'NCIS: New Orleans' EP on Pride Becoming "Targeted Man," Series' New Romances in Season 2

NCIS New Orleans Season 2 Premiere - H 2015
Courtesy of CBS

Pride (Scott Bakula) has a target on his back as NCIS: New Orleans' second season kicks off.

The CBS procedural's first season ended with the team thwarting a South African terrorist group, followed by Sonja Percy (Shalita Grant) becoming a full-time agent. 

Executive producer Jeffrey Lieber talks to THR about why Pride spends much of the new season "in the crosshairs," which characters will be getting significant others and the show's upcoming visit from the cast of the flagship NCIS series.

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At the end of last season, we saw Sonja joining NCIS full-time. How does this affect the team, and what other challenges are ahead?

Because Sonja was ATF before, unlike the on [the original NCIS], on the mothership, where people come in as a probie, she actually comes in as a full agent, but she comes in under LaSalle (Lucas Black) and Brody (Zoe McLellan), and so she's one of us, but she's not totally one of us. And we watch her over the course of the season have that learning curve of being a federal agent but not being NCIS. We also launch this really big, big story that comes out of an attack on a military exercise in New Orleans, and this missile is stolen, and it launches this very large arc for the entire season where Pride becomes a man in the crosshairs — we'll watch him really be a targeted man over the season.

What are some key storylines as the season moves forward?

We launch a ton of stuff in the premiere that's really fun. We launch this weird mystery with Brody and these photos of her dead sister — she appeared to have died in a drunk driving accident years ago, and now it's going to be something much bigger. We're dealing with LaSalle and the death of his girlfriend in last season. He comes into the season sort of screwing everything that moves and a little bit out of control. The other fun thing that happens is that Pride ends up buying this bar, which was the bar that his mother used to sing in years back, and we watch him over the course of the season bring it back together, which is a real opportunity for us to bring in more New Orleans music and his relationship with the city and use it as part of the ongoing arc of him being a man who is in the crosshairs.

Every character gets an arc for the season. Wade (C.C.H. Pounder) is dealing with the fact that she's become this adoptive mother of these two kids; Sebastian (Rob Kerkovich) gets drawn into this weird conspiracy a la Edward Snowden. We're going to do a [lot] of long-arc character stuff this year, which is really fun — an expansion of the franchise. 

How will this season differ from the first one?

I think we are trying to expand more on the fun of New Orleans [and] Pride's relationship with New Orleans. The ability to open this bar is going to bring in more of that life. [As for future episodes,] the season's second episode is a Fugitive-style [one] where we're chasing after a Navy Seal. The third episode is a huge plane crash at a Navy air show. We have an episode about a blackout in New Orleans; we have an episode about drones. So we're trying to, off the bat of the season, really have these big canvas episodes that take advantage of the city and take advantage of the kind of scope this show can do.

Will Pride or any of the other characters get new romances?

We're trying to open doors for romances for Brody, a little one for Pride. We're definitely going to try to get people's shirts off in a network-appropriate way. (Laughs)

Is there any crossover with the flagship NCIS series this season?

We're going to do something very big in January that involves both the two Tuesday night shows. One of the things we tried to do last year is establish that there is one NCIS world, and we all exist in it, and we're going to take advantage of that, especially with a big episode early in January. 

After having so much success in the first season, what are your takeaways on what worked, and what are you still learning about the series?

It's both a privilege and an oddity in this day and age to be able to draw in excess of 15 million people live on any given night in network television, and that is an amazing honor. We feel like we want to keep the show in the scope and size and emotional depth that honors that ability. There's so few moments right now where any TV show gets that kind of audience, and so we're really trying to push so that the show is both worthy from an artistic standpoint and from a scope and size standpoint to that kind of live viewership. 

NCIS: New Orleans premieres Tuesday at 9 p.m. on CBS.

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