What drives a person?
For some, it can be money, power, love or, in the case of NCIS Los Angeles Nell Jones, played by the wickedly talented Renee Felice Smith, it can be something else entirely.
This topic was one of the many addressed in the recent chat that TV Equals had the privilege of having with the charming Miss Smith. During said talk, there was also discussion about what is coming up for Nell this season, whether there will be a fourth season and much much more.
Check out what Renee had to say below and don’t forget to tune in to tonight’s conclusion of the two part episode of NCIS Los Angeles “Blye, K.,” which airs Tuesday, Feb. 28 (9:00-10:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network.
Last week’s ‘NCIS LA’ episode was insane. Quite a cliffhanger. What can you tease about the upcoming episode?
Renee Felice Smith: Kensi is on a bit of a rampage. She has some answers that she wants and she’ll stop at nothing to get them. And so the team is kind of going into a bit of survival mode. We’re trying to locate her. And we even get to see Nell with a gun for the first time. She’s holding a gun which is huge for my character.
That’s pretty great. Nell is definitely coming out in the field more and more. So is this going to be more recurring?
Renee Felice Smith: She totally is. Nell is a trained NCIS analyst. And I’ve learned from our show runner that the real NCIS analysts are trained. They know how to use a gun. They occasionally do field work. So, yeah, probably in season four, we’ll see Nell definitely using those skills.
So are you saying that there will be a fourth season?
Renee Felice Smith: Oh [laughs]. I know nothing. I know nothing.
I often wonder what you and Barrett are looking at on that screen when you have those scenes in front of the computer?
Renee Felice Smith: That’s a great question. Yes. We see everything that you see. 99% of the time. We’re reacting to those files coming up. Although we don’t control the program. The program does exist. So there’s someone from our awesome tech crew, basically in a back room who runs the program as we are acting. So we can interface with the program which makes it look more believable to the audience. So I am so thankful that we have something to reference. Because if we were doing all of that with green screen all the time, we’d be staring at X’s and O’s and just kind of like giving it our best shot.
Nell is a very complex character. At this point we just know bits and pieces about her. But from your standpoint when you were taking on the role, how much of her did you know?
Renee Felice Smith: Okay. So I auditioned in New York. And a friend of mine, actually, told me about the audition because it was posted on the breakdowns. He said, ‘Renee, you have to go in for this character.’ Because she’s so driven, and she’s such a focused character so he thought I would be really right for it.
So I didn’t really know how a lot. I heard the character was compared to Ellen Page. And that sometimes helps me in auditions because people think I remind them of her, which I’ll take, which is great. And I’ve gotten jobs because of it. But I didn’t really- I knew that she was a very young analyst who was kind of wise beyond her years. Sassy, quirky. Not afraid to speak her mind. And I connected with all of that in the audition. And it’s just kind of grown from there.
So do you feel now that you know more of her back-story than the audience is privy to?
Renee Felice Smith: I know just as much as the audience knows. Every week get the script and I’m kind of anxious to read it and find out more about these characters. They’re pretty secretive. They keep it locked up. But I do know that we will learn more about Nell and Eric’s relationship through the end of the season because we have a character coming back. Nate is coming back.
Renee Felice Smith: Yeah, so, Nate’s coming back. And pretty much causes a little friction between Eric and Nell. So I think that’s good for the show. It keeps everyone on their toes. And these conflicts force us to learn more about the characters.
So we have had a “Callen, G,” “Lange, H.”"Blye, K.”, When are we going to get a “Jones, N”?
Renee Felice Smith: Oh my gosh. I would love that. I think we would learn that Nell graduated early from like an insane program. Probably at like Stanford or something with an IQ off the charts. And I’m interested to know: What does Nell do outside of work?
I talked to the writers about this. I wondered: ‘Does she have friends outside of work? What’s her relationship with her family?’ I know that we learned in the holiday episode that Nell does have a huge extended family. But she couldn’t fly home for the holidays because of her work with NCIS. So we see that she’s disappointed. And we can sense that there’s a real sense of longing for her with her family. So I wonder a lot about her. Is she lonely? I feel like she may be kind of lonely.
So you’re asking all the questions the fans are asking essentially.
Renee Felice Smith: That’s so funny. Yeah, I guess we’re on the same page as time goes on. Hopefully, they’ll peel back the layers of the onion and we’ll learn more. But I’m with you. I’m asking those questions, too.
The cast seems to have this amazing chemistry on screen. What do you think contributes to that?
Renee Felice Smith: Yeah. I think it’s the fact that everyone really genuinely likes each other. I mean last night we all got together at Chris O’Donnell’s house to watch the Oscars. And it was the entire cast, some of our producers, and our show runner. I don’t have a hell of a lot of experience in the TV world. This is my first show, obviously, but I feel like that’s rare.
