(Photo: Trae Patton, CBS)
USA TODAY -The death of a friend will bring NCIS special agent Gibbs (Mark Harmon) in contact with the head of the agency's New Orleans office, providing the connection for a two-part episode that's a tryout for another spinoff of TV's top-rated series.
"The lead character that runs the New Orleans office is a friend of Gibbs from back in the days of" the Naval Investigative Service," the law-enforcement agency's earlier name, executive producer Gary Glasberg says. The victim, a friend of both men, was also an agent.
The two episodes, scheduled for March, could lead to a third NCIS series. NCIS: Los Angeles started as an episode of NCIS, which is set in Washington, D.C., and the two have become a Tuesday ratings powerhouse. NCIS: Los Angeles last year tried its own spinoff, NCIS: Red, but it was not picked up as a series. CBS will decide whether to go forward with this latest potential spinoff by mid-May.
Glasberg has finished writing the two scripts and is planning another trip to Louisiana to scout locations and do other preparatory work. Much of the filming will take place on the NCIS soundstages north of Los Angeles, but he expects to do four or five days of shooting in New Orleans.
"We're going to try to highlight as much as we can, from the bayou all the way into the music clubs. The show is going to have a really significant music backbone. I really want to capture as much of the city as I can," Glasberg said. "It's such a rich backdrop that it almost becomes another character in the show."
Harmon, who shares executive producing duties on the new project with Glasberg, will travel to New Orleans for filming, but Glasberg is not sure which other NCIS stars will go to the Crescent City for the spinoff episodes.
Casting has just started for the four main characters. Characters include Gibbs' friend, an older, established agent with the last name of Pride who runs the New Orleans NCIS office. A casting description says he is "charismatic and full of life ... but can be rock-solid and strong when needed."
Glasberg says Pride "has two people under him, a woman from a different office in the Great Lakes who comes down temporarily, and a man working with him who's from New Orleans, a former sheriff's deputy turned NCIS agent," and describes . their teasing relationship as similar to the one between the lead characters on Moonlighting.
The woman, whose last name is Brody, is "no-nonsense ... a government-employee facade on an Ivy League mind (and) Grace Kelly-like in her class, pomp and circumstance," while the man, whose last name is LaSalle, has "been through some rough times," according to the casting description. The fourth character is an outspoken female medical examiner.
A retired NCIS agent who ran the New Orleans office for more than 20 years has been a great resource during preparation for the episodes, Glasberg says. "He has been very accessible to me and terrific to spend time with and it's been great." And besides having a unique character that makes it a desirable setting for a TV series, New Orleans makes sense in terms of its close connection to the military.
New Orleans "has its own sensibility, its own style, its own energy, and there's a tremendous Navy and Marine presence there, all the way from Pensacola, (Fla.) around the Gulf (of Mexico) and into Texas."
As for how much shooting would take place in Louisiana if the spinoff episodes led to a new series, Glasberg says, "That's still kind of up in the air. But we would definitely do some significant filming there. It's just a matter of how much."
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