NCIS Los Angeles: Daniela Ruah Gets Start To Know Deeks Better
Daniela Ruah directed her fifth episode of NCIS: Los Angeles, “Flesh & Blood,” which aired on November 6.
Her approach to directing hasn’t changed since she first did so in Season 12. “I think I’m just as obsessive with the details as I was at the start in the sense that I don’t want to miss anything,” she tells TV Insider. (The Directors Guild of America offers a workshop for new directors, and she progressed from there.) She’s learned to “make sure you have an answer for people,” regardless of which department has a question, and she tries not to make the same mistakes twice.
“With each episode that passes, I fall more and more in love with the craft, and I’ll never leave acting because I’m too much of a show-off and I love being in front of the camera,” she says. “But visually storytelling through a camera is definitely a passion that has been growing exponentially for me.”
Ruah discusses directing and previews “Flesh & Blood” in this video.
Do you prefer directing action scenes or more emotional character-driven scenes?
Daniela Ruah: I like both of them. I enjoy the intimate scenes, but I think that stems from my own experience as an actor and how much fun it is to dive deep into your emotions and feelings in order to interpret and play a situation. And then maybe the other actor says something a little different, and you’re listening to them, so you change what you were going to do, and it’s an animal that finds its own shape in the room in the moment, especially in a show like ours with very little rehearsal time.
But the action sequences are so much fun, and I’m usually quite loud and excited when we get a good shot. I’ll admit that action sequences and bigger days like that are still more difficult for me, owing to the fact that I need to expand my skill set. Fortunately, I’m surrounded by a very experienced crew who are always very helpful with anything. Our special effects teams, the Frazee family, and Troy Brown, our stunt coordinator — everyone is just so good at working together as a team and pulling off really difficult days in a short amount of time.
I’d like to do more action sequences just to learn more. There’s a lot to consider, a lot of logistics. You must be extremely prepared, and when people are fighting, falling, blowing things up, and shooting, safety is always a major concern.
This episode contains both. Prepare the case.
We assume [the v1ctim’s wife] k1lled him because there’s blood on her and she’s trying to open the door and he’s d3ad on the floor with knife wounds, but his d3ath has nothing to do with her at all. Some episodes focus on the case, while others, like mine, focus on the characters and their personal journeys. We look at some really important issues in this episode, and we also get to know Deeks [Eric Christian Olsen] and his life experiences, which he connects with Marnee Carpenter’s character and her experience with domestic violence.
When Roberta (Pamela Reed) is around, it’s always a good time, and we got some great scenes with her and Kensi, including one about parenting that was sweet in a Mama Deeks kind of way. What can Kensi learn about parenting from her?
Mama Deeks will teach Kensi and Dani a few things. It’s funny because the scene where I say, “I feel like I’m always missing something,” doesn’t happen to me as much because my kids are much younger. I believe that as they grow older, they may open up to their friends more than they do to you — hopefully, my children will.
But you do feel as if you’re missing out on a few things here and there. And when she says something like, “Being a parent is like being pecked by something,” she means it. And I’m like, I thought that was going to be more positive advice. “What are you talking about?” she asks. It’s a painful d3ath.” As horrible as that sounds, she means you have time, so enjoy it with your child because it won’t last long. Enjoy each day, each moment, learn from it, and move on. She simply decides to call it a slow d3ath.
Pamela is fantastic. I wish I could include every single take she does. Then, at the end of the episode, [part of Deeks’s conversation with his mother] was written [but then she added some] improv.
Speaking of parenting, I must express my appreciation for the chaotic feel of Kensi, Deeks, and Rosa (Natalia Del Riego) getting ready in the morning early in the episode.
I believe that using a steady cam adds a little more movement and allows the camera operator to move around more freely than using a dolly or something similar. It represents the chaos, and people are coming out from various parts of the house, and she’s tying her shoes and looking for a backpack, and Kensi is trying to shove food down her throat as quickly as she can before she has to leave. And, strangely, Deeks is the one who, after catching a bag, just kind of stands there and looks around at everyone else running around like headless chickens, kind of cool as a cucumber.
Oh my goodness, that phone call. By the way, we were very particular about the car we chose for Pam. It was a deliberate decision to have the one with the wood on the sides, which looks like an old school, soccer mom car.
It was perfect for her.
Perfectly. And then she drove away with all her camping gear and belongings. Those things fade into the background, but at the end of the day, in preparation, those are the kinds of things we put more thought into than you might think. What kind of car would she drive? We’re now setting up that car for future episodes. What kind of junk would she have lying around? I remember specifically telling her that because it’s an old car, she wouldn’t have a loud speaker, so let’s get one of those phone holders and put it right in front of her on the windshield. These are the kinds of details that reveal a lot about her personality.
What do you have to say about the three-show crossover?
It was shot, and it went extremely well. It was a lot of fun. Some of the actors I was already familiar with. For example, I’ve known Wilmer [Valderrama] for a few years now, and it was great to catch up with him and show him pictures of his children and spouses. Then I got to meet people from NCIS: Hawai’i, for example. They came over; I’d never met any of them before, and it was fantastic. Everyone was just glad to see each other and be together.
I was pleased to see that LA is involved because your show has mostly featured single characters.
Yeah. The thing is, logistically, it’s a nightmare for the producers of every show because you have a set of characters that are coming to our show or whatever we’re doing, [but] they have to maybe be on our show in the morning and then drive back to Santa Clarita to finish off the day up there for the regular NCIS. The producers’ ability to coordinate schedules was critical, and they deserve credit for making it work.
What else is in store for Kensi?
On a less emotional note, I’ve got some great fight scenes in the works.
I adore Kensi in fight scenes!
I know, I know. One of my favorite aspects of playing Kensi is that I get to do a lot of fight sequences. Kim [Shannon Murphy], my amazing stunt double, choreographs everything for me. She does all of the really dangerous stuff, but she’s gracious enough to let me do a lot of the fight scenes. I am not permitted to be flipped over on my back or to be in the car during driving sequences.
And since I’m directing Episode 14, we’ll have another episode directed by me this season.
Is there anything else you’d like to discuss with Kessler (played by writer Frank Military)?
I’ve never heard of it, but bringing Kessler back is definitely one of my hopes.
It would be amazing to see those two interrogated in the boatshed.
I believe the same. And Frank Military is a good friend of mine, so it’s always fun to have that trust and comfortability with someone else and just see where it goes behind the scenes.