It was the opportunity of a lifetime. A chance to fly out to Los Angeles and meet the cast and crew of NCIS Los Angeles! My partner in crime, sindee and I had just launched a new online site which was an off shoot of her very popular NCISLA Fan Blog. With an idea to make the new site look and feel different with original material and information coming out 24/7 we worked long and hard to create what was to become NCISLA Magazine. The new site was unveiled at the beginning of September and we were very proud of the results… but what would the NCISLA team think?
Our site visit was set for the beginning of November. Although I had lived in the San Francisco Bay area years ago, this was my first trip to Los Angeles. sindee and her husband, Mark were old pros, having visited the City of Angels many times in the past, so they graciously acted as my tour guide on this trip. On the first day we visited many tourist hot spots that also happen to be some of the great location sites used on many episodes for the show. It was fun exploring the famous Santa Monica Pier, Venice Beach, Marina del Rey and Hollywood Boulevard which were all iconic tourist sites but I was seeing them all through NCISLA eyes. “Look, that’s where Callen ran up the escalators… Deeks and Kensi were walking on this side of the pier… That’s where Sam parked his Challenger!” Not exactly highlights in the LA Michelin guide book, but definitely a thrill for me to see for the first time.
The day before the site visit we received an invitation to visit Eric Linden (Chris O’Donnell’s stunt double) at his studio Action Factory Stunts. Eric and his fellow stuntmen were busy that day working out the choreography for a new video they were scheduled to shoot with Sam & Niko, the creators of several famous short films as Corridor Digital. It was fascinating and revealing time spent learning about the craft and how much work goes into one small part of a video. Eric and Joe Fidler took us through some of the fight choreography that they had been working on and Eric explained all the preparation and safety precautions that are used for each scene. It was such an enjoyable and informative day and we really want to thank Eric for inviting us to visit! (More on Action Factory Stunts in a future edition of NCISLA Magazine when we sit down with Eric Linden for an interview regarding his work on the show and his life as a stunt artist.)
The evening before our visit to the NCISLA set reminded me of the night before Christmas when I was 6 years old and waiting for Santa Clause to come down the chimney! I was so excited, I couldn’t sleep. I was finally going to meet a group of people who I have admired for their ability to entertain and bring so much enjoyment to their fans. I knew it was going to be a day I would never forget!
sindee and I set off mid-morning for Paramount Studios. Our contact was Erin, Shane Brennan’s assistant and she was meeting us once we got through the gates of the studio. Erin took us for a walking tour of the famed Paramount studio complex and despite the extreme heat that day, I was mesmerized by the sights and sounds of the myriad of employers going about their business on this magical piece of land. We passed city facades, makeup trailers and Forrest Gump’s bench (yes, the real one used in the movie!) until we finally stood in front of Studios 8 & 9. The door that led us to the magical world of NCIS Los Angeles was very unassuming. But once we entered, we were greeted by a huge wall filled with a promotional portrait of Chris O’Donnell and LL Cool J. This has got to be the place!
Erin led us into a very cold but refreshing sound stage with food carts, extras buried in their e-readers and carpenters building new sets. I didn’t know what to look at first. Our first set we walked into was the gym and weapons range. Directly next to that was the arsenal. I expected things to appear different but I was surprised how everything was exactly the way it looked on the TV screen. Most of the set was in dim lighting but we had a chance to walk around and explore the nooks and corners of the rooms. Next was the interior of the boathouse and it was fun to find all the places you don’t get to see as you watch the show. We knew what was down the hall and couldn’t wait to enter the interrogation room. How cool was this??!! sindee and I took turns pretending to be our favorite NCIS agents grilling the bad guy on the other side of the table. We definitely felt like two kids let loose in a candy shop. What a thrill!
It was time to go to Stage 9 where the cast and crew would be filming a scene from episode 11 (Drive) in the Ops center. Before we walked on the set, we met some of the sound crew including Adam Key (@artwercadam) who gave us our headsets. As we entered the hallowed halls of the Mission, I couldn’t stop smiling. As much as I was looking forward to meeting the cast and crew, I was humbled to be standing right smack dab in the middle of the Mission! It was an amazing experience. As I got to walk around Hetty’s office examining her wonderful knick-knacks, I was in NCISLA heaven! The details of her office are seared into my mind. So many dramatic scenes and amusing conversations at her desk raced through my mind at the same time. Some of the best scenes from the show took place in this eclectic office of memories.
We walked out of Hetty’s office and into the bullpen and my first stop had to be Deeks’ desk. Compared to his fellow agent’s desks, his area looked very neat and organized. Hmmm… looks like Deeks’ was holding out on us! Kensi’s desk on the other hand, was filled with clutter and silly knick-knacks, Sam had a collection of his origami creations lined up neatly in a row and I still smile every time I remember the bottle of aspirins on Callen’s desk. The desk tops were all so typical of the characters who sat behind them.
After a tour of the Mission’s wardrobe room and the tech center we began our trip up the stairs to Ops. Everything had been very quiet to this point. We got to meet a number of crew members taking care of business on the first floor of the Mission but it wasn’t until we climbed the stairs that we could feel the energy starting to swirl. As we reached the top of the stairs, support crew lined the wall waiting to be called to do their jobs but our attention was turned to the bright lights emanating from Ops. And who should we see sitting outside of Ops and studying his script but Chris O’Donnell! If we had been amazed by what we saw on the first floor of the mission… we hadn’t seen anything yet!
Find out more on Wednesday when I reveal what happen next on our set visit to the set of NCIS Los Angeles! [EDIT: Find Part Two here…]