It’s amazing to consider just how long NCIS has lasted on the air. The series is about to begin its 19th season and has already outlasted one of its three spin-offs.
A key reason is the cast. Mark Harmon was the major star when the show began, but it led to rising fame for co-stars like Michael Weatherly and Sasha Alexander. Cast members have come and gone since, but the actors are always the reason why folks tune in to NCIS’ mix of action, drama and even some comedy.
Several members of the cast did have TV careers before NCIS, many in small guest star roles in various TV series. A few actually had starring roles in shows that didn’t last long.
A few roles are fun as they can be much like their NCIS characters as tough characters in law enforcement. Others are funnier as being the complete opposite of who the actors play on the NCIS show.
Here are ten past TV roles fans may have forgotten the NCIS cast once had and shows how well they’ve bonded to their more famous roles on the hit series.
Pauley Perrette as a quirky landlady, Time Of Your Life
One of the original cast members when NCIS debuted, Pauley Perrette was a marvel as the quirky goth lab geek Abby.
While it’s hard to see her in any other role, Perrette played a similar part on Fox’s 1999 drama Time Of Your Life. A spin-off of Party of Five, the series starred Jennifer Love Hewitt’s Sarah moving to New York City searching for her biological father.
Perrette was Cecilia, the bohemian manager of Sarah’s apartment building, known for her wild style and sardonic look on life. Most of the role was insulting others but she had a decent heart under her edge.
Perrette wasn’t the only future famous face as Jennifer Garner played Sarah’s new friend. Unfortunately, the show didn’t last long, yet it was a dry run for Perrette’s turn as Abby.
Cote de Pablo as a law clerk, The Jury
Even though she’s been gone for a while, Ziva David remains one of NCIS’s most popular characters.
Cote de Pablo was stunning as the beautiful Mossad agent who could slip into an evening gown as well as kick bad guy butts. Fans were heartbroken when she was seemingly killed and overjoyed when she returned.
While de Pablo seemed to appear out of nowhere for NCIS, it wasn’t her first U.S. TV show. She starred in Fox’s 2004 legal drama The Jury.
The series focused on a different case each week and how both prosecution and defense handled the trial and deliberations.
The actress played Marguerite, one of the clerks for the courthouse who handles the paperwork. Not only is her accent lighter but she’s also a funny gal who enjoys parties between her job.
For a much different side of Ziva, de Pablo shone in this otherwise forgettable series.
Diona Reasonover as a sassy stylist, Clipped
Faced with the daunting task of taking over from the beloved Abby, Kasie Hines has won over fans with great humor as the quirky lab tech.
Diona Reasonover was a relative unknown when she was cast in the part. Interestingly, her very first role is pretty forgotten.
Clipped was a 2015 TBS sitcom focusing on a pack of former high school classmates who now work at the same barbershop. Reasonover was Charmaine, the sassy stylist.
Reasonover got most of the best laugh lines with attitude and mocking her fellow workers. The series lasted just one season yet proved the comic touch that Reasonover would bring to NCIS.
Katrina Law as a tough cop, Training Day
After appearing in the last few episodes of Season 18, Katrina Law will be joining NCIS full-time in Season 19 as the feisty Jessica Knight.
The actress is well-known for action roles like Arrow, Spartacus, and the last season of Hawaii Five-O. One role as a cop has been overlooked.
Training Day was a 2017 CBS series based on the 2001 Denzel Washington movie. Bill Paxton (in his final role) was a maverick cop suspected of corruption with a rookie assigned to watch him.
Law played a member of the unit who looked up to Paxton as a father figure after he saved her from kidnappers when she was a child. She thus can’t accept he can be corrupt.
The role had much the same vibe as Knight with Law being gorgeous but tough. While Paxton’s passing brought it to a sad end, Law proved she should handle the NCIS team well.
Wilmer Valderrama as a possible dream cop, Awake
A late addition to NCIS, Wilmer Valderrama has fit in wonderfully as the tough and wisecracking Nick Torres.
The actor is best known as the goofball Fez on the long-running comedy That ‘70s Show. Yet his first turn as a detective was interesting.
Awake was a 2012 NBC series with a unique premise. Jason Isaacs played a cop who finds himself bouncing between two worlds: One where his wife died in an accident and another where his son was killed instead.
Unsure which is the “real” world, Isaacs has the challenge of solving the same murder case in both realities. Valderrama played his partner in the world where Isaacs’ wife died, an eager young cop trying to prove himself. He also played a more arrogant version in the alternate reality.
