Cote de Pablo Reveals What the 'NCIS' Cast Did When They Saw Her Walk Onto Set

Cote de Pablo's return to NCIS was met with a warm welcome from her former cast members. The actress, who starred on the series from 2005 until her exit in 2013, opened up about the reaction the cast and crew had when she stepped back into the shoes of Ziva David for filming on the Season 16 finale during a Tuesday appearance on celebrity chef Rachael Ray's talk show, Rachael Ray.

"I walk onto the set, and there's my old crew with a couple of new faces, and they just all clap," de Pablo recalled of her first day of filming. "It was very emotional and like I never left. It was just like going back to your house."

The actress said that although "a couple of cast members" had left since her 2013 departure, as "people come, people go" on a long running show like NCIS, the new faces were just as welcoming.

"I have to say, the new people are great," she said. "You know, meeting Wilmer [Valderrama] was fantastic, and Emily [Wickersham] was fantastic, and they were really sweet, and they made me feel very welcomed and loved."

Getting to set was not easy feat, however. According to de Pablo, those who remained on set for her day of filming, which included roughly 25 people, had to "sign nondisclosure agreements — which means no one could talk about this mystery guest they were having as an actor."

"They closed the set. Everyone was released except for these, maybe 25 people who were gonna work that tiny scene. They brought me in and literally it was like an undercover mission," she recalled.

Given the secrecy surrounding her return and four-episode Season 17 character arc, the actress has been unable to give any spoilers, though she did allow a few details to slip when speaking with Entertainment Tonight ahead of the Tuesday premiere, including a shift in the relationship between Ziva and Gibbs.

"These are two people who obviously have loved each other very much. They're family, but they haven't seen each other or heard from each other in a long time," she said in part. "It makes for a rather intricate and at times, messy communication. They're trying desperately to understand what each of them has gone through and the choices that they've made, but they have few moments where they're left alone, where there's no danger lurking. It's an interesting thing. It's basically two people trying to communicate, trying to find each other through what seems to be many complicated years of absence."

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The actress also commented on speculation that returning to the role may open the door to her once again becoming a more permanent fixture on the series, confessing that "it's not something that we've discussed and let's leave it at that, because who knows what the world has in store."

NCIS returns for Season 17 on Tuesday at 8 p.m. ET/PT on CBS.