NCIS: Los Angeles Renée Felice Smith Interview

2013-05-26 12.18.57The DLR between Beckton and Stratford rattles in the background, sunlight playing upon the wooden boards of the balcony outside. It is a warm summer’s day in East London, the high point of a long month of conflicting weather reports. Sitting across from us is Renée Felice Smith, smiling somewhat playfully as we introduce ourselves.

Appearing at MCM London Comic Con to promote her role as Nell Jones in NCIS: Los Angeles, we asked Ms. Smith about the input she had regarding the development of her character, to which she responded enthusiastically. She told us that during season two, she had engaged with writers about the character of Nell and both her direction and her mannerisms in a way that was finally coming to fruition in season four. Ms. Smith joked that the staff were often warning her that she might soon need to “bust out her tap shoes” due to her previous training as a dancer. 

Ms. Smith spoke briefly of her partnership with fellow actor Barrett Foa, who plays Eric Beale on the show, and of one instance when writers had noted how she and Foa had been “acting like goofballs on set” and incorporated their antics into a prolonged swivel-chair race in one of the episodes.

When asked about another actor on the show, famed actor and rapper LL Cool J, Ms. Smith referred to him as an “icon” and spoke of growing up listening to his music. She stated that he certainly came across as larger than life despite actually being very down to Earth and that he “commands attention in a positive way”.

Ms. Smith was asked whether she consciously avoided watching police procedural shows, to which she replied that it was more a case of her not yet having been introduced to the genre. She stated that she felt that the way in which NCIS: Los Angeles approaches heavy issues relating to crime was an important way of processing such serious information. She felt that, having spoken to law enforcement agencies as part of the show’s set- up, keeping the topic light was needed to balance the seriousness of the topics.

The issue of Nell and Eric’s relationship was brought up then – Ms. Smith stated her enjoyment of the way in which the romantic aspects were handled by the writer of the show and that there was “nothing more engaging than two humans grappling with emotion”.

Asked if she received scripts in their entirety or whether they were delivered in segments, Ms. Smith stated at times, due to the reality of television schedules, scripts were sometimes received the night before filming. As a whole though, she said she preferred to receive scripts whole and to read them like a book from start to finish.

Finally, when asked about the possibility of a rivalry between the two NCIS shows, Ms. Smith observed that they were more like a unit functioning as a family and supporting one another.

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