Cote de Pablo: “I have never done anything in Spanish and I would love to be able to do it”
Cote de Pablo said farewell to NCIS at the beginning of the 11th season. Fans have long memories.They fondly recall the scene back in season 4 when Ziva David, then still a visiting Mossad agent, announced to Tony DiNozzo, "I will kill you 18 different ways with this paper clip." The audience was hooked on her. Born in Santiago de Chile, Cote, Maria Jose de Pablo, grew up in Miami where she decided to become an actress like her mother. In LA we had the chance to talk to her about her career and her character in the show.
Q: Of course, I want to ask you, given your schedule, how often do you visit Chile now? And would you like at any point in your career, to start doing some work there? I don’t know if you are watching some of the movies that are being made in the country …
A: Yes, amazing movies coming out. I would love to do something in Chile. I am actually waiting for the right thing to pop up in my radar and for my schedule to be flexible enough to allow me to do it. And to answer your first question, I try to go at least once a year but I am not going to make it this year and I am very bummed. Oh, well, no, no because the year is over like in a couple of weeks so no, I am not going to make it this year.
Q: How do you relate with your Spanish roots?
A: I am, I am Chilean and I lived there until I was ten and I go back every year. I feel very, very Spanish, very Chilean. I mean, the only thing I guess I would love to further explore would be to do something in Spanish, would be to work with the great directors right now, you know, Cuarón, Almodóvar, and the really great people out there who are doing things in my own language and that I have never done. I have never done anything in Spanish and I would love to be able to do it. So, yeah.
Q: You said that you arrived in the States when you were ten?
Q: Can you talk to me about your memories? And have you ever thought what your life would have been if you had not come to the States because you had in Chile a pretty well-known mother also that worked in TV, so that may have opened some doors in Chile
A: That was the least attractive thing about the idea of having stayed at home because I hated the idea that my mom could have done anything for me professionally to open any doors. I have always been an adventurer and I have always liked the idea of saying I made it in this country and I made it by myself. I am in many ways without sounding like a complete walking cliché a little bit of the American dream. No one opened the door to me and no one gave me anything. I earned everything I have and for that I have immense amounts of pride. I went to school. I studied a lot. And I didn’t have to sit down across from anyone and have a dinner to get a job. I auditioned and I came in through every single small little door to get where I am. And there is something to be said about that because I am good about it. The things that I remember about my country are, you know, summers, long summers by the beach, you know, something that I lost when I came to the States. People here work a lot. I am the living proof of that. I am that person now. I have turned into that person. But in Chile, you know, the summer would come and you’d go off and you’d spend two and a half months with your family by the beach and you’d have ample amounts of time to talk to, you know, at the time I wasn’t drinking wine but I’d see my family have wine and have these immense politics to health to this to that and, you know, those things I miss. I miss the luxury of time. I miss the warmth of family. I miss the idea that family is not just your mother, your brother, your dad, your mom. I miss the idea of family being grandmother, cousin, the cousin’s brother, you know, the cousin’s friend, you know, all of that, it’s the extensive family that surrounds you. I miss that. That is the thing I miss the most about my country, the warmth, the food, the fruit, the time, my God, a lot.
Q: Any Chilean author that you like to read?
A: Isabel Allende, of course.
Q: I know you joined the show a little bit later than the rest of the team, how much did you enjoyed playing Ziva?
A: The numbers obviously will allow us to be on for a much longer time if we’d like to be but at this point it’s getting to be a very personal thing for all of us, you know, how much longer do each of us want to stay on the show. This year specifically has been a challenging year because they’re writing things differently this year. They’re really kind of exploring more of the character stuff, the emotional things within the characters, which I think is great. Given the fact that this show has been on the air for ten years and that it’s a show that explores crime and that allows people to have fun, that it’s a procedural but it’s a quirky procedural because it also has, you know, the comedy and it has a little bit of that unfulfilled sexual tension and, you know, it’s a very different show from the different procedurals that you see on the air.
