Category Archives: NCISLAfamilia

NCIS:LA Familia Meet-up 2015

The NCIS:LA Familia Meet-up 2015 started with a bang. Better yet, a boom. A BOOM worthy of a season premiere or finale episode. What was it?

A tour of one of where the show is filmed.

Yeah. You read that right.

For those who couldn’t be there in person, allow us to be your guide. We started at the front of the Paramount Studios where we were met by the lovely Katie Barker, one of two publicists for the three NCIS shows. She led the group through the property to Stage 8, one of the two stages where the show is shot. It consists of ‘swing’ sets (those that are built for a few scenes and then taken down) and a few permanent sets.


Look closely and you will see…

Those permanent sets include the boathouse interior, which was our first stop. Unfortunately the interrogation room is not included in this area and the door was locked, glued shut and/or not a real door (it was checked). This set has so much to look at – the set designers have sprinkled the area with nods to boating and the beach and eclectic finds. At one point, Katie said something about ‘our first surprise’ (this should have been a clue as to how the rest of the tour would go but we were too distracted to process that little bit of information). Then our first surprise came in:

LL Cool J, the man who brings Special Agent Sam Hanna to life.

He welcomed us all, posed for pictures, and thanked us for watching. It was a lovely stretch of time spent with a lovely gentleman.


A collection of toys and not-toys.

In a bit of a daze, Katie led us to our next stop: the gym. We learned that the rock climbing wall was installed with the understanding that it was not to be played on (boo), but that the basketball net is used not just for filming. The room also hosts scripting readings, other smaller sets can be built in the center of the room, and the hallways that lead to the bathroom go nowhere.


To the left of the firing range is the gym and to the right is the armory.

However, the short staircase does lead somewhere – to the firing range. After gathering in there and learning about how guns are fired indoors and during shooting, we moved on to the armory. The set designers put much thought into this room as well; there were tools, fake guns, actual weapons hidden behind the grates, and files filled with papers that looked as though they belonged.


Wonder if the onsite electricians ever want to borrow tools?

The tour moved back into the gym where questions were asked until Surprise #2 appeared.

Chris O’Donnell, the man behind Special Agent G. Callen.

He chatted with the group, took time to take pictures with everyone, and made sure to tell us how appreciative he is of the show’s fans. Katie seemed to be enjoying herself, springing these surprises on us. We moved into the section of the tour where we all got a little more comfortable and started peppering her and Justin, one of the production assistants, with questions about the show, filming process, marketing aspects, Los Angeles, and life in general. Everyone was quietly wondering why Katie was hoping we wouldn’t mind waiting a bit longer (wait? on the NCIS:LA set? Somehow we found a way), when the third surprise walked through the door.

Hats! NCIS:LA 150th episode hats!

What did you think was going to happen? Did you think something else was coming? Because you’re right, someone else came through the door a bit later.

It was Monty.

No, it wasn’t.

It was Eric Christian Olsen, who plays Monty’s side-kick, Detective Marty Deeks.

He also took time with us to take some pictures, drop some hints, ask some questions and answer a few. With that final guest appearance past, Katie led the tour back out into the sunshine and around to the outdoor sets where exterior scenes can be filmed along different types of buildings. The tour wound through the studios and ended back in the parking lot. With a final group picture and a chorus of thank yous, the group left the studio.


The next day we gathered again, wondering what could top the previous day. After chatting about the experience, it was revealed that Katie hadn’t just arranged for a tour. She also sent along scripts, signed, from the season premiere which allowed the group to do a table read of the episode. It was, of course, followed by a viewing of that same episode. Presents from those who were there and those that couldn’t also had found their way to the group.

Overall, it was a lovely time for all. The cast and crew of NCIS:LA clearly appreciate the fans and are proud of what they produce and are happy to share it with them. A big thank you to sindee for all her work organizing the event, she did an amazing job. Another one goes to Katie for her enthusiasm and willingness to shepherd around a group of fans.

PS…we also learned things:

  • That hatch in the interrogation room leads to a real tank under the floor. No one knew it was there until the idea was hatched for an episode and someone checked the building plans.
  • A back alley in Mexico was actually a small space between a building and the back of a façade that had some decorating.
  • A sunken parking lot painted blue can be filled with water to be used for aquatic scenes.
  • Even the sitting area outside the on-studio coffee shop is used as a set.

NCISLAFamilia Meet-Up 2013 Write-Up (6/6)

The group moved back in to the meeting room and was told that there was yet another surprise. After a little while, the door opened, and there was literally a huge gasp when in walked Renée Felice Smith! She had met sindee earlier in the week, and had graciously agreed to come and show us a short film she had written, directed, and produced. Setting up the film to play proved to be a bit of a technological challenge. After a few minutes, Renée turned to the group and said, “I play a tech girl. But I am not a tech girl.” While others took over the job of loading the film, Renée used that time to talk to the group and answer questions. She talked about her beloved pet, and said that the cast and crew were “dog people.” She told the group that she reads the part of Hetty when Linda Hunt is unable to attend the table read. When asked about the “sunglasses scene” in Season 4, Renee said this was an added scene. She explained that when an episode is running short, sometimes Nell and Eric will get an extra scene. She told the group that things were changing up just a bit this Season. She said Nell would be going into the field a little more after the 100th episode. And of course, this meeting with Renée could not go by without someone tattling on Barrett for his comment about wanting Eric to “make sweet, sweet love to Nell…”

Renée gave a little background information on her film, “Young(ish),” such as that it was filmed in her home town, on a boat she played on when she was a child. She said she got the inspiration for the film from her grandparents, who apparently have maintained a good sense of humor about aging. During the showing of “Young(ish)”, there was a bit of giggling, several outbursts of laughter, and even a few tears. It is amazing how much emotion was packed into just a few minutes of film. Such a perfect ending to the afternoon!

