Like the stealth criminals often hunted on the show, NCIS: LA is a bit of a silent threat in the ratings game. Now in its second season, the show is frequently on the list of top-rated shows each week, and yet, it has silently given birth to one of TV’s new, completely addictive (but not romantically attached) pairs, Marty Deeks (Eric Christian Olsen) and Kensi Blye (Daniela Ruah).
Since Olsen’s upgrade to series regular in season 2, the partners’ undeniable chemistry has attracted the attention of fans — and yours truly. So EW got the pair on the phone to chat about tonight’s episode that will give fans new peek into this pair’s growing (hopefully romantic) bond. What we learned? The actors’ hilarious chemistry is not just for the screen.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: I’m so glad we were able to get you both at the same time.
ERIC CHRISTIAN OLSEN: It’s a terrible idea, by the way. Terrible idea. [Laughs]
DANIELA RUAH: Just before you came on the phone, all I was getting from Eric was this: [Clucks like a chicken]
ECO: I thought it would be super funny if during this interview, Dani answered all the questions, and I just made chicken noises the whole time.
That would make for an interesting transcript. “His cluck sounded very tortured.”
ECO: Yes. The tortured chicken.
Well, I’m really excited to talk to you about Deeks and Kensi. You’ve said before that there was chemistry between you both as actors from the beginning. Did you expect the ‘shipper aspect of this to be as strong as it has been?
ECO: What is that? What is “shipper”? What does it mean?
It’s when fans want two people to have a relationship. So they abbreviate it as “shipper.”
ECO: What is that abbreviation for?
DR: Answer the damn question. [Laughs]
ECO: I don’t know! Because I keep reading it, and I have no idea what it means. “What, I’m on a ship? You want us to go on a cruise?” I don’t know what that means.
It’s: relationship = “shipper.”
ECO: I see. Relationshipper.
DR: I don’t think we expected the fans to want this so much. I mean, when I said we had chemistry right from the beginning, we got along as people, and we realized very early on that it would be so easy to play around with each other and to make something fun out of the relationship of these characters. I certainly didn’t predict what people would want from it or see in it.
And what about you, Eric? Did you sense a spark?
ECO: The first thing that Dani said to me when she came up to me was, “In the script it said that Deeks was supposed to be tan and muscley.”
DR: I said, “What are you gonna do about it?”
ECO: And I looked at her, raised my eyebrow, and go, “And I heard Kensi was supposed to be hot. So what are you doing about that?” That is the first thing we ever said to each other, those two lines.
DR: Before “hello.”
ECO: I think that’s kind of an indication for me that she was quick on her feet, she’s able to — if acting is just listening and reacting — that’s something she does really well.
DR: I just want to say, I’m not sure if “quick on my feet” would be the good description, considering I had been thinking about it for like, half an hour before I actually said it. [Laughs] “What can I say that’s going to throw him off?” And then he came back with a quick reply. And so yeah.
ECO: And then she froze and walked away really quickly. I was trying to give you props in [this] interview, but the fact of the matter is, yeah. She just turned bright red and walked away. She just left and went and ate like seven oatmeal raisin cookies. I was like, “Really?”
DR: I think I probably did.
ECO: You’ve got to give props to the writers and the producers of it, because they write fantastic dialogue that kind of allows us to play within it and find our relationship. If you look at any relationship onscreen as a love story, I think this one is one of those where obviously Dani’s fantastic and you find moments in these scenes that have connections between two characters. And I think the possibility of that is why it’s so exciting.
DR: And also, the writers are great at writing the banter, but they’re also so great at observing how we develop with their writing and throughout the season. Eric’s really good at improvising. So much that [dynamic] began by being an improvisation, and now they write that kind of stuff in.
What kind of improvisation are we talking about here?
DR: Eric, would you care to — [laughs]
ECO: Why does that sound so dirty all of a sudden?
DR: No, no, no, no, no! It’s not dirty as much as it is inappropriate half of the time.
ECO: That’s not true! I’m not inappropriate! You’re a liar!
DR: A lot of stuff doesn’t make the cut because it can’t.
ECO: I think there’s moments that I try to extend and push a little harder with to get certain reactions.
You two have such great exchanges on the show. When did you start noticing the romantic undertones?
ECO: What!? Romantic undertones?! I don’t even know what you’re talking about.
DR: Was that a cluck, Eric?
It’s the thing everyone’s picking up on.
DR: Well, I’ll be honest with you. I think that we didn’t initially — no, not initially.
ECO: I’m going to make this as ridiculously oversimplified and simplistic as possible, and apologize before I even say it. But I think that in relationships and especially in all of our lives, if you look at relationships, it — once again, I apologize — it’s a dance. So I think that what’s fun about these two characters together is figuring out their positions, and when one moves, how the other one moves to join that person. For instance, in [tonight’s] episode, my favorite part of the episode is my character goes undercover and his best friend is in trouble, and we think he may be dead. And I become, as this character, much more aggressive than we’ve ever seen him. Much angrier. And then to see Kensi, how she navigates that dance. She becomes, in that moment — instead of aggressive like she normally is — she becomes… I don’t’ know. Sensitive? What’s the word you’d use to describe that?
DR: Probably “nurturing?” Nah, not nurturing. Sympathetic.
