NCIS staffer knows show's secret - words
Leon Carroll, Jr., technical advisor on NCIS, talks to Julia Keller about his work on the CBS drama
Leon Carroll, Jr., a staffer on the CBS drama NCIS
The top-rated CBS drama about the real-life Naval Criminal Investigative Service is one of the best-written shows on television, employing crisp, clever dialogue to drive its compellingly topical plots.
The episode airing Tuesday, March 22, at 7 pm on Channel 2 is a special one for Carroll the show's technical advisor. He came up with the storyline, in which NCIS Director Leon Vance, played by actor Rocky Carroll -- no relation to Leon Carroll, Jr. -- engages in a tough, prolonged interrogation.
"It's intense," Leon Carroll, Jr. said of the installment, whose teleplay was written by Reed Steiner and Christopher J. Waild. "It's different from a lot of our shows. Not as much humor."
His 83-year-old father still lives on the South Side, Carroll said in a phone interview last week from the "NCIS" set. "I get back once or twice a year."
Carroll was a member of the U.S. Marine Corps when he joined NCIS in 1980. He retired two decades later, but returned after 9/11, serving another year and a half to help with the agency's expanded role in counter-terrorism. After his second retirement, he and his wife moved to the Los Angeles area. He was recruited in 2003 by the producers of a new TV series called "NCIS." They needed someone who could provide the show with the spit-polish shine of authenticity.
"I sit with the writers" as they work on the scripts, Carroll said, "and they'll ask me about what the characters are saying. I'll go, 'Yes, an NCIS agent would do that.' Then I'll give them tips to make the action more real. I'd say that 80 percent of my suggestions are taken."
It's no coincidence that the character of the new NCIS director, added by the writers at the end of the fifth season, was named "Leon Vance." It's a tribute to Leon Carroll, Jr., the show's producers confirmed. And the character's habit of chewing on a toothpick? It's a Leon Carroll trait as well.
"We've had the same cast and crew for eight seasons now," Leon Carroll said. "It's like a big family here."