The average American works for four years in a single job. With just one look at Pauley Perrette from NCIS, you can tell she’s not your average American. Few women style their dyed raven hair in the pigtails and bangs she wears as forensic specialist Abby Sciuto onscreen (not to mention offscreen when the Los Angeles weather is hot and sticky).
Abby Perrette’s 15 seasons on NCIS make her the longest-serving forensic expert on television and the third-longest-serving female law enforcer on primetime (behind Mariska Hargitay and S. Epatha Merkerson from the Law & Order franchise). Perrette has had the highest Q rating (a metric that measures a celebrity’s appeal) of any TV actress for nearly a decade. She was ranked alongside Tom Hanks and Morgan Freeman in 2010. “We should all make a movie together,” she joked at the time, or “at the very least get a beer.”
The point is that, rather than jumping ship (or, more accurately, show) after a few seasons or a bit of fame, Perrette stayed. Much of this was due to her devotion to Abby, a character created by NCIS creator Donald Bellisario to A) demonstrate that women can excel in math, science, and computers while also handling themselves around d3ad bodies and B) challenge the stereotype that all tattooed goth girls dressed in black are bitchy, needle-marked perps. Abby is very nice.
Perrette has received thousands of fan letters and Twitter messages from the young ladies she inspires since taking on the role. Which is one of the reasons, according to the actress, it will be difficult to say goodbye—and why she has already established scholarship funds for women studying forensic science at Georgia’s Valdosta State University (her alma mater) and New York’s John Jay College of Cr1m1nal Justice.
She’s also glad Abby is getting a proper send-off. Abby wins a dinner reservation for two at a brand-new five-star restaurant housed inside an igloo during her penultimate episode on May 1. The dilemma was deciding which of her colleagues to accompany her. On May 8, the team discovers evidence indicating that one of them is a hit man’s next target (we’re not saying it’s Abby, but we’re not saying it isn’t).
In any case, the outcome will have an indelible impact on her. The episode, like the entire season, will include a slew of Easter eggs for Abby’s fans as well as one very special surprise. During the final days of filming, Perrette, 49, spoke with TV Guide Magazine while relaxing at her pet-filled Hollywood home. We’ll let her fill you in on the details.
What did you do to prepare for your final week on set..?
Pauley Perrette: “No crying out loud,” I told myself. I wanted to show up with a smile on my face and do my best work for Abby and her fans.
Did you learn anything from the departures of previous cast members..?
Well, Michael Weatherly [as agent Tony DiNozzo from Seasons 1 to 13] is like a brother to me. We’ve been in contact about it at all times. I’ve also contacted Sasha Alexander’s agent, Caitlin Todd, who d1ed in Season 2. They’ve been a fantastic support system, talking to me about the emotions I’ll be experiencing and assisting me with a variety of issues.
What made you decide it was time for you — and Abby — to move on..?
I have a strong faith in God and the universe, and it suddenly became clear that now was the time. After much deliberation, I decided to make the announcement myself on Twitter because I didn’t want it to be perceived as “sh0cking.” Abby’s departure is more than just a cheap TV ploy.
What are you most proud of as a result of your time on NCIS?
Oh, Abby’s clout. Young girls all over the world dress and act like her, speak and act like her, and do everything she does. She is simply an excellent role model for everyone. She demonstrates that you can be intelligent and kind at the same time. She has shaped me as well. I’m a church kid, too — Abby’s in a bowling league with nuns! I think with my brain but lead with my heart.
However, when people inquire, “Are you like Abby?” “No, I’m nowhere near as put together,” I say. I’m a slouchy, couchy type of person. I enjoy watching television, particularly network sitcoms. People make fun of me for being a TV junkie who doesn’t subscribe to cable. I’m pretty sure I could get by with just rabbit ears on my television.
What are some of your favorite memories from your time on the show?
My entire time with Michael Weatherly. We began working on the show together. For the first two years, we shared an apartment complex. We had this unspoken agreement to always bring a sense of levity to the show, even when it was difficult or sad. Because that is exactly how life is: things are hard and things are good, things are funny and things are sad all at the same time. Every day, I miss working with him.
Are you bringing anything from Abby’s house?
Drew Carey appeared as a guest star on NCIS a few episodes ago. I’d known him for a while because I played his girlfriend on his sitcom, and when we had some time to talk, I asked him what it was like when his show ended, because my departure was approaching. “Always let the past be the past,” he said. He didn’t even save the scripts. That, I thought, was sound advice.
Abby’s parasol was the only thing I kept. I’ve already taken it, and it’s in my possession. It was actually mine. I’d bought it on eBay and brought it to the producers and writers years ago, saying, “Abby doesn’t go outside without her parasol.”
How emotional are the final two episodes of Abby?
I honestly don’t know. Not because I’m forbidden, but because there are so many different emotions. It’s a kaleidoscope of emotions. And a character from her past reappears and plays an important role in the plot. There are tears, laughter, and more tears, as well as a lot of love. It’s jam-packed. I felt a lot as an actor and as Abby. Even now, I’m experiencing a wide range of emotions.
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