The success of crime dramas such as CSI and Law & Order has ensured that TV series spin-offs are a growing trend on the small screen. The latest to air in the UAE is season two of spin-off NCIS: Los Angeles (the acronym stands for Naval Criminal Investigative Service, in case you were wondering). The show boasts an all-star cast including Chris O’Donnell, rapper-turned-actor LL Cool J and petite veteran Linda Hunt, and the series revolves around criminal investigations in the US Navy and Marine Corps. Here, we get the drill on what to expect from Hunt, 67, who plays operations manager Henrietta ‘Hetty’ Lange.
What do you know about Hetty’s back story?
Hetty is a very eclectic woman and has been in this spy business for a very long time. She has an extraordinary past. She has the heart of a brusque mother superior, but the discipline of a soldier.
After two seasons, do you still enjoy playing Hetty?
It turns out that Hetty and I are well suited to each other. Hetty coalesced as a character quite quickly; I had no idea that would happen. Within the first couple of months I began to feel much more at home with what I knew about her. In terms of physical mannerisms, there’s a lot of myself that is now a part of Hetty.
What does it feel like to have completed two seasons?
I look back at the first season and the first few episodes and remember how scared to death I was. For a movie, at least you have the opportunity to study the screenplay, but with this, it’s a new screenplay every eight days.
Do you enjoy working with the cast and crew?
This is an extraordinary group of people in terms of their openness and willingness to listen to each other. It’s hard, what we do, because it takes so many people and it has to happen so quickly, but everyone is so good about doing the best that they can and doing it for as many hours as is necessary.
Hetty’s life seems to be consumed by work. Does she have friends outside the NCIS team?
Hetty gives the impression of having known a lot of people in her life – from people in Hollywood to the European set and the racing set in Monaco – but what’s Hetty’s personal life like? I don’t know.
Are you amazed at the physical things you can do?
They had me climbing walls at one point this season – I couldn’t climb a wall if my life depended on it. I’m not an athlete: never have been, never will be. But [creator] Shane Brennan has created Hetty in such a way that she has all this dramatic licence. We believe, somehow, that Hetty is going to do it all. She’s going to make it over the wall and everything else she needs to do.
Why does Hetty surround herself with complicated people?
Hetty loves the dispossessed of the world. She’s pulled toward these people. She’s watching them all the time from the corner of her eye.
What is it about Deeks’ character that Hetty finds so fascinating?
Hetty has this attraction to people who are isolated. She senses something about Deeks that’s not that obvious because of how funny and clever he is and how smart and charming he can be. Hetty senses something that nobody really sees. And there it is – he shot his father at 11.
Why are fans so drawn to Hetty?
They love the mystery of her. You don’t know much about her. She’s a good person and she’s in the same boat with all the rest of them. She’s just trying to run the boat well.
What do your friends think about you taking on the role of Hetty?
I had a birthday recently and an old friend wrote on my card, ‘Oh Linda, I watch you every week and I love to see you surrounded by all those gorgeous young people.’ [Laughs].
NCIS: Los Angeles airs every Tuesday at 11pm on MBC Action.