Part of the appeal of NCIS is the perfect casting. Every actor who appears on the show feels like the ideal choice to fulfill their given role, and they bring such nuance and color to each character that the show seemingly never runs out of steam. That being said, one casting almost went in a completely different direction.
We’ve already talked about some of the notable Hollywood names that were thrown around during the initial casting process for NCIS, but one actress was so commanding during her audition that she was actually offered a part as a completely different character! The actress in question is Lauren Holly.
Why did Lauren Holly leave NCIS?
According to IMDb, Holly met with the NCIS producers to audition for the role of Caitlin ‘Kate’ Todd. The producers felt like Sasha Alexander was a better fit for Kate, but they so impressed with Holly that they decided to offer her the role of Jenny Shepard instead. Shepard, was, of course, the director of NCIS between seasons 3 and 5, and fittingly, she was introduced one episode after the Kate character was killed off.
Shepard had a complicated history with Leroy Jethro Gibbs (Mark Harmon), as she was his former partner and girlfriend. We come to find out that the two split up due to their differing career paths, but they make peace with the past and grow close once again during Shepard’s stint on the show.
Tragically, Shepard gets killed during the episode “Judgement Night (Part 1)”, after revealing that she still has romantic feelings for Gibbs. She wards off Russian assassins who have come to claim her due to an unsettled score, and while she manages to take them out, she dies as a result of the injuries she sustains. Gibbs is, understandably, heartbroken by her passing.
The decision to kill Shepard was addressed by Holly on her personal website. She revealed that she merely wanted to move on and work on different projects, and felt like she had fleshed out the character as much as she could over the previous seasons. “To be honest, now that the work bug had bitten me again, I got bored with my part of the ‘director’”, she wrote. “Then the decision was made to kill me, and boy did they.”
While her stint on NCIS was brief in comparison to some of her peers, there’s no doubt that Holly was cast in the perfect role, and left an indelible mark on Gibbs as well as the fans.