"Out of the Darkness" - Ziva surprises Gibbs with a cryptic warning, prompting him to question why she remained underground for years while being presumed dead by family and friends, and what lead to her return, on the 17th season premiere of NCIS, Tuesday, Sept. 24 (8:00-9:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network. Pictured: Cote de Pablo as Ziva David, Mark Harmon as Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs. Photo: Erik Voake/CBS ©2019 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved
Credit: Erik Voake/CBS

On tonight’s episode of NCIS, fans will learn why Ziva (Cote de Pablo) came back to protect Gibbs (Mark Harmon) from danger. So where you been, Ziva? Pablo agreed to answer a few of our burning questions — including how long she’ll stick around this time.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Why are fans so lucky to get their Ziva back?
COTE DE PABLO: The writers always flirted with this idea of the character coming back. This time they wanted to really have a serious discussion about where I thought the character had been in the past five years and how we could potentially create a complex and fun storyline to bring the character back. After lots of conversations, especially with writer Gina Monreal, she really tried to incorporate a lot of things that I thought the character had gone through. She loves the character. She’s a very strong writer and a strong woman. She’s also a mother. I felt that she understood a lot of the journey that Ziva has gone through.

So where has Ziva been?
Whatever she has done has been obviously in secret. We thought that the best thing is that she’s been working in undercover operations, which has led her to run for years and in many ways, by staying quote-unquote “dead to the rest of the world,” she’s been able to really save her daughter from potential harm. We needed to make that a very real thing. So when Ziva comes back from the dead so to speak, whatever cover she is breaking, whatever undercover operations she’s leaving behind, that it becomes a very real thing to her because obviously now she’s jeopardizing family, but she’s also jeopardizing people who have helped her along the way.

Did the producers catch you at a good time?
The timing was actually great. I was excited about exploring the character of Ziva again. I felt that I owed it to the fans. I felt that there was something still missing from that character that I needed to go back and revisit that home. I’ve done some serious traveling in the past couple of years. Everywhere I go, I get bombarded with questions about, “when are you coming back?” And I was never able to say, “Oh, well it’s going to happen.” I said, “Well, I don’t think it’s going to happen anytime soon.” And they would always be bummed out. So at this point, it’s just good to say, “Yep, I am.”

Has Michael Weatherly [who played her beloved Anthony DiNozzo] ever tried to get you to appear on Bull?
Oh, I’ve been offered a role in Bull. I’ve been offered lots of things. I just, for the most part, have been taking classes. I’ve been traveling. It just hasn’t been something I’ve wanted to explore. But I think I’m ready to explore more and I think this is my first step.

How many episodes of NCIS will you be in this season?
I’m back for two episodes, No. 1 and 2 of season 17 and then two more!

NCIS airs Tuesdays at 8 p.m. ET on CBS.

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