It was intriguing how Valderrama played the role differently in the two realities and added spark to the short-lived yet fascinating cop show.
Rocky Carroll as an uptight reporter, Welcome To New York
Debuting in Season 5 of NCIS, Leon Vance has become a fantastic character on NCIS. The director has proven he can get dirty in the field and do all it takes to keep the team safe.
Rocky Carroll worked with Mark Harmon in the medical drama Chicago Hope. He also had roles in sitcoms like Roc and the 2000 CBS comedy Welcome To New York.
Jim Gaffigan played an Indiana weatherman whose Midwest style clashes with his New York news station boss (Christine Baranski).
Carroll played the long-time anchor who had an over-inflated opinion of his own fame and knowledge. Much of the comedy played on him convinced he and Gaffigan were in a “rivalry” while acting foolish.
Lasting barely one season, it showed more comedic chops for Carroll than he shows on NCIS.
Brian Dietzen as a drummer, My Guide To Becoming A Rock Star
Originally just a minor character as one of Ducky’s luckless assistants, Jimmy Palmer is now the head medical examiner for the team. He’s also endured some personal tragedies but is a key ally.
Brian Dietzen didn’t have too many TV credits before NCIS, but a notable one was the short-lived 2002 WB series My Guide to Becoming a Rock Star.
Based on a British show, Dietzen was the drummer for a band hoping to make it big yet couldn’t break out of playing weddings and small gigs.
Seeing Dietzen slamming on drums with a punk hairdo can be hilarious for those used to the nerdy Palmer. The series lasted only five episodes, yet maybe Dietzen can pull out the drum-playing in a future NCIS episode.
Sean Murray as the son of ranchers, Harts of the West
It’s easy to forget that Timothy McGee was just a minor recurring character in the first season of NCIS. Sean Murray managed to make him popular enough to become a key fixture of the show.
Murray had made appearances in the cult Disney movie Hocus Pocus before starring in the 1994 CBS drama Harts of the West.
Real-life father and son Lloyd and Beau Bridges played the patriarchs handling life on a ranch. Murray was Beau’s oldest son who hated leaving city life for the country.
It’s fun to see Murray looking so young, but the series never clicked with viewers and burned off over the summer. Ironically, one episode co-starred Mark Harmon as a rodeo clown to give Murray a peek at his NCIS future.
Gary Cole as a space captain, Crusade
A TV veteran, Gary Cole is joining NCIS this season in what may be a replacement for Gibbs as team leader.
It wouldn’t be Cole’s first turn as the “captain” of a unique unit. He showed that in 1999’s TNT series Crusade.
A spin-off of the acclaimed sci-fi series Babylon 5, the plot was an alien attack that poisons Earth with a deadly virus that will activate in five years. Cole is Matthew Gideon, captain of the starship Excalibur, searching the galaxy for a cure.
Cole was good in the role, handling the action and the sci-fi antics well. Sadly, the series was undermined by network interference and never came close to completing its five-year mission.
Still, Cole proved he can handle a military role quite well, which should work for NCIS.
David McCallum as an Invisible Man
Today’s fans know David McCallum as the dry-witted and overly knowledgeable Ducky on NCIS. To a younger generation, he was Illya Kuryakin in the classic spy series The Man From U.N.C.L.E.
In between, McCallum worked in a unique series in the 1975 NBC series The Invisible Man. A modern take on the classic story, McCallum was a scientist who finds a way to make himself invisible.
Unfortunately, the process is marred, and he can’t turn back. Using makeup and masks to look normal, McCallum works as a secret agent while figuring out a way to restore himself.
The show was notable for its goofy special effects of objects floating in the air and McCallum’s head floating around. However, ratings weren’t good, and the Invisible Man vanished after one short season.
Mark Harmon as a cop for a deaf prosecutor, Reasonable Doubts
NCIS viewers have become so used to Mark Harmon as Gibbs that it’s easy to forget he had a good TV career beforehand.
He starred in two hit medical dramas (St. Elsewhere and Chicago Hope) and a few short-lived series. One of his most notable was the 1990s NBC series Reasonable Doubts.
Harmon played Dicky Cobb, an old-school cop who often worked with deaf Assistant District Attorney Tess Kaufman (Oscar winner Marlee Matlin).
Unlike Gibbs, Cobb had a nice sense of humor with wisecracks and a steady girlfriend. Harmon got into the action well and didn’t mind going around shirtless in several episodes.
It ran two seasons and showed how Harmon could do well wearing a badge which served him great as Gibbs.
NCIS Season 19 premieres on Monday, September 20 10/9c on CBS.