Intelligence analysts are supposed to stay in the lab, but a friend's possible murder draws Eric and Nell (Barrett Foa and Renée Felice Smith) into the field and under fire on this week's "NCIS: Los Angeles."
Nell has been out before, but this is Eric's first time, and it does not go well. Yahoo TV spoke with the duo about dodging bullets, and how Eric and Nell's relationship is progressing outside of the lab.
So you're both headed out into the field this week.
Renée: Yes, we are.
Barrett: First of all, you get to see Eric in his pajamas at home playing a video game. You haven't seen this, Renée — with all these figurines and there's dishes in the sink and there's skateboards and surfboards everywhere. It's really a mess.
Renée: Oh, that's really cute! Can't wait to see it.
Barrett: So he's playing video games with his old college buddy, Ira. Then Ira starts getting assassinated — an attempted assassination and Eric hears it. He gets involved and eventually he gets thrown in jail for tampering with the crime scene.
Renée: And he may or may not be sandwiched between two bikers.
Barrett: It's a Biker-Beale sandwich.
Renée: The Biker Beale!
It's a BeaLeT!
Barrett: That may be right. So that's kind of a fun little image for the audience; not so much for Eric Beale. And then by the end of the episode, he's out on the rooftop with Callen, Sam, and Deeks with bullets whizzing by his head as he, hopefully, tries to save the world with the tap of a computer.
Get a sneak peek at tonight's "NCIS: Los Angeles" right here:
Barrett: It was fun to be on that rooftop with these guys. My character has never really seen action like that. So that was exciting, to hear those bullets. It's what they do every episode, but it was a new one for me. And it was fun to have interaction with Renée, who's now welcoming me home from jail, comforting me a little bit.
Renée: Yeah, talking about jail food, which Nell is obviously well-versed in. And yeah, my character was able to interrogate her friend, Ira, in this very authoritative character of Stephanie Prim. She's this hard-hitting lawyer...
Renée: Undercover, yeah! Really for the first time, in this sort of capacity in the interrogation room and dealing with a potential suspect. She uses her charm and definitely gets what she wants out of Ira in the most manipulative way, as females sometimes make use of. I can say that because I'm a female!
Barrett: Needless to say, Eric Beale doesn't like this technique too much. He gets a little uncomfortable; a little jealousy pops up. Which is a fun little thing for our characters.
Renée: And I have to say, one of the highlights for me as the Stephanie Prim character was that I threw LL Cool J out of the interrogation room.
Is that something you've been wanting to do as actors: to expand your role? Or is it just something that fell into your lap?
Barrett: Renée's been wanting to throw LL Cool J out of a room forever. [Laughs.] Totally kidding.
Renée: Yeah, I think it's great. We get to see Eric Beale's home life, a little of his backstory, that he has this friend from his past. It just helps to round out his character; we get to see him as more of a human, more of a three-dimensional person. He comes off the screen and has a life outside of NCIS. Which is always valuable.
Barrett: And the same with Nell. We get to see her manipulative side. There's something very sweet and quirky about Nell, but this is a sexier, manipulative side. And that was good for us.
Renée: And she got to wear glasses!
Barrett: Welcome to my world.
It's been mentioned in the past that maybe Hetty's got something in mind for Nell, maybe grooming her. Do you think it's part of that?
Renée: Definitely. This season, especially, we've seen Nell put out in the field in the most independent way. She's had to fend for herself; she's being tested, I feel. And the more strength she shows in her field outings, the more Hetty has in mind for her. In an upcoming episode, we see Hetty have an emotional breakdown and she relies on Nell to come to the rescue and brief the team for her because she's emotionally not able to do so.
So I think there's definitely a relationship between the two characters. Nell sees herself in Hetty, and Hetty sees a lot of her young self in Nell. It's nice to see two female characters connect in that way.
For Eric, would you rather see character development along those lines, or would you rather see more of his home life and outside of NCIS-life revealed about his character?
Barrett: I like to see the relationships with the people that we know and love. I think there's a lot of untested relationships with Eric. Eric is a little bit of an outsider; he's not one of the agents. Actually, he's the only one on the team who's not an agent. He's not skilled with a gun. He's not trained that way. But he's trained in other ways. He's got special assets.
Renée: He's a techie wolf! A lone techie wolf. [Laughs.]
Barrett: It's nice to see that interplay. We get some of that in a future episode when Kensi gets to come up to ops and see what Barrett's world is all about, which sometimes isn't as exciting as her world. She gets a little restless and bored. And always exploring the characters with Eric and Nell. Where is that going? What are we going towards? Is it a work relationship, or is something more?
Well, there's definitely fan fiction out there, so we know where they want it to go. Where would you like it to go? Would you rather have it be just an interesting work relationship, or expand it to something more personal?
Renée: I think that for the audience, it's nice for them to have these little golden nuggets of love blossoming between Eric and Nell, as evidenced in the Christmas episode two years ago when Nell was a little bit of a minx and lured Eric in under the mistletoe. It gives us something to look forward to, for sure.
Barrett: I'd love more moments like that, and I think the moments we do have — those flirty moments, like when we give each other gifts or encourage each other or help each other — that's a human aspect of the show that most crime procedural dramas don't have. We touch on a soapy kind of feel or a workplace comedy. And that brings the audience in. Sure, there's action, adventure, there's bad guys and good guys and solving crimes, but then...
Renée: But there's also super relatable characters like Eric and Nell, who oftentimes may feel like the outsiders because they're not hanging with the cool kids and toting guns and catching bad guys. They're on the inside using their smarts to solve the crimes. And we see their bond, fulfilling their roles in NCIS. They've definitely bonded because of all the time they spend together. Sometimes they're called the meerkats, and on set we're often called the Wonder Twins. But I think the difference between our characters and the others is that we use our powers, so to speak, in a different way. We use our brain power, and it's not always about our physical prowess.
"NCIS: Los Angeles" airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. on CBS.