Cote de Pablo: Breaking the Mold

“There’s nothing more rewarding or certainly more challenging than speaking to a classroom full of teenagers,” she says. “They have one foot listening to you and one foot judging you.”

And although she’s the “abnormal one” in the family, she says—an unmarried actress living in the States—she welcomes the conversation her choices stir up and has learned to embrace her differences. Which is not to say that you’ll find De Pablo reverting back to that shy, conservative girl from the past.

“The last time I was home visiting Chile, I was grilled about having kids and about whether I would baptize a child when I have one,” says De Pablo. “Our lives are just very different. I’m not sure if they agree, but I’m not giving up my opinion.”

Her resoluteness fits right in with her role as NCIS’s tough-as-nails Ziva David, an Israeli-born operative who speaks fluent Hebrew and will kick your butt if called upon to do so. The story of how she got the part goes like this: after costarring in the Off-Broadway musical Mambo Kings, the actress waited for news that the musical would make the move to Broadway, a process that can take years. She’d auditioned for the NCIS role many weeks before, then quickly forgotten about it. But when she received a call from her manager that the show’s producers wanted to fly her out to Los Angeles to audition again, she barely had time to prepare. When she read alongside costar Michael Weatherly (Special Agent Tony DiNozzo), he went off script in a deliberately sassy manner, prompting De Pablo to give back just as hard. The show’s creators knew they had witnessed the start of something magical.

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