New 'NCIS' spinoff sets up shop in New Orleans

Staff Writer
Columbus Monthly

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The newest members of the successful "NCIS" TV franchise understand the importance of their family roots.

But the stars and producers of "NCIS: New Orleans" also are betting that the crime drama's setting, one of America's most distinctive cities, will exert its own magic with viewers.

The series debuts at 9 p.m. EDT Tuesday on CBS, drafting on TV's top-rated drama "NCIS" that airs at 8 p.m.

"It's really about the DNA of the city and the whole Gulf Coast," said executive producer Jeffrey Lieber.

"The mysteries are sort of infused with a kind of culture and soul — which is not to say anything about 'NCIS' — but you feel the city in every beat and starting to inform the characters as well," Lieber said during a panel discussion with TV critics.

"NCIS: New Orleans" is taped, both on location and at a studio, in the Big Easy and its surroundings. CBS offered viewers a taste last season, using a two-episode arc on "NCIS" to test its potential and then greenlighting the new series with star Scott Bakula.

The original "NCIS," starring Mark Harmon and set in Washington, D.C., is shot at a studio north of Los Angeles. The LL Cool J-Chris O'Donnell spinoff is taped on the Paramount lot and on location in LA.

In "NCIS: NOLA," to use its network nickname, Bakula plays Dwayne Pride, a special agent with the Naval Criminal Investigative Service. He's based in the New Orleans field office that handles cases involving military personnel.

He's not taking success for granted, Bakula said recently on the set.

"We're killing ourselves trying to make a great show and provide a great hour of entertainment. Obviously, people have many, many choices these days to turn to," he said. "We want them to stay and watch 'NCIS' and then follow with us."

Lucas Black, Zoe McLellan, CCH Pounder and Rob Kerkovich also star.

The other cast member, New Orleans, won't be shown only in its jazziest, most alluring guise.

Members of the production staff based in the city have told the home office, "'Don't be shy. Don't be afraid to take us to these places that at the end of the day are an integral part of New Orleans,'" said executive producer Gary Glasberg.

"So are there neighborhoods, are there areas that are struggling? Yes, of course. And we want to address that, and we want to be as true to it as possible," he said.

Black appreciates the city and those who call it home.

"I'm a proud Southerner and most people in New Orleans are as well," said the Alabama native. "They love their city and love where they come from."

New Orleans brings its "flavor and flair and unique culture and fun" to the series, he said during a break in taping. It can also come with strings: Hot, sticky weather.

"I'm used to this heat out here," Black said, grinning. "It's kind of fun for me to see some of the people that come from Los Angeles. They struggle out here in this humid weather."


Associated Press reporter Gerald Herbert in New Orleans contributed to this report.