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### Daniela Ruah’s Bumpy Road to NCIS: Los Angeles Success

Although NCIS spun out of the legal drama JAG in 2003, it took six years for the show to launch its own franchise. This began with the backdoor pilot episodes for NCIS: Los Angeles, introducing characters like Chris O’Donnell’s G. Callen, LL Cool J’s Sam Hanna, and Daniela Ruah’s Kensi Blye. Interestingly, Ruah initially bombed her audition for Kensi, but showrunner Shane Brennan saw something special in her.

Ruah shared her NCIS: Los Angeles journey on the “Off Duty: An NCIS Rewatch” podcast with hosts Michael Weatherly and Cote de Pablo, who will soon return for the Paramount+ spinoff, NCIS: Tony & Ziva. Ruah recounted how she almost missed out on the role:

“I really botched my first audition, no joke. I was living in New York, had a huge speech, and screwed up towards the end. The casting director was nice and let me try again, but I kept messing up. She said, ‘We’ll cut it together,’ which was a relief. The whole thing felt bizarre, and I walked out thinking, ‘Well, that didn’t work out.’ It was pilot season, so I was auditioning for a bunch of stuff, thinking CBS wouldn’t pick up another procedural. Little did I know.”

At the time, Ruah had experience in Portuguese film and TV but was looking for her big break in American television. Despite her rocky audition, the casting director saw potential and sent the footage to Shane Brennan. Luckily, the video size was small, and Brennan couldn’t see the mistakes clearly. Ruah continued:

“I left thinking it was over. To my surprise, I got a callback, flew to LA, and nailed the studio audition. I asked Shane Brennan how I made it past the first audition, and he said, ‘You got lucky. The video was small, but you had this international energy and vibe we wanted for the character, so we gave you another shot.'”

If the video had been normal-sized, Ruah might not have been cast. Thankfully, she landed the role and played Kensi Blye for all 13 seasons of NCIS: Los Angeles, even guest-starring on Hawaii Five-0. Ruah also directed several episodes of Los Angeles, NCIS, and the recently canceled NCIS: Hawai’i.

Revisit Daniela Ruah’s journey as Kensi Blye by streaming NCIS: Los Angeles on Paramount+. Besides the upcoming NCIS: Tony & Ziva, the franchise will return this fall with NCIS Season 22 and the premiere of the prequel NCIS: Origins.

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