(CBS) – NCIS: LA is back with a brand new episode this Sunday night at 9:00PM ET/PT on CBS and streaming on Paramount+. In this week’s episode viewers will see Callen (Chris O’Donnell) dealing with the fall out of his relationship with Anna as well as the discovery that Hetty has been grooming him for this life since he was a child.
CBS’ Matt Weiss spoke to O’Donnell about working during a pandemic and what the future holds for Agent Callen.
MW: Chris, excited to talk to you today. NCIS: LA has been such a huge success for a number of years now, but this season was shot a very different way than it ever has been before. What was that experience like putting this season together?
COD: I think first of all, we were all just grateful to be back working. The pressures that the pandemic has put on everyone has been really tough. I think everyone was grateful to be on the set and working and seeing familiar faces. We had to take a lot of precautions. We were tested five days a week. They really split up the crew and the cast. There are certain crew members I haven’t even run into this year.
They also eliminated scenes with all eight actors together. It was really kind of 1-on-1 and that sort of thing. They limited the amount of hours that we were able to shoot per day. It’s interesting, usually at the end of the season, I’m absolutely physically and mentally exhausted. Tomorrow is my last day of work for the season. I feel pretty good. We made it through so far and I’m grateful for that.
MW: Not that we want another year like this one, but maybe there’s some stuff you can take moving forward then, if you feel better than ever?
COD: Yeah. There were some things that you learn along the way. I think that there are efficiencies that are developed out of necessity that will probably be put to use going forward. There will definitely be things that will come back because you miss them, they add to the richness of the show.
But like everyone out there we’re all doing our best to put product out there. I think everyone realizes it’s kind of a different world. Just the fact that I’m sitting in my office right now and you’re there talking, this was never done like this before.
MW: Right. Before this year, I’d never interviewed someone from my living room yet here we are -laughs]. Lots of relationship drama going on, talking about the actual show now, between Callen and Anna, things seem to be a bit on the rocks. What’s in store for those two?
COD: Callen got to the point in the relationship where he felt she was the one. He was ready to take the next step and he went up to propose to her. It turned out she wasn’t where she said she was, she’s never been there. There’s things that she’s hiding from him. He’s had to deal with that. A former love of his has come into the picture.
In this next episode coming up, he’s got to use who we thought was going to be a future wife as bait to help rescue somebody else. There’s a lot going on, there’s this whole Russian storyline that’s been developed over the years. Suddenly Callen has been accused of being a Russian spy. The actions he’s taking once he’s accused are tough to defend. He’s kind of got himself into a bit of a mess here.
MW: You mentioned that Russian storyline, years in the making and now we find out Callens entire life has been years in the making with Hetty grooming him for this role. Now having that information, what has that done to his psyche and how he’s making decisions now?
COD: Well, it’s questioning his history. He spent so many years trying to figure out who his parents were and why he was put up for adoption. He found his father and he answered a lot of questions and it’s been moving on. Suddenly he’s been asked more than once. Comments have been made about the fact that Hetty has been grooming him for what he’s doing now his whole life, and he’s thinking, she helped me, but I don’t know what you’re talking about.
Some of the stuff is making more sense than it should, which is really raising more and more questions for Calen. He’s starting to realize that there’s something bigger in play here that he wasn’t aware of.
MW: It feels a little like The Truman Show…
COD: [laughs] Yeah, Hetty is the puppet master, clearly.
MW: You mentioned you’re about to wrap season 12 with the finale coming up in May. What do fans have to expect as we ride out the rest of the season here?
COD: I think it’s leaving the fans with some good feelings. Every year is a little different. Sometimes we have the gnarly cliff hangers. Sometimes we have more the feel-good episodes. I think the fans will be pleased. We’re just finishing up the season finale right now, but it’s been an unusual season and the fans have been through a lot. I think that they’ll be pleased with the way we wrap it up.
MW: Last question before I let you go here, you mentioned the fans been through a lot. You’ve been through a lot. We’ve all been through a lot this year. What has it meant to you this year to give people that escape from reality when they sit down to watch NCIS: LA?
COD: I feel like we’re doing our part. It is escapism for people, and we all have certain things in life that is comfort food or it’s a security blanket or it’s something that just gives us a sense of normal life. Having fresh episodes for the audience, even with the extra lengths we had to go to produce is a great feeling.
It’s our job. It’s what we do. Everyone has been playing such incredible roles and trying to help people survive. If this is the way we can help people get through the day, then we’re happy we can chip in in some way.
MW: Awesome. Well, thank you so much, Chris. All the best to you moving forward.
COD: You too!
Tune in for an all-new episode of NCIS: LA this Sunday at 9:00PM ET/PT, only on CBS and streaming on Paramount+. Check your local listings for more information.