What Happened To Linda Hunt’s Hetty On NCIS: Los Angeles?


Where would the agents of “NCIS: Los Angeles” be without Hetty Lange (Linda Hunt), their no-nonsense but still loving Operations Manager? Season after season, Hetty pushes the team to new heights and acts as something of a surrogate parent to G. Callen (Chris O’Donnell). Unfortunately, Hetty’s presence on the series diminished over the ensuing years, and in seasons 13 and 14, she’s reduced to one appearance each.

In storyline terms, Hetty initially disappears during Season 9. It turns out she’s being held hostage in Vietnam, looking for Keane (Jeff Kober), an MIA former member of her team from the war who is eventually revealed to be alive after all. After her rescue, Hetty comes into conflict with new NCIS team leader Shay Mosley (Nia Long). When Mosley sends the whole gang to Mexico, Hetty realizes that the clandestine mission may result in heavy casualties — and worse, that Mosley doesn’t care, as the team’s recon target is her son.

After the team returns from Mexico, Mosley has been removed from her command post, and Hetty is placed on a long-term OSI mission in Syria. She calls upon her friend Hollace Kilbride (Gerald McRaney) to take her place on the NCIS team. Hetty is last heard from via a letter to Callen and his new bride, Anna (Bar Paly), in the series finale. Apologizing for her absence, she warmly congratulates her protégé, calls them family, and offers the couple use of her home on Mykonos. She also gives G and his partner, Sam Hanna (LL Cool J), a lead on a mission in Morocco, sending them on their next adventure.

Why was Hetty gone for so long? It turns out Linda Hunt definitely had a good reason not to be around for the last few chunks of “NCIS: Los Angeles.”


The show’s producers did what they could to ensure Hetty stayed an onscreen presence

While the producers of “NCIS: Los Angeles” managed to weave the story of Hetty’s absence into the general plotline without too many jarring bumps, it turns out there are multiple reasons for Linda Hunt’s absences on the show.

The first reason was a car crash, which occurred in 2018. Though she wasn’t seriously injured in the incident, the actress required recovery time. She told TV Line that she’d hoped to be back filming the series earlier, but the timetable for her rehabilitation proved to be slower than anticipated. “Though I had hoped to return to playing Hetty at the start of the season, I had to take some additional time to recover. I look forward to returning later this season,” her statement read in part.

Then the COVID-19 pandemic occurred, and Hunt’s age (75 at the time) forced the producers to use her sparingly until a vaccine could be distributed. Even with Hunt back working full-time, the actress wasn’t available to shoot much during the show’s final season. Thus, Hetty appeared at Callen’s wedding via a letter in the series finale.

“It wouldn’t have been a series finale without some element of Hetty, and we felt like she — being all knowing and all seeing — would have known about the wedding somehow,” showrunner R. Scott Gemmil told TV Line in May 2023. He added that if the show had received one more season, it would have seen the “NCIS: Los Angeles” gang go on a rescue mission to retrieve Hetty from Morocco. Perhaps that’s something fans can look forward to in a reunion movie someday.


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