PASADENA, Calif. – Cote de Pablo was a major part of CBS' "NCIS" for eight years -- and then poof she was gone! It put an end to one of TV's most anticipated romances: that of Special Agent Tony DiNozzo (Michael Weatherly) and Ziva David (de Pablo), who teased with their witty repartee and longing looks, but never acted on the attraction until the very end.
But what was most frustrating to fans of Ziva is that no real reason was given for her exit other than CBS President and CEO Les Moonves' unsatisfying statement, "We offered Cote de Pablo a lot of money, and then we offered her even more money. We really didn't want to lose her. We love her; we think she was terrific. ... Ultimately she decided she didn't want to do the show."
So, if money wasn't the issue what was? The mystery surrounding her departure continues even 18 months later with de Pablo telling reporters at the Television Critics Association press tour session for her upcoming miniseries "The Dovekeepers," that she chooses to be incredibly private about her departure and CBS respected her wishes.
"I guess when you make decisions like that, you never expect for people to fully understand," she says. "The fact that there was this incredible outpouring of love [from the fans] was humbling. I love using this word: It was really delicious to feel that kind of love and I am always grateful for that."
De Pablo admits that her departure was "rushed" and she would have liked more "closure," but she was pleased that the Tiva storyline, at least, was wrapped up. "I could not have been more blessed because I got a chance to be with my love, Michael," she says. "Any time you put Michael and me together, there's going to be a spark. There's going to be real honesty. For that, I am grateful because there was a sense of conclusion as far as what we felt for each other."
It took de Pablo three months following her departure from "NCIS," during which she traveled and spent time with family, before she seriously considered taking another role. Then when she was offered a small part in the film "The 33," she remembers thinking, "My, God. Am I ready for this?" I was ready."
"The 33" is the real-life story of the 33 Chilean miners who were trapped for 69 days underground when the mine they were working in collapsed. De Pablo plays a character named Jessie, who is a combination of two women.
"I did he 33' based on the fact that I would be in Chile," says de Pablo, who gained 20 pounds for the role. "It was going back home. And I would be around incredible actors that I have looked up to for so long -- people like Juliette Binoche, Gabriel Byrne, Antonio Banderas and Rodrigo Santoro. They were just incredible people to be around."
And here may be another clue as to why she left "NCIS." She says of the film experience, "It was an incredible shift in energy after working on a set for eight years, and an incredible shift to work with other people. It is so necessary for actors."
De Pablo has had no second thoughts about her decision to exit "NCIS," especially taking into consideration the two jobs she has landed in the interim: "The 33" and "The Dovekeepers," a CBS miniseries based on Alice Hoffman's bestselling historical novel about a group of extraordinary women whose lives intersect in a fight for survival at the siege of Masada.
"I have had time to deal with me," she says. "I couldn't really deal with me for a long time, so I am blessed for that time. I have given myself great jobs, the pleasure of working with different people and feeling different energies, I feel incredibly fortunate."
That said, is there a possibility that Ziva might drop by Washington, D.C. and reconnect with Gibbs (Mark Harmon), DiNozzo and the rest of the "NCIS" gang? That's a definite yes.
She says, " I think the fact that they didn't kill the character off is very telling. I think under the right circumstances, it is something that definitely could be explored."