The Greatest Guest Stars on NCIS

From a pre-Little Miss Sunshine Abigail Breslin acting her guts out as a young kidnap victim helping the NCIS team catch her captor, to a young and unknown Zac Efron trying to explain himself, many future stars got their starts on the popular CBS military crime drama series.

But it’s not just the up and coming in the hot seat. Titans from the stage and screen have had to face the NCIS squad. Beloved actor Charles Durning gets caught up in murder; Hal Holbrook tries and fails to get away with murder; Gena Rowlands, Lily Tomlin, and Colin Hanks can all claim their spot as NCIS characters, getting caught up in the intrigue. From Bob Newhart to Dean Norris, you never know who’s going to pop up with NCIS cameos and get grilled by Gibbs.

Role on NCIS: FBI Special Agent T.C. Fornell
First Episode: “Yankee White” (2003)

Spano appeared in the pilot of NCIS pilot and has appeared in over 35 episodes and counting. He’s also appeared as Fornell on NCIS: New Orleans.

Where You’ve Seen Him Before:  
Spano was a favorite on Hill Street Blues as Det. Henry Goldblume. He had recurring roles on Amazing Grace and NYPD Blue, and appeared in a couple of episodes of The X-Files. His film credits include Apollo 13, Primal Fear, and Fracture.

Role on NCIS: Jackson Gibbs
Episodes: “Better Angels,” “The Namesake,” “Life Before His Eyes,” “Spider and the Fly,” “Rule Fifty-One,” “Faith,” “Silent Night,” and “Heartland”

Father of Gibbs and a WWII fighter pilot, Jackson Gibbs settled into a quiet life in Stillwater after the war, but the relationship between father and son was strained. They reconciled in the season six episode “Heartland.” One of the most moving episodes involved saying goodbye to Jackson Gibbs as Ralph Waite had passed away. The season 11 finale paid tribute to both the character and the actor.

Where You’ve Seen Him Before: 
If you’re of a certain age or an old school TV buff, you know him well as John Walton, Sr. on The Waltons. Waite appeared in many TV shows as a solid go to anchor and had his chops right up until the end of his career when he passed away at 85. He held his own as Reverend Norman Balthus on Carnivàle in a large ensemble cast. He brought his own quiet power to roles in The Bodyguard and Cliffhanger and captured many hearts and new fans as Hank “Pops” Booth on Bones.  

Role on NCIS: Anthony DiNozzo, Sr.
Episodes: “No Good Deed,” “The Artful Dodger,” “Dressed to Kill,” “You Better Watch Out,” “Sins of the Father,” “Broken Arrow,” and “Flesh and Blood”

Wagner played Tony’s father on the 150th episode of the show and has made regular visits since.

Where You’ve Seen Him Before:
Back in the day, Wagner was a heartthrob in his own right, appearing as the leading man in Hart to Hart and It Takes a Thief. He had no problem showing up to spoof his own image in two Austin Powers films.

Role on NCIS: Dr. Walter Magnus
Episode: “Recruited”

Newhart played NCIS medical chief officer prior to Ducky. He came out of retirement to solve the case.

Where You’ve Seen Him Before:
The comedy legend is best known for Newhart, The Bob Newhart Show, and  being the king of deadpan. A younger generation knows him from The Big Bang Theory as Arthur Jeffries, Horrible Bosses as Lou Sherman, and Elf as Papa Elf

Role on NCIS: Eli David
Episodes: “Shabbat Shalom,” “Extreme Prejudice,” “Enemies Domestic,” “Enemies Foreign,” “Good Cop, Bad Cop,” “Aliyah,” and “Last Man Standing”

Nouri’s Eli David was the director of the Israeli Moussad as well as the father of Cote de Pablo’s Ziva David and Rudolph Martin’s Ari Haswari. Eli David’s plan to infiltrate Al Qaeda through marriage backfired big time to say the least. Despite his grand manipulation, David loses control of his children.

