'NCIS' Boss on Gibbs' "Intense" Path, Future of Procedurals

Gary Glasberg talks with THR about what Gibbs has planned for the man who murdered his ex-wife.
Sonja Flemming/CBS

Leroy Gibbs (Mark Harmon) recently suffered a devastating loss on NCIS, and viewers will soon learn how he plans to strike back.

Showrunner Gary Glasberg told The Hollywood Reporter that things are set to get "intense" on the CBS procedural in the next few episodes, as Gibbs tracks down Sergei (Alex Veadov), the terrorist who killed Gibbs' ex-wife Diane (Melinda McGraw).

Glasberg also explained why he was proud of the direction the show takes in this week's episode, whether the frequently marrying Gibbs will be falling in love again soon and if he worries about the procedural genre getting oversaturated by competition. 

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This week's episode involves the investigation into a Marine's death. What can you tell us about it? 

It's an episode I'm super proud of. It touches on a subject matter that intrigued me from the get-go that is, an openly gay, married Marine, is killed, and he was recently nominated for a medal of honor. And the investigation into his death takes us down the road of, was it a hate crime? Was it related to his homosexuality? It sort of takes us on a twisty-turny road of the reason behind his murder. We tend not to do a tremendous amount of episodes that take on subjects like this, but once in a while, when it's this important and means a lot to us, we do it, and I'm just genuinely proud of how it came out. 

Gibbs has been on an emotional journey of late. What's next for him?

Right after the holidays, we surprised everyone. We've had an ongoing storyline with a terrorist named Sergei, and Sergei ended up killing one of [Gibbs'] ex-wives [Diane], who he's very close to, and it's connected to Joe Spano's character Fornell as well. In her passing, Gibbs has been and will continue to be really tortured over how it unfolded, and then that will all come to a head in the Feb. 17 episode of the show called "Cabin Fever," where Gibbs ends up spending some time with Fornell, trying to help him through his grief, and at the same time, handling a manhunt to take down Sergei. It's a big episode for us that I actually just finished editing, and I'm really pleased with it. 

Fans seem to be enjoying Tony (Michael Weatherly) and Zoe's (Marisol Nichols) budding romance. Where is that heading?

It's been a terrific journey for Tony. After Ziva (Cote de Pablo) left, and he was grief-stricken and upset and miserable [with] the way things unfolded, we really watched him work through the situation, and then he's come out the other side a more mature Tony DiNozzo. In the process of that, he met this former old flame in Zoe Keats, and he's having fun. It's fun for us to write it; it's fun for Michael to act it. The character is enjoying himself. It doesn't mean they're going to get married; it doesn't mean this is the one forever. It's nice to see him in a relationship like this, and it will continue to weave through the rest of the season. 

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We finally got to see [Gibbs' ex] Rebecca, played by Jeri Ryan. What was it like to have her on set, and will Rebecca return?

It was great to have her, and they have terrific chemistry. We just had a lot of fun. I don't have anything planned in the immediate future, but I'm sure we'll see her again. What I liked about what Jeri brought to that wife's character is, every one of [Gibbs' ex-wives] has been very different. Each one has a different personality, and you imagine where Gibbs was in his life at the time when he hooked up with them. And it gives us some more insight into Gibbs and into different phases of his life.

Is another romance in Gibbs' future?

You never know. We talk about it, and I'm always open to the idea, and I'm open to the idea of finding someone for him. But by nature, Gibbs tends to be someone who spends a lot of time alone, and it's the brooding nature of who he is. He has to be in a certain mindset to feel like he needs companionship, and you're finding yourself saying, "Is this the time?" And very often, he's so focused on work that it's not meant to be.

What's on the horizon for the second half of the season? It sounds like Sergei will be the focus for the near future?

[We're] focused on the Sergei story through February — a very intense, terrific episode that comes to a head for that. Then probably some stand-alone episodes that will carry us through March and April — some terrific stuff that we're working on right now. And then we'll start to build toward our finale, and that's literally something that I'm locking myself away [for] right now and starting to put together. 

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Congrats on your success with NCIS: New Orleans. What are the biggest challenges with executive-producing two series? 

[Laughs.] It's really about staying organized and staying ahead of it. And I couldn't do it without all the people who have been helping me make it happen ... I've been very, very lucky in that respect. I feel like we're making it work — we're turning out good product, and making good shows, and they're entertaining, and people seem happy, and that's more than I could ask for. 

Is it ever a struggle to keep a show fresh after so many seasons?

On NCIS, as we wrap up season 12 and move into season 13, I've always said that the one thing I look for is, when I come back from hiatus, and we're starting a new season, and you sit down with the writers in the writer room, are the ideas going to be flowing? To the credit of all of the writers that I work with, I've yet to experience a return to writing where they aren't just bubbling over with enthusiasm and ideas, things they've come across. I feel like, when the day comes that those ideas are slower in coming, then we'll know that we have to start to think a little differently. But everybody's still running on all cylinders, and the enthusiasm and excitement are there. It's really a treat.

What are your thoughts on the current state of procedurals as a genre? Do you worry about there being too many similar shows on the various networks?

I'm not a believer that there's a finite world of mystery. I've been a colossal mystery fan for a very long time, going back to Columbo and McMillan & Wife and the shows that I grew up on. Do I think that the genre has a sort of limit to it? No, I really don't. I think it will continue to evolve. I think that there are times when you are doing a crime story where you can have humor, and there are times when it's straighter and darker. I'm excited by where [the genre] is, and I'm excited by the amount of television that's out there, and stuff on cable and stuff on network. It's a terrific time to be in TV.

NCIS airs Tuesdays at 8 p.m. on CBS.

Email: Ryan.Gajewski@pgmedia.org
Twitter: @_RyanGajewski