I feel like there’s not too many shows that can truly say they all hang out. And they all appreciate each other for the differences, for the similarities. You could not put together the group of people on the show and think that it would work. It’s kind of like by chance that it all gelled and it all kind of worked.
Is there a question about your character that no one has ever asked you but you actually are dying to give an answer to?
Renee Felice Smith: Oh, that is such an interesting question. The obvious one is what is going to happen of Eric. Because a lot of people do ask about the relationship side of it. Is there going to be something there?
But I would like to know what are Nell’s goals in her life as an NCIS analyst. Does she see herself as a young Hetty? She’s been sort of positioned that way with the beginning of the season when Hetty’s character travels to Romania. We saw Nell taking on lots of her responsibilities. And she kind of seemed stressed in that role.
So I wondered to myself like what are her long-term goals. I feel like this is a woman who could run for office. I mean she’s so driven and she’s so smart. And nothing really gets past her. So I wonder about that. What does Nell want? What does Nell want for Nell?
Is she going to be Secretary of the Navy? Is she going to be Vice President or President? We never know?
Renee Felice Smith: Exactly. I feel like she has so much potential and this is just the beginning for her. And she’s learning so much about herself in the workplace, dealing in a professional way. And I think in a lot of ways she’s still a kid. She’s the youngest member of the team and in the beginning, that posed a lot of problems because she was kind of overstepping her boundaries. But she’s learned to tone that back. But she’s still got a bit of that fire, too so we’ll see where it takes her.
And so being on such a popular show with such a dedicated fandom with all thhe interaction with the fans. How has that been for you?
Renee Felice Smith: We have some of the most dedicated fans. I learned this at Comic-Con this year down in San Diego. People just came out of the woodwork for this show. Our panel was awesome. Fully attended. A couple thousand people. Just asking really intelligent questions. People watch the show. It’s a really detail oriented audience. They miss nothing. And I so appreciate that. It shows that they care about these characters. They’re invested. And I think it’s apparent in our numbers every week. I mean people are tuning in.
Are you guys coming back to Comic-Con this year?
Renee Felice Smith: I don’t know for sure. But I would imagine so. I wouldn’t see why not.
Are there any other upcoming projects you can talk about?
Renee Felice Smith: ‘Detachment‘ is a film that I did right before I started on ‘NCIS LA’. And I had a little bit part. It’s directed by Tony Kaye of ‘American History X’, starring Adrien Brody, Marsha Gay Harden, Christina Hendricks, Bryan Cranston, Blythe Danner. The film itself deals with the downfall of the public education system. Sort of discussing the teacher’s investments, or lack thereof and how the children are affected by it. In my little bitty scene is with Lucy Liu which is basically her character’s breakdown in the film. I play Missy who is pretty much a foul, punk, teenager and we see her in her weekly meeting with the school psychologist who is played by Lucy Liu.
A punk teenager? Really?
Renee Felice Smith: Yes.
Wow. I bet you a lot of the ‘NCIS LA’ fans are going to be psyched just to see you doing something different like that.
Renee Felice Smith: I think so, too. And it was so much fun to film. Lucy Liu was lovely and so generous. I couldn’t have asked for more in the scene. Because it was an emotional scene. And it’s kind of hard coming in and just doing an emotional scene without a relationship with your fellow actor or your director, for that matter. Because they’d been filming this for however many weeks and you come in on the one day and you kind of have to make it all happen.
But she was great. And her character, at one point Tony Kaye whispered something in her ear and the next take she was trashing the office and throwing things at me. She threw a coffee mug at me and I had to duck. It missed my head. I mean it was great. And she just went for it. And I love seeing that because I’ve never had an experience like that on set. I’ve made films with my friends and things like that. So I know how we go for it. But just to see a working professional just, excuse my expression, balls to the wall go for it. It was awesome.
Did I also read something about a web series that you’re working on?
Renee Felice Smith: Yes. I am. I’m working on a really quirky web series with a very dear friend of mine. And more to come on that. It’s kind of an office-based comedy about two college graduates. Two female college graduates who find themselves in the workplace and they pretty much make a mess wherever they go. So it’s kind of fun to watch them fall on their face.
If you could guest star on any other TV show, which one would it be?
Renee Felice Smith: Oh my gosh. That’s really tough. But, you know what, actually, it’s not so tough. I’m a dramedy girl so it would have to be ‘Parenthood’ for obvious reasons. That show just showcases the beauty and pain of what it is to be a human. And have relationships with your siblings, with your children, your parents, your loved ones. It just continually slays me in the best possible way.