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Peter Cambor Talks About His Mysterious Return to 'NCIS: Los Angeles'

by Allison Waldman, posted Feb 1st 2011 9:15AM
peter_cambor_ncis_los_angeles_cbsCBS's sophomore hit 'NCIS: Los Angeles' returns tonight with a new episode that marks the surprise return of operational psychologist Nate Getz to the team. Or does it? The episode ('Lockup') finds LL Cool J's character, Sam, going undercover as a prisoner to track down a terrorist group responsible for several bombings around the world. And when he's on the inside, who shows up to lend a hand? None other than Nate.

As fans of 'NCIS: L.A.' know, Nate left the show after episode 3 this season under mysterious circumstances. Was he really returning to work in the Middle East, or did Hetty send him on a secret mission?

We spoke with actor Peter Cambor about Nate's return, and he assured us that this is a show that fans need to watch. Will it be the beginning of Nate's return for good ... or is there something else afoot? Read on for more from Peter about his alter-ego and being part of the 'NCIS' franchise.

How did Nate's return come about?
The way it was left, (executive producer) Shane Brennan purposely left the door open for Nate to come back. In a show like this, which is likely to be on for a long time, it's important to have people who stay and people who go away temporarily. They've added some great characters, like Eric Christian Olsen as Marty Deeks. That's something you have to do to keep things fresh. So I always knew it was a possibility that I would return in some capacity. I've very excited to be able to come back.

So Nate didn't really go to the Middle East?
Hetty (Linda Hunt) sent my character into training to hone my skills, not just as a psychologist, but also some other skills that will become obvious in the episode when it airs.

What can you tell us about the episode?
Well, basically, Sam -- the character played by LL Cool J -- is trying to infiltrate a terrorist ring that is operating from prison with a certain level of impunity. So they decide to go undercover. I've been doing this training while I've been away and I come in playing the psychologist in the prison, assisting Sam on his undercover work.

ncis_los_angeles_cbs_peter_cambor_ll_cool_jWill this lead to Nate rejoining the team?
You're just going to have to wait and see. A big part of the show and a big part of the way that Shane has been so successful in running 'NCIS' and 'NCIS: L.A.' is by keeping things very hush hush. Everything is quiet and mysterious. There's a purpose for that. Characters pop in and pop out.

Do I think this is the last we'll see of Nate? I don't think so. That's the best way I can put it. You'll have to wait and see exactly how it all plays out because some big stuff happens.

What's it like being part of a spin-off?
It's such an interesting animal doing a spinoff in a sense that when we all signed on to do the show, we were all aware that 'NCIS' was right on the brink of being the No. 1 show. It was its sixth season. Last year, our first year, 'NCIS' became the No. 1 scripted show on TV. It blew up in a certain way and it demands a great deal of loyalty, and they work so hard and they are so awesome. I don't think any of us wanted to imitate their show. We didn't want to be versions of their show.

What do the folks at 'NCIS: L.A.' think of 'NCIS'?
We really respect what they've done. Mark Harmon is a real captain over there and he's really led them to that success. It's a wonderful group of people and with open arms; they welcomed us into the franchise. We really understood that and wanted to represent the 'NCIS' brand.

How has 'NCIS: L.A.' developed its own identity?
We never wanted to imitate their show, but we wanted to create characters that work like on their show, characters that are quirky and have great chemistry. And it's not just all serious stuff. It's about having an eclectic group of people.

In that sense, I think it takes time to get it right. Lucky for us, we had amazing chemistry right off the bat and I think people responded to that. Sometimes to keep things fresh, you have to shake things up.

Like Nate being written out after the third episode this season?
Yes, Nate's disappearance fell into that category. Adding Eric was a great addition because they needed somebody to be with Kensi (Daniela Ruah). Shane mixes things up and it's a testament to Shane's ability to run a show for a long time that he does that. Like Dom (Adam Jamal Craig) getting killed in the first season. That's another great example of how to do that. You just have to keep people on their toes. It's like writing a movie that's eight years long.

What's it like working with Linda Hunt as Hetty?
She's so great and she does keep you on your toes in a variety of ways. Linda has gravitas. Spencer Tracy once said that all he tried to do as an actor was not bump into furniture and listen to people. And Linda has this way of really listening to everything that's going on, and that's a big part of the character of Hetty. It's a big part of what makes her such a great actress. She has this innate ability to listen to not just what lines you're saying, but she's in the moment and dedicated and intense.

You sit there and realize that she's a woman of small stature ... and enormous size. I have a lot of my scenes with her and those are always such a treat to play because you never know what will come from them. There's layer upon layer upon layer. She's just marvelous.

The fans are very psyched about Nate's return ...
It's great. In a funny way, by leaving the show, I think I got more attention. People stop me all the time and say they miss me on the show and they're so sweet. I think the way they play up the mysterious circumstances really add to the show's appeal. It piques people's interests.

What exactly are we up to? It's really up in the air. Questions will be answered on the show. There's a general sense of excitement about Nate's return. He's been mentioned a few times. But I'm sworn to secrecy, so I can't say more.

'NCIS: Los Angeles' airs Tuesdays at 9PM ET on CBS.

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Great to hear about Nate and the workings of NCIS:LA

February 02 2011 at 3:11 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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