EXCLUSIVE: 'NCIS' Star Sean Murray Talks Season 15's 'Renewed' Focus and Maria Bello's Intro

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Photo: CBS

Warning: Spoiler alert! Do not proceed if you haven’t watched Tuesday’s season 15 premiere of NCIS. If you have, you may continue…

NCIS isn’t messing around in its season 15 kick-off.

On Tuesday’s action-packed premiere, titled “House Divided,” the story picks up two months after the finale, and finds Gibbs (Mark Harmon) and McGee (Sean Murray) locked up, looking worse for wear, in a rebel prison in Paraguay. Though there were moments where their survival seemed dicey (see: their fistfight, which was later revealed to be part of a ruse), they came out the other end alive but ultimately scarred from their experience.

“It really hits the ground running,” Murray told ET of the premiere. “It’s quite an episode. We’ve never done anything like it.” The actor breaks down the biggest developments from Tuesday’s episode and talks Maria Bello’s impending introduction, as well as the show’s “renewed” focus.

ET: The premiere really leaned into the Gibbs and McGee dynamic. What do you think the episode illuminated about their connection?

Sean Murray: It’s obviously away from the norm, but it’s almost as if the father-son relationship that Gibbs and McGee have always had almost turns brotherly in this episode. To me, they’re both in the same place. They’re stuck in the same situation and they’ve got to rely on each other. Gibbs obviously gets it rougher than McGee does, but there’s a camaraderie there that’s almost brotherly.

Does this experience that the two share brings Gibbs and McGee closer?

It absolutely has brought them closer and we reflect on that as we go on. There are things placed here and there; there are reminders. It’s not just, “Oh, OK that happened and we’re all good. We’re back to normal.” That’s a scarring thing and there are things that both characters take from it that are troublesome and hard to deal with. You’ll see some of that as the season goes.

There was one scene between Gibbs and McGee in the prison, where it seemed like they were turning on each other, which we later learn was just a ruse and part of the bigger plan to break out. Talk me through filming that fight scene with Mark Harmon.

We had a lot of fun filming that scene. (Laughs.) I remember Mark and I talking to each other, and you know, there’s the typical stunts that are filmed with the stuntman. But Mark and I put our heads together and said, “You know what, let’s just go for it. Let’s just start wrestling. Try and get some punches in the stomach, around the shoulders. Let’s just wrestle and grapple.” That’s what we did and went for it and improvised a lot of it. You see later that there was a bit of a ruse to that, something that I think they had been cooking up a little bit.

Photo: CBS

That moment definitely elicited a big “No!” from me.

That’s great! That’s what we wanted. We wanted it to be “Are you kidding? Gibbs and McGee are fighting?!”

And McGee is expecting a baby while all this is going on, so his high level of desperation seemed warranted.

True, he carries a lot of that with him. He’s married, he’s got a kid on the way and [he was in a] situation that’s not like anything he’s ever been in. The gloves are off when it comes to being in the situation that they were in. It is desperate.

What can you say about impending fatherhood for McGee? Will we see him and his wife, Delilah, preparing for the big day?

I know we’re going to have some of that coming up, more about Delilah and McGee. The everyday stuff that they go through and then I’m sure eventually, a baby will be born. I don’t know that. They haven’t written that, but that would be my guess. Although who knows, babies are hard to work with; maybe they don’t want to deal with that. (Laughs.) 

What are you excited to explore when it comes to McGee and Delilah?

I’m really excited for fans to see -- not just the McGee-Delilah stuff that I personally love; I love seeing the domestic side of them and their growth -- but there’s a lot going on this season and there’s been a lot of stepping up to the plate by everyone. It’s gonna be a good season.

The show is also bringing in a new addition, Maria Bello, who makes her entrance in the fourth episode as an NCIS agent with a focus on forensic psychology. What does her presence add to the team?

Maria is really wonderful and such a cool, down-to-earth person. It’s great having her there. Her character is a really interesting psychologist profiler and McGee actually gets to do some work with her early on when she first joins the agency. That was a blast to do that. We filmed some stuff out of order, so I got to film some heavier stuff with Maria early on. It was kind of our introduction. We had a blast.

How would you describe the dynamic between McGee and Maria’s character?

It’s still being figured out. We’re still figuring her out. We know she’s her own woman, but warm, and Gibbs seems to like her being around, so we each come to her with our problems and sometimes she comes to us about our problems. Some of us are a little frightened of her, because we think we’ll be profiled all the time. It’s really cool having Maria bring something new and something that feels like [it] has been missing.

How would you describe season 15?

It feels renewed. It feels like there’s a new kind of energy and everyone is excited and happy about it. We have a really positive working environment. [Recently,] we had a read-through for our next episode and it was a “knocked it out of the part” read-through. The stuff the writers are coming up with, the stuff the actors are doing, it’s been good so far. We’re almost a quarter through the season and we can’t believe it.

NCIS airs Tuesdays at 8 p.m. ET/PT on CBS.