After eight seasons on NCIS, Cote de Pablo is parting ways with "Ziva David." With her character about to be written off the police procedural series, de Pablo is now opening up about her decision to exit the show.
[SPOILER ALERT: Details of the upcoming season of NCIS are featured below.]
"As far as my decision to leave, that's a personal thing, and I'd rather leave it at that," she said in an exclusive interview with TV Guide Magazine. "The idea of leaving was not something I toyed around with for a long time. It was an overwhelmingly hard thing—at times terrifying."
De Pablo first appeared on NCIS in the Season 3 premiere, and became a regular later that season. She decided after Season 10 that she would no longer appear on the show, which came as a stunning surprise for NCIS fans.
While De Pablo's decision to leave the show came before production of Season 11 commenced, she nevertheless opted to return to the set to wrap up her character's arc.
"I'm not of the belief that you just take off and leave fans hanging," she said. "A lot of people don't get the privilege of going back to a set and being able to say goodbye to people. I left under my terms, and that was wonderful."
The 33-year-old Chilean actress says that because her decision wasn't premeditated, she doesn't have any future projects lined up.
"Leaving 'NCIS' was not planned, so there is no plan," she admits. "If I were panicking now, it would defeat the purpose. I need to get really excited about something, because for eight years I was really excited about this character. I don't want to start anything unless it's like that."
Among the many reasons that fans are disappointed about de Pablo's exit is their eagerness to see the fate of her character and Michael Weatherly's character's ("Tony DiNozzo") enduring romantic tension.
Although there will be no lasting future for the two characters, de Pablo divulged that fans will get some "Tiva" (Tony + Ziva) gratification as Ziva exits the show.
"As far as the 'Tiva' fans, they'll get a resolution they've awaited for years," she teased. "There is a level of confession. And if it takes a big change like this to stir things up, it's all for the better. I'm a fan of the show!"
De Pablo elaborates that her goodbye scene is with Weatherly's "DiNozzo," which she found an apt way for her character's journey to come full-circle.
"My first scene ever in the bullpen was with Michael, and my goodbye scene was with Michael. I feel like that was a beautiful way of ending—for now, certainly—a beautiful chapter between these two," she said.
Although she will be departing the show indefinitely after its October 1 episode, de Pablo assured that her character doesn't die and seemed hopeful for a potential reprisal of her longtime role down the road.
"The greatest thing about this last episode is that Ziva doesn't die," she revealed. "As long as a character doesn't die, the character can always come back. Not that it would actually matter, because we bring back characters from the dead all the time on 'NCIS!'"
Season 11 of NCIS premieres tonight at 8 p.m. on CBS.