'NCIS New Orleans' could roulez soon

'NCIS New Orleans' could roulez soon

Credit: Photo: Skip Bolen, CBS

Scott Bakula, second from left, and Mark Harmon, right, in a scene from an 'NCIS' episode that takes place in New Orleans.(Photo: Skip Bolen, CBS)

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Posted on March 14, 2014 at 12:06 PM

Updated Friday, Mar 14 at 12:06 PM

Bill Keveney, USA TODAY

Top-rated NCIS is hoping to expand its operation to the Big Easy.

An upcoming two-parter set in New Orleans and partly shot there (CBS, March 25 and April 1, 8 p.m. ET/PT) will serve as a pilot for a potential spin-off series. The episodes, which feature Scott Bakula as the head of the New Orleans NCIS office, Dwayne Pride, are designed to make use of Big Easy visuals, in contrast to NCIS, which is set in Washington, D.C., but shot north of Los Angeles.

"The idea was always talked about as New Orleans being every bit as important as any character," says NCIS star Mark Harmon, who completed filming there early this week. "It's a really interesting place to shoot. There's music everywhere. There are sounds everywhere. There's culture everywhere. The idea was to try to bring the outside in, as opposed to on the show we do normally. ... We've been running around 11 years trying not to shoot palm trees. Now, we can shoot all the palm trees we want."

Harmon, who plays NCIS Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs, and Gary Glasberg, who wrote the two episodes, are executive producers on the New Orleans project and the original series.

The cast and crew squeezed in scenes from at least a dozen locations in four days of shooting, including Jackson Square; Café Du Monde; Bourbon Street; Louis Armstrong Park; St. Charles Avenue, famed for streetcars; and bayou-rich Barataria.

" It's a love letter to New Orleans in four short days," says Bakula, adding that the surrounding crowds, including one for a night shoot on Bourbon Street, made for some intriguing situations. "There was some insanity going on. Mark and I laughed a lot. You've got a double-decker bus going by with 200 tourists on it and all of a sudden, they look over and he and I are standing on a bridge looking out over the town square. We're trying to do this very serious scene, and people just start screaming, 'Hey, Gibbs!'."

In the episode, the agents come together to investigate the killing of North Carolina congressman Dan McLane, a former agent in NCIS forerunner NIS, who is found dead in New Orleans. He was part of the "Fed 5," a five-member NIS team in the early '90s that included Gibbs and Pride as "probies".

In scenes shot at NCIS' set north of Los Angeles, Pride visits Washington to discuss the case with Gibbs and director Leon Vance (Rocky Carroll). When they discover that details of McLane's killing match that of a serial killer caught by the "Fed 5" years earlier, Gibbs and Ellie Bishop (Emily Wickersham) travel to New Orleans, while the remainder of the NCIS team works on the case from Washington.

In the proposed spin-off, Lucas Black and Zoe McLellan portray NCIS special agents in the New Orleans office, which investigates cases from Florida to Texas, and CCH Pounder plays the Jefferson Parish medical examiner.

Bakula's Pride is "somebody who's hugely passionate for life, for his city and for the people who live in his city," he says. "He's very passionate about getting bad guys and taking care of people in his town."

Glasberg was pleased with Bakula's performance and how he and Harmon worked together.

"The chemistry between the two of them, creating this longstanding friendship and bond between Gibbs and Pride, was something I was counting on, and the guys totally delivered it. There's a fantastic scene in an area called Artillery Park that overlooks Jackson Square where they're just standing beside one another looking out at this iconic cityscape. It brought a big smile to my face," he says.

If the episodes lead to a series, the intention would be to shoot "as much as we can" in New Orleans with the remainder in Los Angeles, says Glasberg, who would be deeply involved while keeping "the mother ship," as NCIS is known, as his top priority.

NCIS already has a successful spin-off, the fifth-season NCIS: Los Angeles, which broadcast two episodes last spring designed as its own potential spin-off, NCIS: Red, that was not picked up by the network.

Harmon, who does not have a producing role on NCIS: Los Angeles, described the potential New Orleans series as "a very natural birth. This was a story we were going to do anyway. We went to the network and said, 'We can do it this way,'" as the kind of two-parter the show sometimes features, "or we can get behind it and do it this way," as a set-up for a new series. "And we think there's a great potential here."

 

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