Cote de Pablo is the star of TV’s number-one show (NCIS, of course!) and one of America’s most admired celebrities, according to a recent poll. But you won’t find the talented Chilean actress walking every red carpet or featured on TMZ. As she begins her last season on NCIS, the often-guarded De Pablo reveals her secret to staying grounded—from her fierce loyalty to her roots to her passionate, hands-on approach to playing one of prime time’s strongest characters. De Pablo proves that Hollywood can be conquered on your own terms.
The first thing you notice about Cote de Pablo is her hair—cascades of loose chocolate curls framing a lean, pretty face. Gliding into one of her favorite haunts in Studio City, Aroma Café, she looks fresh and youthful in a summery green dress, leather flip-flops and not a drop of makeup, and she greets a reporter with a hug and kiss, as if meeting an old friend. Just as appealing—and gracious—is how the Chilean actress decisively tucks her cell phone into her purse and leaves it there, untouched, during her two-hour lunch. How is that even possible?
After all, for the past eight years De Pablo has costarred as Special Agent Ziva David on CBS’s NCIS, which—despite the attention received by hot shows including Modern Family, Scandal and New Girl—quietly beats them all in the ratings week after week. Clearly, the Alma- and Imagen Award–winning actress must have a pressure-packed schedule, agents and publicists on speed dial and Facebook and Twitter accounts to update. Right? Yes and no. Don’t expect any status updates or confessional tweets from the 33-year-old actress or any outrageous handlers pushing her to appear at every movie premiere.