Q: So, how would you describe Ziva?
A: I think Ziva has a lot of emotions. I think the character obviously is not going around showing her emotions because then she would betray the very thing that she is, you know, she is a, she is a killer and yet she is working for an American government agency and she tries to do her job well. And, this year they bring her father back and it’s always been an interesting storyline because she has a lot of conflict in her family life. It’s something that she doesn’t like to go into but her father comes back and I think he comes back to rekindle something that perhaps was lost along the way and in his attempt to do this, things happen and let’s leave it at that.
Q: Do you think that Latinos are relevant in television, in 2013?
A: I have always said the same thing. I think the more we isolate that, meaning, “I am a Latin and I am working on,” as opposed to saying, “I am an actor and I am working on,” you will always create separation. I have never thought of myself as anything but an actor. I happen to be Chilean and that’s a plus to me but primarily, I am an actress and if I can be playing the role of an Israeli woman or if I can in the future play an Argentinean women or, God, if I could play any of them I will just be doing what I was taught to do which is trying to convince an audience that I can do many things, that I could play many things.
Q: Now you have played this character for eight years, which were the most challenging things to do for you from an acting point of view as Ziva and also from a personal point of view? Maybe something that you really didn’t share with the character so it was very hard for you on a personal level, something like that?
A: I am a very animated person when I talk. Having to do this and deliver information and be kind of, you know, that was very hard for me to do. It was very hard for me to do and I had directors always telling me that there was a lot of strength in not having everything be highly emotional. I think it comes from maybe how I was raised or – and that was a really hard thing for me to do. As far as – what was the first thing that you asked if there was…?
Q: From an acting point of view and from a personal point of view.
A: From an acting point of view, the idea of not being able to express things emotionally was a hard thing because I come from the theater where things are, you know, expressed physically and your face is engaged and everything about you, it’s just expressing emotion. Here, the character was a lot more closed up. She is a woman that suppresses her emotion in order to just be practical and get the objective done. She comes from a very different world. And that was, that was a hard thing. That was a hard thing. But it’s an interesting thing because I can’t say now that it’s something that I have mastered. No, I think it’s still very challenging for me. So, I am still trying to do it.
Q: Don’t you think that you also need more fashion stuff or romantic stuff on the show?
A: You know, I will be really honest. That’s such a great girl question and I appreciate it because I play a soldier and I can’t begin to tell you how – I feel, like, you know, I feel like I am wearing a garbage can like, you know, it’s a very weird thing and I am with men all day, all men that are, Mark Harmon is like, “I don’t care, I don’t want makeup, my hair looks fine.” And I am very much the same way because I was always a tomboy. And sometimes I feel, well, it’s a hard question for me to enjoy being a girl. And I enjoy at times, you know, putting on that dress and all of that stuff. However, I feel that in order to play this character and be true to the character, I can’t pay attention to the physical aspect of who I am that much because it would be sacrificing who I believe is the real character. Does it play a role on my vanity? Hmm, yes. Would I love to look at times more presentable on TV? Absolutely. Do I feel fine? Have I made my peace with this from an acting standpoint? Yes. And that at the end of the day is what I get paid to do and forget it.
Q: Do you think this show can stand on its own or it’s really you guys?
A: That’s a great question.. I came in third season. Rocky Carroll I think came in like season six or five. Every single person that’s left and a new energy that has come in has only made this show stronger. I believe that what we have now is a really great group of people that know how to work really well together and we certainly love each other very much. Do I think the show would
work if one of us left? I think the show would limp for a little bit and that was I think my answer verbatim because I do feel that each of us brings an element that is instrumental in making the ship sail. Am I worried? You can’t live your life worried. I have done eight years of this show. I am incredibly proud to say that I have survived eight years of procedural, you know, procedural work. I am excited about the things that may come. I am ready for new things. And I will leave it at that.
(c) America Reads Spanish