Why Sasha Alexander Really Left ‘NCIS’

Sasha Alexander's shocking season 2 'NCIS' exit left fans reeling. Here's why she left the show -- and why 'NCIS' writers decided to kill off her character.


One of the most stunning moments in NCIS history came early on in the show’s run. In the season 2 finale, Sasha Alexander’s Agent Caitlin Todd was abruptly killed off. The character was shot in the head by a rogue Mossad officer named Ari Haswari (Rudolf Martin).

The shock death of a major character left NCIS fans reeling – and wondering why the show’s writers would kill off Agent Todd. In the past, Alexander has said that her departure was due to the show’s grueling workload. Once the show’s writers knew she wanted to leave, they decided to give her the most dramatic exit possible, insiders explained to The Hollywood Reporter in a recent oral history of the show.

Why was Sasha Alexander cut from NCIS?

Alexander was part of the original NCIS cast. She joined the show after the two-episode pilot as a replacement for a character played by Robyn Lively. But after just two seasons on the show, she knew it wasn’t the right fit for her long-term.

“People don’t realize that on a network show, you make 24 episodes a year — that’s 10½ months a year, 17 hours a day. It’s hardcore,” she said in a 2012 interview with TV Guide.

Alexander, who was starring in Rizzoli & Isles at the time, said she had no regrets about leaving NCIS. 

“I really firmly believe in my heart that I would not be where I am today — happily married, with two kids, doing things creatively that I want — if I had stayed,” she said. “I didn’t want to wake up and be in my 40s and go, ‘Oh, my gosh!’ But people don’t understand.”

What happened to Kate on ‘NCIS’ ‘left a gaping hole in the show’

Once NCIS star Sasha Alexander decided to move onit was up to the show’s te am to figure out how to write her character off the show. Doing so was a challenge, former CBS head of casting Peter Golden told The Hollywood Reporter.


“We were only able to make a deal with Sasha for two seasons,” he said. “She decided she wanted to move on to other things, and that left a gaping hole because she was an important part of the show.”


While insiders said that Alexander may have been open to taking a smaller role in the show, the NCIS writers decided to go big with her exit.

“In year two, Sasha went to [NCIS co-creator Don Bellisario] 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,” executive producer Charles Floyd Johnson recalled.

“Bellisario was always a writer who went for the cataclysmic,” Johnson continued. “He went, ‘Well, what if we kill her off?’ Everybody goes, ‘What?’ And he went to her and told her, ‘Good news — your workload is going to be lighter. But you’re going to die.’ It was the very last minute or two of the show — the shot through the head.”

‘NCIS’ creator wanted to do something no one would expect

For Bellasario, Sasha Alexander’s NCIS exit ended up presenting a creative opportunity.

“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,” he said.

Caitlin Todd’s death was kept a secret from all but a few people until the episode aired.

“We’ve had a number of circumstances over the years where we’ve had to keep a secret from the audience, and that was the very first one,” executive producer Mark Horowitz said. “Only one script page of her being shot was ever printed, and they read it in person, and it was returned every time. The film was broken off from the rest of the film shot for that day. Also, we actually shot an alternate ending. Even my wife didn’t know.”


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