NCIS Newbies Esposito and Valderrama Talk About Their Roles

NCIS Wilmer Valderrama Jennifer Esposito

NCIS Season 14 kicks off tonight with two new team members: Jennifer Esposito’s Alex Quinn and Wilmer Valderrama’s Nick Torres. As you count down to the season premiere on Global and CBS, here’s what Esposito and Valderrama shared about their characters, and joining the NCIS cast.

Esposito’s character Quinn has a history with Mark Harmon’s Special Agent Gibbs. Something in her past caused her to get out of the field and into the classroom. “She was actually an instructor at FLETC,” Esposito revealed, “and [Wilmer’s character] was one of my students, so it’s a little intertwined. Then Gibbs comes back into the picture and wants to bring me into his team. I decide to give it a try and go back in. But we don’t find out what really went on in her past for a while.”

There is mystery and intrigue surrounding Valderrama’s character, Torres. He told us, “I have been an undercover agent for eight years. Something happens in Argentina where my cover is blown, and I’m forced to come out of the shadows. I terminated my communication with NCIS a couple of years ago, so I was believed either to be dead, or somehow turned to the dark side. I return to Washington D.C. to warn about a possible threat, and in the process of that, you find out that Special Agent Nick Torres is a little rough around the edges, and doesn’t play well with others. He’s kind of a lone wolf. Nonetheless, Gibbs sees an element, an asset, and a resource that the team could use.” He elaborated, “We get to experience a little bit of post-traumatic stress, or what is like to take somebody else’s persona and live double lives, and eventually come back and be part of the team.”

This isn’t the first time that Esposito and Valderrama have played characters working in law enforcement, but preparing for this show was taken to another level, especially in having real NCIS agents on set. “Conversations with them are remarkable,” said Esposito. “To really speak to these men and women who do this every day, it’s really incredible. Figuring out what made them decide to do this and how it all works, it’s remarkable.”

Valderrama chimed in and said, “This is a whole different level. You’re talking about investigating cases that are on the inside. For me specifically, to speak to these undercover agents who are still in-service, and they’re able to share with you what it feels like to come home after two or three years of being somebody else, acquiring a whole different life and then eventually having to wear a uniform again, it’s traumatic.”

Joining an established show is never easy, especially one that’s going into a 14th season, but having someone like Mark Harmon leading the charge made it easy. Esposito and Valderrama had nothing but praise for Harmon, his enthusiasm, and his work ethic. “Honestly, I don’t know if I was doing something for 14 years, if I would be able to come at it with the same respect he has. I have to give him such respect and props, because he comes to every scene excited, and I really was blown away. [He] sets the tone for the entire group, [and] why the show is as successful as it is. You cannot have crew that have been there since day one and cast members have been there since day one, if the ship wasn’t lead in the right direction, with the right tone, with the right attitude. I mean he’s just a lovely, lovely man.”

Valderrama echoed that sentiment. “Mark and I make a really great team. We challenge each other, we push each other to be great. Internally, we are trying to take the show to different places. We’re trying to expand the universe of NCIS within the story. I think our characters are going to be disruptive, and they are going to come in and really create a different dynamic and bring a certain history that was there years, years, years before a lot of these [other] members were put together.”

Both of the new cast members agreed on what sets NCIS apart from other crime procedurals. “Mark and the writers and the showrunners know what’s special about the show,” said Valderrama. “The difference between this show and a lot of crime shows is the relationships, it’s the people. You truly know who these agents are, you know what the relationships are with one another. It’s how they communicate, how they do their job, and who they are as people.”

Esposito shared, “Mark came up to me in one of the first episodes and says, ‘We have to get the exposition out there. We have to tell the story. But in that telling that story, create things for yourself with someone. Create those moments between characters,’ and I find that is always what people latch onto is the relationships between everyone.”

Photo Courtesy of CBS

About Melissa - The Televixen

Melissa Girimonte, aka The Televixen, is a Toronto-based writer, TV blogger and podcaster. After freelancing with print and online magazines for several years, she channeled her life-long passion for TV into TheTelevixen.com, where she serves as Founder and Editor-in-Chief. She is an avid two-screen viewer and social media aficionado that adores being part of the online community. When not watching or writing about television, she enjoys travelling to pop culture events across North America.