A Farewell to ‘NCIS: LA’: Eric Christian Olsen Looks Back

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It was back in May 2009 that viewers first met the Office of Special Projects, as part of a backdoor pilot on NCIS. That September, NCIS: Los Angeles premiered, and 14 years later, it’s saying goodbye after a fantastic run of cases, family, and, of course, explosions.

Ahead of the official NCIS: LA sign-off, TV Insider chatted with cast members to hear about their favorite memories and get their thoughts on their characters’ endings (no spoilers, we promise!). We’re finishing it off with the last of the main four of the team to join, Eric Christian Olsen, whose Marty Deeks was introduced near the end of Season 1.

What is your favorite moment from NCIS: LA that is really representative of your character?

Eric Christian Olsen: It’s from the episode called “Personal” from Season 2. Deeks is shot and is almost dead lying in a hospital bed, when he realizes that Kensi [Daniela Ruah] is gonna get ambushed in the parking lot, so he drags himself out of bed, bandaged and bleeding, kicks open a door and shoots the attacker (saving her life) before collapsing against the wall and passing out. I played Deeks with a wounded indifference for life, echoing Mel Gibson in Lethal Weapon, but Kensi, and the possibility of love, was the catalyst for his awakening.

Which episode or scene was the most physically challenging for you to shoot?

The MMA Fight scene in my first episode [Season 1 Episode 19, “Hand-to-Hand”] — opposite LL Cool J. I missed the fight choreography training, so I had to learn it all that morning. A four-minute fight scene with double leg take downs, arm bars and a WWE body slam. We rocked that scene and they never even sent in our stunt doubles. LL was the most in-control, precise, athletic partner you could ever ask for, but it was still HEAVY.

Which episode or scene was the most emotionally challenging?

Deeks is being dragged away by agents after fighting with [NCIS exec assistant director] Mosley [Nia Long], and Kensi tells him she doesn’t know if she wants to have kids and he calls off the wedding. That scene was so draining. It was the end of the season [the ninth], we were all exhausted, and that scene was about two people spilling blood as they spiral into fear and heartbreak.

What did you take from set as a memento and why?

I stole my Jordans. Just kidding (Not kidding) Don’t tell CBS. How many people read this.

Which trait from your character will you strive to keep alive in yourself, in your real life?

Deeks’ emotional growth over the course of the series was from compartmentalized, unemotional, self-preservation to fearless vulnerability. That fearless vulnerability is something I try to lead with every day. Glennon Doyle said it best, “When someone asks me why I cry so often, I say, ‘For the same reason I laugh so often — because I’m paying attention.’ I tell them that we can choose to be perfect and admired or to be real and loved.”

Are you happy with how your character’s storyline wrapped up and did you have any input into it?

Playing the end of that arc with Kensi was stunning and beautiful, and it’s what the characters and audience deserves. You’ll understand when you see it. Lots of feels.

NCIS: Los Angeles, Series Finale, Sunday, May 21, 9/8c, CBS (CBS Presents A Salute to NCIS: Los Angeles, an Entertainment Tonight special, May 21, 10/9c)

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