Where You’ve Seen Him Before: 
Damages fans will know him as Phil Grey. Army Wives viewers remember him as General Ludwig, and if you want to go way back in pop culture time, he was the hunky Nick Hurley in Flashdance.

Role on NCIS: Ernie Yost
Episode: “Call of Silence”

Medal of Honor recipient and WWII Marine vet Yost confesses to a murder 60 years prior. After his wife dies, Ernie begins to consider the past and believes that he killed his friend and fellow Marine Corportal Wade Kean.

Where You’ve Seen Him Before:  
Where have you not seen Durning? The legendary actor worked right up until his death in 2012 and appeared in an impressive list of projects. He’s played Michael Gavin on Rescue Me, Father Hubley on Everybody Loves Raymond, Dr. Elldridge on Evening Shade, Waring Hudsucker in The Hudsucker Proxy, Les in Tootsie, Lt. Synder in The Sting, Moretti in Dog Day Afternoon, and Pappy O’Daniel in O Brother, Where Art Thou?

Role on NCIS: Dr. Samantha Ryan
Episodes: “Till Death Do Us Part,” “Up in Smoke,” “The Missionary Position,” “The Tell,” and “Psych Out”  

Curtis played Gibbs’s love interest until she had to leave to protect herself and her son. Her five episode run was a hit with fans, and she got an opportunity to work with her Freaky Friday co-star, Mark Harmon, again.

Where You’ve Seen Her Before: 
As the daughter of the original Psycho’s Janet Leigh and Some Like It Hot’s Tony Curtis, she got her start in the very first Halloween film in 1978.

However, one of her most famous roles was Wanda Gershwitz in A Fish Called Wanda alongside Kevin Kline, Michael Palin, and John Cleese. She was also excellent as Helen Tasker in True Lies and Ophelia inTrading Places. She played Joan Day on New Girl for a few seasons, and was the only bright light of Ryan Murphy’s Scream Queens as Dean Munsch.  She’s been married to writer, director, and producer Christopher Guest since 1984.

Role on NCIS: Sandy Watson
Episode: “See No Evil”

Breslin’s 2004 episode had the young actor portraying a blind nine-year-old girl who was abducted, along with her mother. Following her release she helps the NCIS team find her mom.

Where You’ve Seen Her Before: 
Before she dazzled audiences with her performance in Little Miss Sunshine (which she did before her appearance on NCIS), Breslin appeared in M. Night Shyamalan’s Signs as Bo. She has also starred in Zombieland, Ender’s Game, Maggie, and Scream Queens.

Role on NCIS: Penelope Langston
Episode: “The Penelope Papers”  

Playing McGee’s grandmother and a former peace activist, Tomlin’s character Penelope Langston is connected to a victim from 30 years prior.

Where You’ve Seen Her Before: 
Tomlin is a comedy and drama legend, having appeared on Laugh-In as a regular cast member in the ’60s and ’70s, among other classic roles. She also earned an Emmy nomination for her 2015 role as the hip hippie Frankie Bergstein to Jane Fonda’s Grace Hanson in Netflix’s Grace and Frankie.

Tomlin was also nominated for an Oscar for her performance in 1975’s Nashville, won a Golden Globe forShort Cuts, and has a couple of Emmys for her one-woman shows.

Role on NCIS: René Benoit aka La Grenouille
Episodes: “Bury Your Dead,” “Angel of Death,” “Trojan Horse,” “Brothers in Arms,” and “Blowback”

Jenny Shepard pursued La Grenouille, an illegal arms dealer, for over a decade, believing that he was her father’s killer. She nearly gets away with killing her long time foe, but Gibbs figures it all out.

Where You’ve Seen Him Before:  
Assante is unmistakable in everything he does. From Judge Dredd to American Gangster, Assante has that certain presence.

Role on NCIS: DOD Inspector Parsons
Episodes: “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot,” “Damned If You Do,” and “Double Blind”

“Evil McGee” was brought in to investigate the NCIS Major Case Response Team and set his sights on Gibbs. But Gibbs proved to be elusive prey and Parson never got his man.

