Why Major NCIS Character Was Killed Off After Just Two Seasons: “It Came Out Of Nowhere”

An executive producer explains why one major NCIS character was killed off after just two seasons — and how it changed the show forever.

  •  Kate’s early death in NCIS had a lasting impact on the show, spanning from season 2 to the upcoming season 21.
  •  Sasha Alexander wanted a lighter workload, so the show’s creator, Donald P. Bellisario, decided to kill off her character to increase the stakes.
  •  The decision to kill Kate was a shocker and came out of nowhere, surprising both the audience and the cast.

There’s a reason that Kate (Sasha Alexander) was killed off so early in NCIS history. After spinning off of JAG in 2003, NCIS has gone on to become a runaway hit of its own. The military procedural has spawned several successful spinoffs, including NCIS: Los AngelesNew OrleansHawai’i, and Sydney, and that resounding success can be traced back to the show’s early charismatic cast. While many of those original leads went on to enjoy long runs with the show, Kate was shot and killed in the shocking season 2 finale.

The death of Kate has had an impact on the show that lasted from season 2 to the upcoming season 21. In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, executive producer Charles Floyd Johnson and co-creator Donald P. Bellisario spoke about how they made the decision to kill Kate. With Alexander looking to ease her workload on the series, Bellisario decided that it was an excellent vehicle to increase the stakes. Check out their quotes below:

JOHNSON (executive producer): In year two, Sasha went to Don and said, “I love this show, but I just can’t work this hard.” We were doing long hours. I don’t think she wanted to leave the show — she just wanted a lighter workload. Bellisario was always a writer who went for the cataclysmic. He went, “Well, what if we kill her off?” Everybody goes, “What?” And he went to her and told her, “Good news — your w orkload is going to be lighter. But you’re going to die.” (Laughs.) It was the very last minute or two of the show — the shot through the head. That’s always been one of the more shocking things on the internet of endings that you don’t see coming.


BELLISARIO (co-creator): I wanted to do a shocker, so that’s what I did, and people didn’t expect that at all. It came out of nowhere.

Killing Kate Was The Right Choice

Today, NCIS is known for main characters exiting at surprising times. Kate’s death was the beginning of that, and it spawned the lasting understanding that characters can leave or be killed at any time. After all, there were no indications that Kate was in any danger at all. Alexander played a main character and had signed on for six seasons. She was set for a long run before her character was killed.

Of course, Alexander had good reason to want a lighter workload as shooting for NCIS is a difficult prospect. Filming can last for 10 months or more and early seasons could leave the actors filming for 17 hours each day without much hope for rest. It is no surprise that a schedule that grueling could wear on Alexander. The real surprise was that her character would be killed off because of it, but the decision did prove to be right for everyone involved.

Alexander was able to star in Rizzoli & Isles for seven seasons after leaving NCIS, while the cast of her former show was able to raise the stakes tremendously. Instead of encouraging the sense of safety and security of each of its characters, the death of Kate introduced the idea that any of the investigators could be killed at any time. In that way, Bellisario and Alexander were right to go forward with Kate’s NCIS death.


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