(This story contains spoilers for “New Beginnings, Part 2,” the final episode of NCIS: Los Angeles.)
The Office of Special Projects wrapped up one final case in Sunday’s series finale NCIS: Los Angeles — but that really wasn’t the crux of the episode.
In fact, showrunner R. Scott Gemmill said, the latest case — in which the team helps an ATF agent with deep cover break a gun-trafficking ring — was “subordinate to what we wanted to do,” which is what viewers of the characters said. spent 14 seasons and 323 episodes watching in a good place as the series ended. For example, Callen (Chris O’Donnell) and Anna (Bar Paly) abandon their stressful plans for a big wedding and opt for a small courthouse ceremony. Kensi (Daniela Ruah) and Deeks (Eric Christian Olsen) discover they’re having a baby, Rountree (Caleb Castille) gets a life-changing settlement in his case against the LAPD, and Sam (LL Cool J) receives promising news about a medical trial for his father (Richard Gant).
“It was just about taking character by character and figuring out what they’ve been through, what they deserve and what we’d like to see in the future,” said Gemmill, who co-wrote the series finale with Kyle Harimoto. The Hollywood Reporter. “And what’s the hopeful version of that, and I think we did our best to do that for every character.”
However, the series does not end with the wedding, but with Callen and Hanna traveling to Morocco to find Hetty (Linda Hunt) – and reuniting with old colleagues Nell (Renee Felice Smith), Nate (Peter Cambor) and Sabatino (Erik paladino). . “What say you, gentlemen? Are you ready for your next adventure?” asks Nel.
“Yes,” Callen replies. “This is going to be fun.”
Gemmill spoke with THR about why he loves a happy ending, putting together the reunion scene — and how a character got a “stay of execution” when COVID halted production three years ago.
How much before the public announcement that the show would end did you find out?
We didn’t have a lot of time. And we also didn’t know if we were going to get one or two episodes. We originally planned it as one finale episode, and then CBS was nice enough to give us two episodes. So then we had to rethink what it means to have a two-piece partner. It was a little tight, but this is what we do. We tried our best.
Since this is a show designed around weekly stories along with ongoing character arcs, did you have to change your thinking when you brought the series to a close?
Writing a pilot is very hard, and I think the second hardest thing is writing the finale of a series. Especially a show that’s been running for 14 seasons, there’s so much story you’ve done, characters that have gone through life-changing events, and now you have to bring it all to an end. For us it was really about trying to leave the fans in a really good place and not trying to be splashy or posh or smart, but really letting the characters know that they’re going to be okay – that they’re going to be happy in the future . If I’m a fan myself, I prefer that when a series I’ve really enjoyed ends, it ends in a “happily ever after” fashion. As cheesy as it may be, I just feel like when you’ve invested that much time into watching a show, you want to leave satisfied. That’s what we tried to do, bring each character’s story to a sort of conclusion that still offers hope for the future. I think ‘hope’ is the key word.
What was breaking the final episodes for the writers’ room like?
It was just about taking character by character and figuring out what they’ve been through, what they deserve and what we’d like to see going forward. And what’s the hopeful version of that, and I think we did our best to do that for every character.
Did you build the case around the character beats or vice versa?
The story was secondary to what we wanted to do. We kind of knew we wanted Callen to get married. We want Kensi and Deeks to find out they’re having a baby. We want Sam’s dad to be accepted into a promising medical trial. We want Rountree’s case closed with law enforcement. And we wanted to give some hope that we’re going to save Hetty – we wanted to do something about that. Linda (Hunt) was not available – if she had been available things might have been a little different but we gave it that service. We also wanted to revisit some of the characters we’ve seen in the past, either through the wedding or through what we had in mind for the final scene, which was our boys in Morocco, on their way to rescue Hetty.
Were there other combinations of characters for that final scene you had on the board?
It comes down to time, money and availability. I would have anyone and his brother there that I could have (laughs). We wanted Arkady (Vyto Ruginis), we put him in the show. We wanted to see Deeks’ mom (Pamela Reed) again, she was at the wedding. Sabatino appeared, Nate appeared, and Nell. I would have had everyone if I could, but it’s just not feasible. We tried to give a nod to the past and the future.
If you were to think about moving past this episode now that G is married, do you think that would change anything about the way he works?
Possible. There was a script that was supposed to be the finale three years ago, where Anna was shot and killed. That was the year of COVID and we didn’t record our final. So she got a stay of execution and they eventually got married (laughs). So you never know what will happen. With Callen, if we had another season, I’m not sure they would have gotten married in the finale, but I’m sure we would have got them married at some point. Knowing there was the end of this series, we definitely brought things into play that maybe we wouldn’t if we knew we were going to have to pick them up and take them into the next season.
It was also nice to see how Kensi and Deeks, in the scenes where they are on Overwatch, could just talk to each other and joke around.
The case was very secondary to actually spending time with our characters, which is what the audience tunes into. I’m sure they don’t remember the cases, but they do remember the interactions between the characters.
What was the last thing you shot?
The last scene we filmed was on our stages. The last scene (of the episode) was shot in the desert before that, although it was very, very green.
How was the atmosphere on set on the last day?
It was very bittersweet. It was heavy. It was a lot of tears, but that’s also a sign of how much fun we had and how lucky we were. When a show ends after a year, you don’t have the same attachment to those people that you did after 14 years. We saw people get married, have kids, so it was very emotional, because at the end of the day it’s about the people you work with. It was one thing not to do the show – it would have been good if we could have just done another show, you know? Everyone would have been a lot less upset about getting back to work. We have a really great family that works together and plays together. To know that we are now all going to the four corners of the earth, or at least four corners of Hollywood (laughs)is a bit hard to face.
Although there’s been some casting turnover, to make a show last that long and have your four leads essentially there all the time, and you were there all the time. I imagine you had a crew for a long time too – that’s a lot of history.
It shows how well everyone gets along and how much we enjoy working together. That’s what makes it so hard (to end it). It’s not so much about the show itself. It’s really about the people.
What do you think are the most pressing issues you want the guild to work with the studios to solve?
I think the AI thing scares me the most. That has become a real problem. And it’s not just for writers, it’s for studio execs, it’s for graphic artists, it’s for animators, it’s for just about everyone. If we were at the forefront of finding a way to legislate for that. I mean, there’s other issues too, you know, the mini-rooms and trying to set day rates for writers and other silliness. If we strike, it’s never for the people who are in the business right now, it’s more about the future of the company and the future writers, and I think nothing speaks to that more than AI.
Did you pack anything home after filming?
The guys gave me a sign from Surfside Sully’s. I don’t even remember what season it was (ed. note: season two), but we built a beach bar in Santa Monica where we lit up completely and had a neon sign. So they gave me that, which was nice. But I didn’t take anything personally, just a lot of memories. I would have liked that golden shark from Squid and Dagger, but it was already gone.
Do you have any final thoughts about being with this series for so long?
It was a great, great run. I’m sorry it’s over. I think we all are. You know, if you see grown men, tough, tough men coming up to you crying, then you’ve done something right. We were blessed that CBS kept us on as long as they did. It’s going to be a while before any of us do that again, if we ever do.
Interview edited and shortened.