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NCIS: The Most Popular Show You've Never Heard Of

Cote de PabloCourtesy of CBS

Tonight is the season finale of NCIS, that mysteriously successful JAG spinoff that somehow gives American Idol a run for its money but is so unwatched among our friends we had to check out the show’s Website just to figure out what that acronym stands for. (Naval Criminal Investigative Service.) Last week at a party, we ran into star Cote de Pablo, who plays a Mossad agent taking down suicide bombers. We pumped her on the tricky business of being on an extremely popular show that coastal America doesn’t watch.

Explain the phenomenon of NCSI.
You mean NCIS? Publicity to do the show abroad is completely different from publicity to do the show here. There it’s hip; young people watch it. Here, they don’t know what to do with it. It’s doing so well that no one here wants to spend money on publicity. It’s the show that you’re like, Eh, whatever, but in Middle America, the ratings are huge.

What about in New York?
In New York and L.A., which are big TV markets, people stop me, but it’s not like any of the other shows, which I really like. Michael Weatherly [who plays a flirty former homicide detective] just got in from Australia, and all he had to say was, “Cote, the show is huge. I can’t walk down the street. And I am so happy nobody knows who the hell we are in L.A. because I can go out in my funky outfits and nobody cares.”

You play an Israeli. How did they react when you went to Israel?
I thought nobody would know who I was, but I would go into restaurants and people who were in their forties and fifties would gasp. People start waving at you; they think they’re your friend. And of course I have no idea who they are. They’d always come up to me and ask if I’m Jewish.

Do photographers chase you down?
I’m still pretty incognito. I’m like a hippie. I like being able to walk in my ugly pants with my hair pulled back, just getting out of yoga class and not having to worry. The paparazzi don’t follow me. And I’d say that’s a blessing. —Jada Yuan