Where You’ve Seen Him Before: 
Tom Hanks’s son is a big star in his own right, rounding out the casts of Fargo as Gus Grimly, Burning Loveas Allison, and Dexter as Travis Marshall.

Role on NCIS: Col. William Ryan
Episodes: “Enigma”

Gibbs and Lt. David Cameron were under Colonel Ryan’s command in Desert Storm. Both Gibbs and Ryan watched Cameron die, but year later Ryan refuses to believe he’s dead. As Ryan pursues a conspiracy involving millions of dollars, it becomes clear that he’s a paranoid schizophrenic.

Where You’ve Seen Him Before:  
Lost fans will know him as John Locke, but maybe you also remember him from Alias, JAG, The X-Files, The West Wing, Hawaii Five-O, and Falling Skies.

Role on NCIS: Joann Fielding
Episode: “Mother’s Day”

Rowlands plays Gibb’s former mother-in-law and sole witness to a murder. Things do not go well between them.

Where You’ve Seen Her Before:  
With over 100 credits, Rowland has had quite the career. The two-time Oscar nominee and Golden Globe and Emmy winner began her career starring in former husband John Cassavetes’s early films. She is known for her tough as nails lead role in Gloria, spellbinding performance in A Woman Under the Influence, and her memorable role of Allie Calhoun in The Notebook.

Role on NCIS: Mickey Stokes
Episode: “Escaped”

Stokes framed Petty Officer Derrick Paulson in the Great Virginia Bank Robbery and got caught by the NCIS team after a sting.

Where You’ve Seen Him Before:  

Holbrook has put in a few decades and made his mark with roles such as Reese Watson on Designing Women, Abraham Lincoln in North and South, Evan Evans on Evening Shade, Rutherford Gaines on Rectify, and Nate Madock on Sons of Anarchy. He’s most well-known for his uncanny Mark Twain.

Role on NCIS: Ned Quinn
Episode: “Silent Night”

Coyote appeared in one of the most popular episodes, pulling in just over 20 million viewers. His character is believed to have died in a fire 17 years ago, but turns up with a shocking story.

Where You’ve Seen Him Before: 
The American actor is a national staple, appearing in over 140 film and TV projects. He’s best know for playing D.A. Jerry Hardin on Law & Order: LA, Mark August on Brothers & Sisters, and is a frequent narrator of PBS and other documentary series. He also played kindly government agent Keys in E.T.

Role in NCIS: Miranda Pennebaker
Episode: “Gone”

Gibbs’s old pal may be a criminal who knows how to lay her hand to many things, but she’s got her scruples.

Where You’ve Seen Her Before:
You’ve most likely seen her on ER and Arrow, but Doctor Who fans know her as River Song, the time traveler and wife to the eleventh Doctor, who pops up every now and again, much to the delight of fans.

Role on NCIS: Harper Dearing
Episodes: “Extreme Prejudice,” “Till Death Do Us Part,” and “Up in Smoke”

Schiff’s revenge-seeking Harper Dearing took grief and rage to whole new levels with his terrorist plots. Schiff knows how to play a villain and he didn’t disappoint with this portrayal.

Where You’ve Seen Him Before:
Schiff had quite a few roles under his belt before he became Toby Ziegler on The West Wing. Since then, he’s appeared as Mr. Anderson on HBO’s Ballers, Jon Gottlief on The Affair, Professor Leon Watters on Bones, and Skip Galweather on House of Lies, to name just a few.

Role on NCIS: Col. Merton Bell
Episodes: “Ignition” and “Outlaws and In-Laws”

Until Ducky proved otherwise, Gibbs almost got sucked into the quagmire of military vet turned mercenary Bell’s devising.

Where You’ve Seen Him Before: 
Patrick will always be the Terminator from Terminator 2: Judgment Day, and the actor who jumped in to replace a departing David Duchovny on The X-Files. He’s been a staple in the film and TV industry with performances in Walk the Line, True Blood, Flags of Our Fathers, The Men Who Stare at Goats, Scorpion, and Sons of Anarchy.

