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Each NCIS show has its character that serves as the show's rock. It's Gibbs on the flagship show, Pride on NCIS: New Orleans, and Linda Hunt's Hetty on NCIS: Los Angeles. Hunt isn't the only actress who has been with NCIS: LA since its beginning, yet she tends to be more of a fan favorite when compared to others on the show.
To answer why that may be, actor Eric Christian Olsen, who plays Marty Deeks, explained why Hetty Lange is such a well-liked character -- even if she isn't always the character who does what's best.
I think it’s what Linda Hunt brings to Hetty. I don’t think you can separate that. I think Linda Hunt is the ground that Hetty stands on. The foundation that gives it that gravitas comes from deep within the bones of Linda Hunt. I think that’s why it’s such a powerful character. I think that she’s the glue that holds the group together, which is really interesting to explore in upcoming episodes. I think because she’s so strong as an actor and as a character, but also so likable, she’s able to do unlikable things and we’re still able to be emotionally connected to her and her journey.
Eric Christian Olsen gave credit to actress Linda Hunt, who he thinks is a driving force behind why so many NCIS: LA fans love Hetty and miss her when she's gone. Hunt is able to effectively make Hetty a likable leader, even if some of her decisions can be seen as cruel or unfeeling. Hunt's Heady never seems to see it like that, and is instead more focused on doing what it takes to complete a mission.
This came into play in a recent NCIS: LA episode that featured Eric Beale's return, when it turned out his new job was actually part of a mission he had been completing on her behalf. The mission nearly went south for Beale, and one has to wonder how the team would've reacted had they lost him all because Hetty sent a less than battle-ready member of the team on a mission.
The fallout of Hetty's decisions will be explored in NCIS: Los Angeles' 250th episode, in which a former employee of Hetty, Akhos Laos, will return to seek revenge. Laos is scarred by the life of a black ops agent Hetty brought him into, and wishes to make her pay for the violent life he has led since. The episode was actually co-written by Eric Christian Olsen, and as People pointed out, is his first writing credit on the program.
...I had pitched this idea to Scott and our producers about two years ago. Being on the show as long as I have, I’ve fallen in love with these characters, just like our audience has, and really had some themes and character explorations that I wanted to dive into. They were nice enough to let me keep turning in: Here’s an outline; here’s the themes; Here’s what I want to do. They just kept saying yes. They were unbelievably supportive, and even to the day when we started shooting, I was like, 'I can’t believe this is actually happening.' It was all so surreal.
Will Eric Christian Olsen's episode "Mother," result in the death of Hetty Lange? The plot does have the character facing a rather fierce adversary, though it's hard to imagine NCIS: Los Angeles planning such a big exit before the midseason finale. Then again, it wouldn't be the first time the NCIS franchise has done such a thing, and this is the 250th episode. Perhaps there's a chance something big will happen that endangers her future on the show?
NCIS: Los Angeles airs Sundays on CBS at 9:00 p.m. ET. CinemaBlend is the place to be for updates on the world of NCIS, and for the latest news on what's happening in television and movies.