprisingly, before becoming Ziva, she had never even held a gun. “And I remember just trembling while holding the gun,” she admitted.
Over the course of 12 seasons, we’ve seen Ziva pull off some insane stunts, but one in particular resulted in a serious neck injury. “It was a really simple stunt,” de Pablo told Prevention. “I’d have to say one line, turn around, and then there’d be expl0sions, gunshots, and all kinds of other things. But because we hadn’t practiced, I had no idea what to expect.” As the actress concentrated on perfecting her single line, debris flew around her, bruising her entire body. “I woke up in horrible neck pain,” she said a few days after filming the scene. Fortunately, all of her injuries have since completely healed.
In NCIS, she demonstrated her singing abilities.
The writers of “NCIS” had a special surprise in store for Cote de Pablo to kick off Season 6. On the show, they wanted her character to sing a song called “Temptation.” While the musical theater graduate was thrilled to be able to showcase her voice, she wasn’t thrilled to be doing so as Ziva David. “I remember I fought it a little bit,” de Pablo admitted during a BUILD Series interview. “‘Really?’ I thought. I mean, she’s great at kicking butt, but singing? ‘Are you really singing?'”
After some deliberation, de Pablo decided to seize the opportunity that had been presented to her. “It ended up being a really fun moment,” she said. “I had a great time with it, and the fans did as well.” In fact, she later went on to demonstrate her voice in the film “The 33.”
The actress chose to work on other projects instead.
Season 11 of “NCIS” premiered in 2003, and that’s when the writers threw Cote de Pablo’s character a curveball. During a 2016 Q&A, the actress revealed, “They were going to send her back to, you know, Israel and make her an unfortunate, miserable woman.” After all these years of portraying such a strong female character, de Pablo didn’t think it was fair to show Ziva giving up on her dreams. “I felt, or perceived, that the character was not being treated with the respect she deserved,” she explained, so she left the show and went on to work on other projects. She appeared in the films “The 33,” “Prototype,” “Seneca,” and “The Crossing.”
When it came to television, however, de Pablo was ecstatic to make his debut on “The Dovekeepers,” a show that was diametrically opposed to “NCIS.” “I’m not doing stunts in this particular story, which is very good,” she said on “Extra.” “I’m actually working on my emotions, which is a lot of fun.”
While it appeared that her days of doing stunts were over, de Pablo was still willing to reprise her role as Ziva on “NCIS” if the right script came along. “They never k1ll3d her, so you never know,” she explained.
Cote de Pablo has returned to NCIS.
After years away from “NCIS,” Cote de Pablo received a phone call that changed her entire television career trajectory. One of the show’s writers approached her about her character Ziva. The two got into a deep discussion about what they thought the special agent was up to — and that’s when it all clicked for de Pablo. “The fans have been waiting for this for a long time,” she told KTLA. “I believe a part of my heart has been waiting for this.”
Surprisingly, De Pablo’s return in the Season 16 finale was kept so secret that many of the cast and crew were unaware she was coming. “It felt like a top-secret operation,” the actress said on BUILD Series. She was nervous about returning after being away for so long, but the moment she stepped onto the set, she knew she had made the right decision. “As soon as I walked in, the crew started clapping, and I thought, ‘Oh, I’m home,'” she explained.
Despite the fact that De Pablo only appeared for five episodes, fans were ecstatic. According to TVLine, her return episode drew 11.9 million viewers.
The actress used her platform to raise awareness about important issues.
Cote de Pablo learned a lot of life lessons while playing Ziva David for so many years. “Mark Harmon [who plays Leroy Jethro Gibbs on ‘NCIS’] once told me that getting people’s attention is a privilege,” the actress told American Latino. With all of the attention she now had, she decided to focus her attention on important issues that were close to her heart.
De Pablo has collaborated with a number of organizations, including Un Techo Para Mi Paz, which helps to provide temporary housing for Chile’s homeless. In the United States, she has collaborated with Feeding America and created a public service announcement to ensure that people see their doctors on a regular basis to help detect cancer. “Cancer runs in my family,” de Pablo explained to Prevention. “It took my grandmother.”
Bringing attention to important causes is what makes de Pablo’s appearance on television so special. “And if I can talk about it and shed some light on it, then I’ve done my part,” she explained.
Will we see her on the small screen again soon?
What has Cote de Pablo been doing since she left “NCIS”? Nobody seems to know for sure. “I’m an extremely private person,” she admitted on BUILD Series. It’s difficult to keep up with the actress’s day-to-day life away from the camera because she doesn’t have any social media accounts.
While de Pablo may have faded from public view by 2020, she may be making a comeback much sooner than we think. Fans are even speculating that Ziva David will make a cameo in the upcoming spin-off series “NCIS: Hawai’i.” Mark Harmon’s iconic “NCIS” character Leroy Jethro Gibbs has already been mentioned in Season 1. During the first season, Wilmer Valderrama’s character, Special Agent Nick Torres, will make an appearance.
Never say never when it comes to de Pablo’s return as Ziva. After all, she never imagined herself returning to “NCIS.” “When I walked out, I thought it was over and that was it,” she admitted to USA Today, giving fans everywhere hope that they’ll be able to see Ziva David again soon.
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