Role on NCIS: Mossad Director Orli Elbaz
Episodes: “Past, Present, and Future” and “Berlin”  

Elbaz calls upon the NCIS team to investigate the murder of a Mossad officer in Virginia by a rogue faction of Bodnar’s supporters.

Where You’ve Seen Her Before:
You likely know her best as Counselor Troi on Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek: Voyager.

Role on NCIS: Senator Patrick Kiley
Episode: “Capitol Offense”

Kiley was Gibbs’s former Marine buddy and NCIS murder suspect. The plot thickened when Gibbs and the team discover Senator Kiley was having an affair with the victim.

Where You’ve Seen Him Before: 
He’s best known for Peter Burke on White Collar, Jonesy on Carnivàle, and Dr. Paul Thomas on Party of Five.

Role on NCIS: Danny
Episode: “Deception”

Danny and his friend Tim have a missing lieutenant’s cell phone. He soon finds himself in the middle of an intense investigation.

Where You’ve Seen Him Before: 
You haven’t paid your dues until you’re on CSI, Law & Order, or NCIS and Efron put in his time. (He also day played on ER and CSI.) His appearance on NCIS came when he was merely a headshot a hand full of IMDB credits. Then High School Musical happened. He can add That Awkward Moment, 17 Again, Neighbors, and Neighbors 2 to his accomplishments.

Role on NCIS: Sheriff
Episode: “My Other Left Foot”

Before he was snarking it up on the Lost island, he was slinging one-liners at Gibbs in his start/work/finish part on NCIS as a small town sheriff. He discovers a foot wearing a Marine boot and just has to crack wise.

Where You’ve Seen Him Before:
Besides his role as Sawyer on Lost, Holloway has appeared on Intelligence as Gabriel and as Will Bowman on Colony.

Role on NCIS: USMC Gunnery Sergeant Vestman
Episode: “My Other Left Foot”

Before he was Hank Schrader, Norris day played on various crime dramas and brought that intensity he became known for. He played a Marine who once served with Gibbs at Camp LeJeune, but as always with reunions on NCIS, Gibbs has some questions.

Where You’ve Seen Him Before: 
His determined Hank Schrader to Bryan Cranston’s Walter White helped make Breaking Bad the television force it was. You might have also seen him in the strange series Under the Dome, as Phil Baker on CSI, and in Little Miss Sunshine.

Role on NCIS: Harvey Ames
Episode: “Silent Night”

In his one NCIS episode, Stonestreet played a security guard who tried to cover up the murder of Avery Taylor and his wife. He was ultimately thwarted by the NCIS team.

Where You’ve Seen Him Before: 
Modern Family wouldn’t be Modern Family without Cameron Tucker. He’s also the voice of Minimus on Sofia the First, and if you pay close attention you’ll spot him as an annoyed hotel clerk in Almost Famous.

Role on NCIS: Martin Quinn
Episodes: “Blowback,” “Driven,” and “Smoked”

Arms dealer Quinn picks up where La Grenouille left off.

Where You’ve Seen Him Before:  
Stoll had a regular gig on Law & Order: LA as Det. TJ Jaruszalski as well as Ephraim Goodweather on The Strain. He also played Ernest Hemingway in Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris and was the baddie Yellowjacket in Ant-Man. Most notably, he played drug addicted Representative Peter Russo on House of Cards.

Role on NCIS: FBI Director
Episode: “Seadog” and “Yankee White”

Playing T.C.’s boss and director of the FBI, Itzin’s character was so formidable and conniving he didn’t have a name.

Where You’ve Seen Him Before:  
Who could forget the President Charles Logan from 24? Itzin played the character between 2005 and 2010. He’s also appeared on The Practice, Friends, Judging Amy, Big Love, The Mentalist, and Covert Affairs.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Comment moderation is enabled. Your comment may take some time to appear.