The early departure of Kate (Sasha Alexander) from NCIS had a profound impact on the show’s trajectory. Following its 2003 spin-off from JAG, NCIS quickly grew to become a standout military procedural series. The show’s popularity led to several successful spinoffs, including NCIS: Los Angeles, New Orleans, Hawai’i, and Sydney. Much of the success can be attributed to the charismatic original cast of the show. While many of these original leads enjoyed long tenures on the series, Kate’s character met an unexpected end in the shocking season 2 finale.

In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, executive producer Charles Floyd Johnson and co-creator Donald P. Bellisario shed light on the decision to write off Kate. Sasha Alexander expressed a desire to reduce her workload on the series due to the long, demanding hours. She didn’t necessarily want to leave the show but sought a lighter schedule. In response to this, Bellisario saw an opportunity to raise the stakes within the series by proposing the idea of killing off her character, Kate. Here are their quotes:

JOHNSON (executive producer): In the second year, Sasha went to Don 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. Bellisario was always a writer who went for the cataclysmic. 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.” (Laughs.) It was the very last minute or two of the show — the shot through the head. That’s always been one of the more shocking things on the internet of endings that you don’t see coming.

BELLISARIO (co-creator): 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.

Kate’s untimely death marked the beginning of NCIS’s reputation for unexpected character exits. This established the understanding that characters could depart or meet unforeseen fates at any time, even without prior indications of danger. Sasha Alexander, who had signed on for a six-season run, was initially set for a long tenure. However, the demanding shooting schedule, which often extended for over 10 months with 17-hour workdays, took its toll on her. Her desire for a lighter workload was completely understandable. What took fans by surprise was the decision to kill off her character.

Alexander went on to star in Rizzoli & Isles for seven seasons after leaving NCIS, while her former show’s cast and creators used Kate’s death to introduce a sense of vulnerability among the investigators. Instead of providing a sense of safety for each character, her death opened the door to the idea that any of the investigators could be killed at any moment. In retrospect, the decision to write off Kate’s character proved to be a significant turning point for the show.

By chrysos