'NCIS: LA': Catherine Bell Says Reprising 'JAG' Character After 14 Years Is 'Surreal' (Exclusive)

Will Harm and Mac give their romance another shot? Bell tells all! Plus, ET exclusively debuts a first look from Sunday's premiere.

After months of waiting, the (real) JAG reunion is finally here.

NCIS: LA kicks off another season this Sunday with the return of JAG stars David James Elliott as Navy Capt. Harmon "Harm" Rabb Jr. and Catherine Bell as Marine Lt. Col. Sarah "Mac" Mackenzie. Though viewers only got a tease of Harm and Mac in the May finale, the season 11 premiere will be the first time the former colleagues and ex-lovers will be in the same room. Together.

A lot has changed for the estranged couple since Harm and Mac last saw each other. In ET's exclusive sneak peek from the season opener (filmed five months ago immediately following the finale), their first in-person meeting in nine years is causing Mac some major anxiety. (Watch the clip above.) Considering they were once engaged, Mac's apprehension over their impending reunion is understandable.

"It's going to be amazing," Bell tells ET. "That show [JAG] still holds such a special place in so many people's hearts, whether they were watching it with dad as a kid or they'll watch reruns of the show. I love all of the feedback and excitement, and I'm going to try and watch with everyone on Sunday."

Ahead of the NCIS: LA premiere, ET spoke with Bell about reprising her beloved JAG character after 14 years, what it was like reuniting with Elliott and if Harm and Mac will give their failed romance another go.

ET: Fans were excited to have Harm and Mac together onscreen again. Did you think this chapter in your life was over? Was it a surprise that you would be returning to your role as Mac after so many years?

Catherine Bell: It's funny. I always hoped I would because I loved this character so much. It was my first big role, so there was that. It was right up my alley with the fighting and the military stuff. I was like, “Yes, this is so much fun getting to shoot on military bases and on working aircraft carriers out at sea. It's such a soft spot for me. Fans had always said, “Would you ever reprise your role? What about an NCIS?” It had been so long that I thought it wasn't going to happen anymore. 

I actually reached out to [NCIS: LA showrunner R.] Scott [Gemmill] a couple months before it finally did happen and I hadn't talked to him in forever. I ran across his email on my phone and I reached out. It was so nice to reconnect with him -- I don't know if he mentioned it or if I mentioned it -- but I was kind of replanting the seed and he was like, “Oh well, it's kind of a cool idea.” Next thing you know, we made it happen and I was in L.A. getting fitted for Mac and getting my hair done. It was more like a dream that I wasn't sure would ever happen, but I'm so glad it did.


Was it surreal slipping back into Mac's shoes? What was that feeling of being back in her skin?

Yeah, definitely a bit surreal. I was Mac for nine years, so it was a huge part of my life, but at the same time, it’s been close to 14 years that I had been her. I went back and watched a bunch of episodes to remind myself, "What was she like? I remember shooting that that time!" And so, it was kind of like, “OK, well, what is she like now?” She’s older. She could do different jobs. I'm thinking about what she's been through and how she's evolved, but absolutely it was like putting on an old pair of shoes. Like, I remember this girl. This is fun. I really had a blast.

When we see Harm and Mac in the finale of NCIS: LA, they're only video conferencing together. But it appears that you'll be in the same room at least...

We will definitely be in the same room, yes. 

Can you talk about sharing scenes with David and working with him again?

It was the same kind of experience. It's like putting the character back on. Being with David in the scene, it just took a minute and we were both like, "Oh yeah, I remember that we do this." It just came right back. We've always had that onscreen chemistry, like when we look at each other, there are the butterflies and the [makes an audible gasp]. It was fun to play that because it came right back and it was definitely exciting.

I loved that we hadn't met in person yet and we still have that for the fans to look forward to ‘cause it is an exciting moment. These two characters who have had such a strong love and cared so much for each other for so long and you’re finally face to face again. To me, it was a blast to shoot that. The moment where I step out of the car and see him, it gets the heart racing and the “ahh,” all that excitement. I know I enjoyed playing it. I hope our fans will enjoy watching it as much as I did.

What came out of those brief interactions between Harm and Mac during that call was eye-opening -- that their relationship dissolved at some point and they hadn't seen or talked to each other since. Did that surprise you?

Given who they are, they're at the top of their field. They were the best at what they did and their careers are so important to them. So it doesn't surprise me that once again, career is what took them apart. It was location at first where she was in Washington and then he's on a carrier. How do you maintain a relationship at that point?

So it did actually make sense. It seemed these two could never quite get together and they finally did and they're not again. But I loved it. All of the electricity and all of the love and all the emotion and passion is still all very much there. I think it's probably more fun for the fans to watch than seeing them be an old married couple. That's lovely to find, but I think this is maybe a little bit more exciting.


Do you anticipate them reaching a point where they can reconcile or figure out a way where they could try and make this work?

When Harm and Mac get together, they do discuss all of that -- where they've been, where they're going and what their hopes or ideas are. I don't want to give anything away, but that's definitely discussed and anything's possible. I know I loved reprising this role and I would certainly be open to doing more. That would be a blast for me. 

You're only in the first episode, correct?


And you just mentioned you'd be open to playing Mac in more episodes. JAG essentially kick-started the entire NCIS franchise, so it would certainly make sense to see Mac around more regularly...

I know! It's crazy, right? It became a full-circle moment. It seems to be something that people are really into, with all these shows that are coming back in different versions. We'd be the original cast; I mean, I think that'd be great. I'm in Canada right now doing Good Witch, but that's done soon and for sure I'd be open to that. I think there were some great reaction. I know my fans are freaking out on Instagram about the possibility.

NCIS: LA premieres Sunday, Sept. 29 at 9:30 p.m. ET/PT on CBS.

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