Daniela Ruah calls the shots as first-time ‘NCIS: Los Angeles’ director

The CBS show's Kensi tries a new job on for size

Co-star Daniela Ruah directs a new “NCIS: Los Angeles” episode Sunday on CBS.

For a series star who wants to get into directing, starting with his or her own series is a good and logical move.

It’s an automatic bonus to know the cast, crew and characters in calling the shots for the first time… as Daniela Ruah did in making the Sunday, Feb. 21, episode of the CBS drama “NCIS: Los Angeles,” now in its 12th season. Though some actors are less evident in front of the camera while they’re also serving as director, Ruah’s Kensi Blye has a substantial role as fellow NCIS agent Callen (Chris O’Donnell) is accused of being a Russian spy during a mission.

“It was something that took me a while to realize I wanted to do,” the friendly Ruah says of her first job behind the cameras. “People will say that their passion has always been to do this or that, and that wasn’t the case with me and directing, but something clicked in the last couple of years where I just decided that I was ready to do it. Maybe it has to do with age and maturity, I don’t know, but I trust myself to do it now.”

Co-star Daniela Ruah directs a new “NCIS: Los Angeles” episode Sunday on CBS.

In preparing “to pilot this gigantic airplane,” as she refers to her directing gig, Ruah had the cushion of being extremely familiar with the vast majority of the “NCIS: Los Angeles” team she’d be guiding. “This is the place to do it,” she confirms, noting that executive producer R. Scott Gemmill “very much kept me in the loop as he was writing the episode. He gave me every advantage possible to do this right, including having the holidays to work on it. Usually, a director has much less time to prep an episode.”

Still, Ruah has the shorthand of having been an “NCIS: Los Angeles” cast member from the start. She allows that was a particular help to her in working during the coronavirus pandemic, yet she explains under any circumstances, debuting as a director “is like being a first-time parent. It’s all you know, so as much as I know that this is a very complicated time, you feel safer having rules and parameters than having a wide open space where you can get lost.”

“NCIS: Los Angeles” is a literal family affair for Ruah in one way, since she’s married to the brother of her on-screen husband, Eric Christian Olsen (alias the show’s Marty Deeks). She and Eric’s stunt double David Olsen have two young children, and she reports, “Our lifestyle as parents is very much 50/50. He was so excited about me directing, he said, ‘Whatever you need.’ And he’s in my episode, so it was really fun to direct him, too.”

Jay Bobbin

Jay Bobbin has decades of experience covering the television and movie businesses, winning Tribune Media Services’ Crown Jewel Award in 2008 for his performance in the company. Over those many years of interviewing and writing, he has spoken with everyone from Robert De Niro and John Travolta to Paul McCartney and Tony Bennett … from Meryl Streep and Julie Andrews to Taylor Swift and Carrie Underwood.

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