The entire “NCIS: Los Angeles” team is on its way to Afghanistan to rescue Kensi (Daniela Ruah), who’s been captured by the Taliban. While she’s there, she discovers that she’s been sent to assassinate her ex-fiancé, Jack (Matthew Del Negro), who is living a completely new life as the White Ghost. Ruah talked to Yahoo TV about how this week’s episode, “Spoils of War,” will affect Kensi’s relationship with Deeks (Eric Christian Olsen) and how Ruah’s experience as a new mother will affect her work on the show.
What can you tell us about shooting this episode?
It was awesome! It was very dark. It was very emotionally dark for [Kensi], considering what we’ve seen in the previous episodes with Jack, trying to figure out what happened there with him and in her past. This episode is very much going to be like a movie. If there were ever going to be an “NCIS: LA” movie, this would probably be similar to it. It’s incredible. It was written by Frank Military, who also debuts as a director in this episode. He’s also one of our darkest writers.
Anytime we delve into something personal for any one of our characters on the show, it always makes for a great episode. I think viewers really enjoy when they get to know us a little bit — to be part of milestones that end up shaping who [the characters] are in the future, and that’s very much what this episode is.
How is it affecting your relationship with other members of the team, especially Deeks?
I think it will inevitably affect their relationship. They were coming so close to turning into something for them, and then all of a sudden, Hetty [Linda Hunt] sends Kensi away on this mission. And she sends her away for a few months with very little contact with Deeks other than photographs they send each other. I think it’s like… what’s the expression? All of a sudden I’m thinking in Portuguese and I’m trying to translate into English! [Laughs.] It’s a stone in their shoe, it’s a thorn in their side. [Laughter.] Damn foreigners!
It will affect them; of course, it will affect them. Kensi confronts Jack and that whole situation from her past. It was unfinished business, for sure. But I think she finally came to terms with the fact that she was probably never going to see him again, and suddenly he shows up in a really strange setting for her, completely out of context. She thought he was dead or probably at least living in America. And it turns out he’s living in Afghanistan with this whole other life that he’s started. And he was the love of her life at one point. And what does that do to see the love of her life? If you think it’s not a real relationship, I think these two are definitely in some sort of relationship, Kensi and Deeks. So it affects it. Of course it does.
Was this a difficult episode to shoot? Stuck out in the desert like that?
I think when the writers and producers give us the opportunity to play scenes like this that are so juicy and so wonderful, I think any one of us cast members would do anything for a piece of our past, as characters — to play with a piece of our past. Because I think our show can be pretty light-hearted. It’s obviously a drama, but in terms of the characters themselves, it can be relatively light-hearted. And then once in a while, they show us these wonderful goodies to play with, and that’s what they did for me this season — they gave me this Jack situation to play with. And so I don’t think it was necessarily a challenge; it just made me want to be better.
Do you feel the need to differentiate your relationship with Deeks from other “NCIS” relationships… the relationship that Eric and Nell have, that Ziva and Tony have?
Of course, I want to differentiate as much as possible. I think that even though there are equivalent duos, we are still our own characters and, as actors, we play our roles in our own ways, so that’ll always make a big difference from other couples. And then, it kind of all depends on what we’re given to play. There’s a lot of banter, ups and downs, backs and forths with “Densi” or “Keeks,” as the fans call them. And they place obstacles in their way, and we try to get over those obstacles.
Especially if you compare us to the other couples on the show, obviously there’s a huge difference. You’ve got the nerdy couple, and they’ve got their own thing going on with their own nerdy type of humor. Callen and Sam are two men, and they have the relationship of partners and best friends. It’s almost “Lethal Weapon,” where you’ve got this rogue cop, Mel Gibson, who kind of attaches himself to Danny Glover’s character’s family, like this appendage that follows them around. That’s what Callen is to Sam’s family. And then you’ve got Kensi and Deeks, who will kind of get spicy once in a while. And then on the other hand, she’ll punch him in the shoulder
Are there any couples you’d liken Densi to? Sam and Diane? Lucy and Desi?
No, I think they are their own people, and they’ll create their own environment. And fortunately for us, it’s been working really well with the fans. They’ve been responding really well; if it wasn’t for them, we wouldn’t still be playing with this relationship. So, someone’s doing something right!
Do you feel like the relationship’s progressing either too fast or too slowly?
I definitely wouldn’t say too fast! I also don’t want to say too slow because, honestly, if we’re going to be playing it with it for 10 seasons — I don’t know how long we’ll go — but if we’re lucky enough to hit 10 seasons… I think at one point, of course, we’re going to have to have resolution one way or another. Whether they stay together or decide to fully not be together. I think they want to be together; I think they just need to find the right time and place to be together. But I definitely think they both want to.
Any more exciting things you get to do this season?
I think what I’ve been able to do so far has been pretty exciting! For me, the actress playing Kensi, the fact that they’ve allowed me to [shoot while I was pregnant]… They preshot a lot of the stuff. My first episode back was the episode that played last week. I was no longer pregnant there — though people might think I still look pregnant. [Laughs.]
I shot all the way up to seven and a half months. I had to lie on my tummy on the floor — we dug this big hole in the ground. All of that was so much fun to do and to play with. And one day, when my child is a little bit older, I can show him some of the scenes and say, “Look, you were in Mommy’s tummy at that time. Getting rid of bad guys and running away from explosions and gunshots, and you were in her belly the whole time.” So all of this has been a completely unforgettable experience for me. I don’t think there are a lot of people who could say that their pregnancy was registered in this kind of tone.
Were you chomping at the bit to come back, or was it hard to return from the pregnancy?
No! River, my son, gave me a wonderful gift other than himself — he decided to show up three weeks early. So that gave me extra time with him, because we had planned on when I would be coming back. Shane [Brennan, the show's creator] and the writers were really flexible. They’re like, if you don’t feel like you can come back at this date, we’ll push it longer. But fortunately, I was aiming to come back when they were hoping to have me back. And they gave me another two weeks, which made it even easier.
And also another thing, too: They’ve been super-accommodating with me, which I’m so appreciative of. They make it easy for me to bring my son to work with me. I have a nanny, obviously, who takes care of him when I’m on set, and I get to be with him. Every lunchtime, I come back to my trailer. Every time we have some time between scenes for setup, I run back and I spend time with my son. I’m able to be a working mom, which is the example I have from home and the mom I always wanted to be. Moving train never stops! And he’s on the train with me all the time, which is awesome. I’m very privileged to be able to do that.
Has having a child given you a different perspective on your work?
The perspective is that I don’t matter, other than to keep him safe. When your mom says, “Don’t you want to wear a jacket?” and you say, “Mom, I’m 30 years old, I think I can make that decision for myself” — I don’t think I’m ever not going to tell him to wear a jacket outside; I don’t care if he’s 45. There’s just this sense of protection and love like I’ve never known it before. It’s so big… it’s so big that it makes you want to cry when you first feel it, when you first see your baby.
If you ever do it, if you ever decide to, there’s no bigger love. And I know people say this all the time, but you just feel it, it’s in you. It’s like, uh-oh — I’m toast. I’m done. I completely surrender to this little person that can’t even speak. It’s an incredible, incredible feeling, and I would do every all over again.
“NCIS: Los Angeles” airs Tuesday nights at 9 p.m. on CBS.