NCIS Squadron 18 was not an easy time for the cast and crew. The pandemic delayed production by two months, and they had to shoot under strict protocols.
Bringing new episodes on the air was a challenge for everyone involved. According to star Wilmer Valderrama (Nick Torres), it was “hard to evolve.”
Pandemic brought season 17 of “NCIS” to an abrupt end
NCIS had four episodes left on the production schedule when the pandemic first hit the United States in March 2020. Of course, production was quickly halted, resulting in Season 17 coming to an abrupt end after only 20 episodes. This was four episodes short of an entire season.
Cast and crew were not able to return to set until September, which meant that season 18 premiered in November. That was two months later than normal.
As a result of all the delays – and the challenges of filming in the midst of a pandemic – CBS reduced the season 18 order to just 16 episodes.
Supporters didn’t get a proper season finale in season 17
Because of the unexpected cancellation of Season 17, NCIS had to scrap its plans for the final four episodes. As Valderrama pointed out, they were unable to have a “proper season finale.” According to showrunner Frank Cardea, NCIS had a big surprise planned for fans.
“The season finale that was envisioned didn’t have a cliffhanger ending, but was planned for a very surprising ending. More of a reveal/development as you put it,” Cardea told TVLine in April 2020.
‘NCIS’ star Wilmer Valderrama says filming season 18 was a challenge
Valderrama recently told Entertainment Tonight that although they were able to return to set and shoot new episodes, the 16-episode order made it “hard to thrive as a season.”
Wilmer Valderrama opens up about the future of fan-favorite couple Ellie & Nick on #NCIShttps://t.co/rywpW7ou7C
– JustJared.com (@JustJared) April 28, 2021
‘NCIS’: Wilmer Valderrama promises fans will “get their answers” when it comes to Bishop and Torres this season
“Even when we came back, we had a shorter order. We had a 16-episode order, and there were a lot of challenges – where to go, how many characters could be in a scene and all that. It was hard to sustain as a season, but I consider it a huge testament to our fans who tuned in every Tuesday night and cracked the 10 million mark almost every week,” Valderrama said.
They ‘nailed’ their minutes
The “That 70’s Show” alum continued by explaining that there were a lot of unknowns going into Season 18. They had “all the major protocols,” as well as a time and place to shoot.
But they just didn’t know “what the show was going to be.”
“To be able to go through a season, shoot 16 episodes and be able to be back on TV for the fans while 30 percent of our industry is working on what is traditionally shot. We feel very fortunate, and I think we nailed our protocols, and we were excited to show that we can be at work and be safe,” Valderrama said.
‘NCIS’ fans get ‘real season finale’
CBS recently announced that they have renewed NCIS for Season 19 and that star Mark Harmon (Leroy Jethro Gibbs) will return. As season 18 draws to a close, Valderrama promises that fans will finally get the finale they deserve.
“We can finally give fans the season finale they’ve been wanting, or needing, or wanting to see,” Valderrama revealed. “We were able to have a real season finale that takes us into a season premiere, and it’s a big one. It’s a big, big season finale.”
The actor added that he is excited about what is to come, and he made it clear that the series is not slowing down. If anything, Valderrama says, it’s “the same magic, but a different energy.”
NCIS airs Tuesdays on CBS.