Daniela Ruah Talks NCIS: Los Angeles, Her Enduring Character, and Her TV Household
Daniela Ruah has enjoyed playing Kensi Blye, the most enduring female agent in the popular NCIS franchise.
NCIS: Los Angeles returns for its 14th season at 10 pm Sunday on CBS, and Ruah has been there from the beginning, as have LL Cool J and Chris O’Donnell as partners Sam Hanna and G Callen.
In this exclusive interview with TV Fanatic, when she calls from her home base of, not surprisingly, Los Angeles, Ruah admits she feels a kinship to Kensi.
“That’s like asking what is your favorite part about playing yourself because that’s how close I am to Kensi at this point,” she says. “She is me, except I don’t catch bad guys for a living.”
Try harder, Daniela.
The floodgates open: “I love her spontaneity. I love her sense of humor. I love her relationships with all the other characters, especially her relationship with her husband, Deeks. I love how much of a well-rounded human being Kensi is. I love how she’s matured and undergone life experiences in front of an audience.”
The NCIS: Los Angeles writers have taken Kensi on quite a journey, Ruah explains.
“She started off being kind of a loner,” she says. “I can do it myself. I’m independent. I lived on the streets, and I can fend for myself. Then she found someone she could truly share her fears and concerns, and worries with, someone who makes her laugh and brings her joy.
“At first, she didn’t want to be a parent because all she knows is this job, and she’s fearful of not being in this job because of being a parent. Then she runs into infertility when she decides she does want to be a mom, a struggle that is so true and so difficult for many would-be parents.Then she found a solution to that.
“I figure she’s about the same age as me. So she started around age 25 and is now turning 39. A lot can happen in that period of time.”
In the new season, Kensi faces perhaps her biggest challenge, as she and Deeks serve as foster parents to Rosa, who she rescued from Guatemala on NCIS: Los Angeles Season 13 Episode 8.
Ruah explains that Kensi has no blueprint for being a parent, as her beloved father died young, and her mother wasn’t present for her. As a result, Kensi puts too much pressure on herself.
“I love how insecure she is as a brand-new foster mom,” she says. “She loves so much and cares so much that she just wants to get it right and sort of ends up overthinking and being nervous about everything. She tries to be the perfect foster parent. One, nobody’s perfect, and two, you’re more likely to fail if you try to be perfect.”
Some would argue that Kensi has always had to be the responsible one in her relationship with Deeks. But Ruah refused to see Deeks as childish.
“I don’t agree with that,” she rebutted. “In spite of Deeks being a total goofball and he’s funny, at the end of the day when you watch Deeks turn on his mature, intelligent self, he can hold the room. When he wants to put on his lawyer hat for the suspect, or he wants to dive deep emotionally with something, we’ve seen him do that.
“He is no child, even though he makes some silly moves and says some silly things,” she added. “At the end of the day, he knows exactly what he’s doing. Also, I don’t think Kensi would fall in love with a man-child.”
One of the series’ many hanging storylines is David Kessler, who began stalking Kensi on NCIS: Los Angeles Season 12 Episode 5. He’s been mentioned once in passing since then. Ruah is game to tie up that storyline.
“I’d love to see Kensi stepping out of character and making more erratic decisions,” she says. “She’s become more logical through the years. Earlier, she was more likely to be a loose cannon and go off and do what she needed to do. I’d love to see her being driven by instinct rather than being driven by logic.”
Other teammates also have lingering storylines from NCIS: Los Angeles Season 13.
Sam is caring for his curmudgeonly father, Raymond, who is slowly developing dementia.
Callen is preparing to marry Anna. Hetty’s absence will weigh heavily on him, and that will cause tension between them.
Roundtree is still dealing with the fallout of mistakenly being stopped by racist police on NCIS: Los Angeles Season 13 Episode 15.
After years with motherly Hetty, Ruah says the squad has adjusted to Kilbride’s management style, even if some viewers haven’t. Pointing to an episode she directed, “Live Free or Die Standing” (NCIS: Los Angeles Season 13 Episode 19), she says that Kilbride will do what needs to be done.
“Even though Kilbride is his brusque self, he’s still coming from the Hetty generations-of-experience way of doing things,” she added. “He’s by the book until he can’t be because he’s also the guy who’s going to do the right thing. He’s a good guy.”
Ruah has been working more as a director. She has directed her show for three seasons, directing two episodes this season. She also has directed in her home company of Portugal.
Much of the core group of lead actors have been together for the entire run of NCIS: Los Angeles.
“We’ve become a family that’s been cemented throughout the years,” Ruah says. “Us being together for so long as a cast has brought people comfort. Being in people’s homes every week for 14 years is a big deal.
“A lot of people have said, ‘This is a show we sit down as a family to watch every Sunday.’ That brings me so much joy.”
NCIS: Los Angeles airs at 10/9c on CBS.
Dale McGarrigle is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow him on Twitter.