ECO: Sympathetic, but also kind of astutely aware of his frame of mind and [she reacts] to that. I think that what’s so fantastic about these chracters, and the possibility of where they go, is watching that dance. Deeks goes into a much darker place, to watch how Kensi folds into that and navigates his fall.
DR: I think there’s also — whether you want to call it romantic or not — I think the type of relationship that’s created between two partners is one of so much trust and so much loyalty and so much care, that the romanticism comes when you create a physical relationship. Because all of those qualities are things that you get with your best friends, and are things that you get with your lover, with your partner. Whether it develops into something more physical on the show, I don’t know. We’re yet to see that. But there’s definitely a relationship there between the characters, which is very strong and is very caring.
What can you tell us? Are we going to be shocked by what we learn about his past? Will that change how we see him?
ECO: I think so. I think yes, to all those. I think there’s some pretty shocking backstory. I think that, she said it earlier, which is that my character goes undercover, and he’s in a relationship as that alias. You start to question his actions while being that character. How much of that is him playing the roll, and how much of that is who he really is? That definitely affects the dynamic of Deeks and Kensi.
DR: She’s never seen him be intimate with a woman before, not for real and not undercover. She may have heard about him dating, but that was about it. Kensi’s confronted with a big, big kiss for the first time between Deeks and his past lover, I suppose, and yeah, it’s very interesting how she’s able to react to that. She has to keep her cool.
Obviously, there have been comparisons to other will they-or-won’t-they couples. Do those comparisons annoy you? Are you flattered by them? What’s your reaction?
ECO: I think that’s gotta be a compliment, because if it’s people they love as a couple, and they’re comparing us to them, obviously you take that as a good thing.
DR: Yeah, for sure. You will inevitably, I think, be compared to some couples like that, because there is a very similar dynamic. I think the challenge, the fun part of it is for all of these couples to try and have their own thing at the same time that will distinguish each couple.
ECO: You don’t want to be lumped together with Bones. You’ve never even seen Bones, have you?
DR: Actually, I have, Mr. Olsen. [Teasing] I’ll have you know that.
ECO: I’ve never seen it.
DR: No, I don’t mind being associated with [Bones], because it’s obvious that you will be in a situation like this. But I’m also searching for our individuality as a character couple. You want to have your own thing, and you want it to be a little different from everybody else. Otherwise, what are we doing here, you know? But it is definitely a compliment, considering they’re great pairs and they’re fun to watch.
They all have rabid followings, as do you. It’s cool that you have such a passionate base.
ECO: Most of those videos on YouTube, I did myself. [Laughs] The one with Justin Bieber, that’s just me at home cutting together and putting on like, Justin Bieber… I can’t even think of any pop stars’ names.
DR: We’re actually really appreciative of the people that put those things together. And some of those are really good, considering half the people are not professional editors. It’s like, wow. You’ve taken the time to put something really nice together, you know?
So you watch them and you like them? That’s so sweet of you.
ECO: People put them up on our Twitter. So we watch them when we get there. And people made a t-shirt that I’m going to try to buy and make Kensi wear in a scene. I haven’t told you that yet.
DR: What’s the t-shirt?
ECO: It’s got a picture of Deeks on it, and then he’s shooting a gun or something else. And if Deeks gives that to you as a gift, that’d be the funniest thing ever. [Laughter]
DR: That would really be funny.
ECO: But yeah, there are some really talented people that are passionate about the show, and what more can you ask for? I mean, that’s fantastic. You do whatever you’re going to do as far as storytelling and…to have people respond the way they have is the most flattering and exciting thing ever.
So by the end of the season, how will we be left with the two of them? Any fun developments, romantically or otherwise?
ECO: That’s a good question, because I’m not sure how much we’re supposed to reveal about the last three episodes.
DR: Put it this way: the last couple of episode are very much banked on Hetty [Linda Hunt] and Callen [Chris O’Donnell], and they’re much more of an ensemble couple of episodes because we all go on a mission together. And, by the way, I read the last episode and I was just like, “I can’t wait for Season 3!” But we have an addition — it’s Claire Forlani, who’s coming in as our operations manager, where we all know that that was Hetty’s job. So it’s going to be a very exciting few episodes. As I said, we’re working as a group more so than individual partnerships.
ECO: The last three episodes, I think, test them as they test the relationships between all of the characters. Because it’s the biggest threat we’ve seen so far to one of our own. And how that pulls the team together, and where we end up going in pursuit of the self-preservation of that team. So I think it tests everybody, it’s not just our relationship as much as it’s everyone’s relationships. The most gravitational force as any of the characters go is Hetty, and she’s kind of the piece that holds it all together. And when that is threatened, how it affects everybody else says a lot about all of the relationships. The one coming up May 3, that’s essentially a Deeks-Kensi episode. And the last two are just monster cliffhangers with some unbelievable development as far as the characters go. How’s that for diplomatic and all-encompassing?
You’ve learned the art of saying everything and also saying nothing.
ECO: I should run for office.
DR: That was one of the things that when I started acting, I was about 16 in Portugal, and I remember when interviews started coming in, my dad always taught me, he said, “You have to go after the art of saying yes and no in the same answer.” And I’m like, “All right. I will do my best, Dad.” Eric definitely has that art down.