There are no words to express the unanimous gratitude felt for the actors and crew members who contributed to this exciting day. It was truly humbling to think that these men and women would give up their time to be a part of this. Day two of the Meet Up could not have been any more perfect! The wealth of information presented, intermingled with a heavy dose of wit and humor, was more than anyone could have imagined. A huge “thank you” to sindee for making all this happen. We look forward to the next gathering of the NCISLA Familia.

NCISLAFamilia Meet-Up 2013 Write-Up (5/6)

Surprise Guest Panel
As a special treat, John Scott Mills stopped in. He not only had a lot of behind-the-scenes information to share, but he was absolutely entertaining. As a Digital Imaging Technician, he has access to sound and camera feeds from throughout the set. The audience learned that Chris O’Donnell sings constantly while on the set, and that he has a great singing voice. In fact, according to Mills, Chris once “killed” an Elvis song at a karaoke party, a performance worthy of a Los Vegas stage. Mills added that O’Donnell likes to mess with LL right before a scene. Another interesting observation he has made is that, in between takes, Daniella and Eric sit together, and Chirs and LL sit together, just like real partners. The audience also learned that even the people on the show are occasionally star-struck, like when Jonathan Franks is directing. (It was pointed out that Franks also has a wonderful singing voice.)
When asked about pranks among the cast and crew, Mills said that Osama Shofani apparently thinks it’s a good idea to put water in Don Frazee’s chair so that he goes around all day with wet pants. Messing with an expert in special effects can only result in high-tech retaliation. Shofani once found his car chained to a tree when it was time for him to go home. And on another day, while filming on location, someone kept disrupting the takes by honking their horn. It was discovered that it was Shofani making his way to where they were shooting. His car had been rigged so that his horn honked each time he touched his brake. The audience laughed so hard, imagining Mr. Shofani coming through the streets of LA, pulling up behind other cars at stop lights, and honking his horn as he applied his breaks. Before leaving the panel table, Mills mentioned the monthly Magazine calendar, and that he thought the great villains on the show deserved a lot of credit. Everyone assembled that day agreed.

At the conclusion of the panel discussions, more prizes were distributed. Each person received a CBS tote bag, a “Hetty” t-shirt, and a CBS “Watch” magazine. Coming back from the lunch break, some wearing their new “Hetty” shirts, was time for picture-taking. Then the group gathered outside for a “family” photo. There was plenty of laughter while taking what was supposed to be the more “serious” shots. And then the various personalities really shined though in the final photos of everyone giving their best “goofy” poses. Who would have thought that taking pictures could have been this much fun?

NCISLAFamilia Meet-Up 2013 Write-Up (4/6)

Special Effects / Tech Panel

The next Panel consisted of Don Frazee – Special Effects Supervisor, Troy Brown – Stunt Coordinator, Osama Shofani – Technical Advisor, and Kris Killian – Graphics Technician. Don Frazee, an explosives expert, revealed that his favorite special effect so far was when they blew up the warehouse in “Sans Voir,” the scene where Kensi, Deeks, and Sam came flying out of the exploding building (or their stunt doubles, to be more precise.) He said that this scene was particularly challenging because they had only one day to prepare and rehearse, and only one “shot” at getting it right. Troy Brown explained that the cast does about 90% of their own stunts. He said that the main thing he looks for in a stunt person is toughness, and their ability to get up and do it again. Kris Killian, whose job is to produce the real-time computer graphics, said that making something appear on the screen at the exact time the actor hits the button “is often a happy accident.” When asked about what it takes to coordinate the stunt people with a special effect, such as an explosion, Shofani jokingly stated, “You run fast.” Listening as these men described their work on the show, and observing their interaction with one another, it was obvious that they were not only experts in their fields, but they had fun carrying out their respective jobs. (Later on this morning, the audience will be given a bit more insight on just HOW much fun they have.)

Behind the Scenes Panel

Two of the show’s Co-Producers, Christopher Molnar and Chad Murray, and the Production Coordinator, Laura Napoli, took their seats at the table to make up the Behind the Scenes Panel. Chris Molnar described the challenge he faces in his job of ensuring that each episode is in compliance with Standards and Practices. As an example, a list of names appearing on a computer screen may take up to five days to approve. (The same Standards and Practices that protect “real people” by requiring phone numbers in movies and TV to all begin with “555.”) One of Laura Napoli’s jobs, as Production Coordinator, is to oversee the table reads. She said that this can prove to be very stressful, especially since the table once fell, dumping food into the lap of one of the actors.
Chad Murray summed up his job by saying, “I fabricate evidence.” He is in charge of generating the photos and documents seen on the show. He said that he’s done as many as sixty-five photos to get one drivers’ license to appear right on the screen. (And apparently, LLCool J feels compelled to tell Murray when the person in a crime scene photo does not “look dead.”) Murray said that his favorite episode this season is the 100th, as it delves into Callen’s past. He described how Chris O’Donnell brought in his family photos that were then photo-shopped to become “young Callen.” This was a perfect lead-in to the surprise showing of a scene from the upcoming 100th episode! After viewing this short clip, Napoli concluded by stating that the interest and enthusiasm of the NCIS LA fans is unlike anything she has seen in all her years of TV.