It’s official. Former FBI guy Alden Parker (Gary Cole) is the new NCIS special agent in charge, taking over for the legendary Gibbs (Mark Harmon), who capped off his indefinite suspension by retiring to Alaska. The momentousness can’t be overstated: Leroy Jethro Gibbs is one of television’s most popular characters, and Harmon had been the series’ lead since 2003 (he continues to be an exec producer offscreen).
On Monday on NCIS, Parker and his team investigate the death of a commander who heads the All-Navy Sports Program. We talked to Cole about having his name on the door.
Is there pressure stepping into a lead role on such a huge series?
Gary Cole: I’ve done a lot of dropping into shows, [usually] as a recurring character. [See: Suits, The Good Wife.] Part of my job description is to get comfortable, whatever that takes. I’m not trying to be [Gibbs]. The writers made that distinction.
How does Parker make this job his own?
Parker isn’t overly chatty, but he is more verbal. He’s not as old school; he tries to get his hands on new tech gadgets and impress everybody. He’s trying to fit in with the rest of the team. Although he may be reluctant to voice it, he admires that Gibbs breaks rules. Parker bends them. We’ll see if it gets to the point of breaking.
The long-term team members aren’t comfortable with Parker. How does that play?
Initially Torres [Wilmer Valderrama] is the most resistant. Why, I’m not sure. McGee [Sean Murray], whose nature is intelligent and open, is reluctant at first but rolls with it. Jimmy [Brian Dietzen] and Kasie [Diona Reasonover]—they’re in a different world because they’re scientific.
Any skeletons in Parker’s closet?
There’s a situation that did not go according to plan, and something tragic happened. He’s purposely kind of an enigma.
The writers leaned into stuff I’ve done. I’m fairly sarcastic. [Parker’s] sense of humor is similar.
How are you not like Parker?
I hate technology. I’ve been dragged into the future. Don’t look for my Twitter. I’ve heard there’s somebody on Facebook saying they’re me. It isn’t. You heard it here!
NCIS, Mondays, 9/8c, CBS