Cote de Pablo’s ‘NCIS’ Casting Was Serendipitous Bad Timing

The television show NCIS has spawned many fan-favorite characters, but few are as beloved as Ziva David. Cote de Pablo, the actress responsible for bringing Ziva to life, played a huge part in NCIS from 2005 until 2013, and she recently made a high-profile return to the role that made her a star.

Although many fans can probably not imagine anyone else playing the role of Ziva, it was actually a total fluke that resulted in de Pablo landing the part. A recent report breaks down just how de Pablo ended up auditioning for NCIS and ultimately, landing the role of Ziva.

How did Cote de Pablo become famous?

Cote de Pablo as Ziva David on NCIS
Cote de Pablo as Ziva David on NCIS | Bill Inoshita/CBS via Getty Images

De Pablo was born in Santiago, Chile, in 1979. Se got some early exposure to the entertainment industry when her mother decided to take a job in Florida at a Spanish-language television network.

While in Florida, de Pablo started studying musical theater, ultimately deciding that she wanted to pursue a career as an actress and stage performer. She went on to attend college at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, graduating in 2000 with a degree in musical theater.

By the time she graduated from college, de Pablo was already a bit of a show business veteran, as she had hosted some episodes of the TV show Control. She moved to New York City, working in television commercials and small parts, all while working as a waitress in order to support herself and pay the bills. In 2005, de Pablo was preparing to appear on Broadway in the show “The Mambo Kings” — but fate had other plans.

Cote de Pablo landed the role of Ziva David by chance

Around the time that de Pablo was prepping for her Broadway debut, showrunners for NCIS were looking for the next great female lead. According to Collider, they wanted de Pablo, but the actress was more interested in pursuing her career as a stage actress.

“The Mambo Kings” closed after a short trial run. Because of this project being shut down, de Pablo decided that she might as well audition for NCIS after all. The audition went well, and de Pablo was cast. So while losing her theater role was probably upsetting for the actress, the streak of bad luck was setting her up for tremendous success and an iconic role.

De Pablo made a splash right away on NCIS, with fans responding immediately to her tough charm and sarcastic quips. Over the years, de Pablo became one of the biggest stars on the show, appearing in some of the show’s most interesting and iconic storylines.

Cote de Pablo is still best known for playing Ziva David on ‘NCIS’

De Pablo appeared on NCIS until 2013 when she made a highly-publicized exit from the series in order to focus on other projects. Still, Ziva David’s story was left open-ended, and many fans speculated that she would eventually return to the series in some form or fashion.

Fans’ dreams were realized in 2019, when NCIS showrunners pulled off the surprise appearance of the decade, springing Ziva upon viewers in the season sixteen finale. Since her return to NCIS, de Pablo has appeared in a number of episodes in season 17.

For fans, it is as though no time at all has passed, and the numbers prove that viewers have just as much love for Ziva (and for Cote de Pablo) as ever before. Unfortunately, it seems as though Ziva will not appear in season 18 of NCIS, although showrunners have hinted that the door might not be closed forever on future Ziva storylines.

There’s no telling what the future holds for de Pablo — but it seems likely that she has no regrets about the day when she finally agreed to audition for the role of Ziva, changing the course of her career forever.