Zoe McLellan talks NCIS: New hair, new friends, and NEW ORLEANS
Season 2 of NCIS: NEW ORLEANS kicked off a few weeks back with much of the same crime-solving around New Orleans, a fresh addition to the team in Shalita Grant’s character Sonja, and a very noticeable aesthetic change for Special Agent Meredith Brody – a shoulder cut bob that’s become a focal point, earning her (and her character) the nickname of “Luscious Locks.” To talk about how a haircut is sometimes more significant than just a hair cut, plus what’s coming up on the 2nd season (hint: grab some tissues), I spent time speaking with Brody herself, Zoe McLellan, as she relaxed in one of NoLa’s city parks. Check out our conversation!
It’s so funny how much of a plot point or maybe a character point this has become, but the difference between Brody’s hair last year and Brody’s hair this year – it’s such a big thing!
[laughs] I know!
I wondered if you could talk about the decision, and the progression there!
It’s interesting, because I was thinking towards the tail end of last season that I would love to grow my hair out. I decided not to say anything because I thought, no, usually on a second season of a show, they don’t want huge changes. I thought, I’ll just not say anything and maybe approach the producers, maybe season 3, right? That same day that I had that thought, our executive producer Gary Glassberg said to me “Hey, how about growing your hair out” and I though [laugh] cool!! We seem to be on the same page, often, which is great. Anyway, it was interesting. When we first came back over hiatus, somebody on set made a comment like, “Zoe, you’re walking differently.” And I was like, really? I realize that I am. There is something, first of all, when they had written Brody, originally, she was very, very, very put together, sharp, by the book, this is the way it is, this is how I do it, and her haircut reflected that. I think that New Orleans does something, and I’ll tell ya, I’ve been here over a year now, and it definitely did this to me – it loosens us up! Everything here, not to say, yes, people work hard, and all of that, but they PLAY and there’s an energy.
Right now, at the park, I’m looking around and people are just kicking back, having their coffees and there’s an energy here that feels very laid back and European in a really beautiful way, and I think that that is sort of what’s going on with her hair and her life. I’ve made up in my mind that yeah, Brody is actually dating, she has a life outside of her job! There is some more fulfillment and fun in her personal life, therefore, yeah, she grew her out and will take some time to put herself together in the morning. You know what I mean? I think the other thing that’s happening is that perhaps she’s more comfortable with her job, and her new location, and her home. Maybe she has a little more freedom to put some mascara on in the morning and do her hair! I’ll tell ya, I’m loving it! I’m loving this hair! [laughs]
Talking about imagining Brody out dating, and being a little freer – what have the producers and writers talked about for what comes next – there’s talk of Lucas’ character having a lot of chemistry – what have you heard? Will we see new love interests?
They’re very mysterious, and I get why. They write and everyone has to be on the same page and in agreement. They don’t like to share too much with us until it’s a sure thing. And I get that, right? So I really don’t know. I know that they’ve talked about it, and I’ve said “hey Brody needs a boyfriend” so hopefully that will happen. I think that when we do that, it just opens up more of our hearts and more places for us to go, you know what I mean? We have more story to tell and I think we become more relatable because let’s face it – yes it’s a procedural show, but do we not all love to watch people fall in love on screen? We love that! We love talking about love and seeing people fall in love and that energy, so I’m pushing for it with Brody, that’s for sure. And I think that also softens her a little bit and makes her more playful, so I’m rooting for that, but I can’t say there’s any guarantees! Who knows?
I love the group chemistry – I love the interaction. I loved the introduction of Shalita’s character and how they are friends. It’s so rare to not have the new girl be in contention with the agents we’ve come to know – what’s that like with the cast and her coming in?
It’s so nice, because I feel like, and I’ve talked with her about this – I’m a big believer in women supporting women. I look at my circle of friends because I feel so proud of them all. Bright, sharp, powerful women, and we cheer each other on, and we’re there for each other, and we have each other’s backs and we help each other make our dreams come true. Shalita and I talked about how important it is that that’s what we show the world. That’s what we need to show the world, teamwork. People use the term “girl power” and I’m sorry, but I’m so over that [laughs]. It’s like, yeah, okay, girl power, but do people go around saying “boy power”? No [laughs]. We’re human beings who happen to be female who are going to support each other. This should be the norm, so I’m not going to make a big deal out of it, so I’m just going to continue to say that this is the way it needs to be, and what do we want to teach our little girls. We want to show them that it’s important to support each other, you know, and believe in each other, so I’m enjoying the dynamic and each scene that I’ve had with Shalita solo, I’ve really loved our dynamic and discovery. I realize, you’re right, it is rare that we see that on TV, so I’m enjoying it, and I know she is, too. We’re having a good time with it!
What can you tease about what’s coming up next for the show, without giving too much away?
Ok! We promised that we’re not allowed to give away any of the plot line which makes it really impossible to tease you [laughs]. What I can tell you is that you’re going to be crying soon! There’s going to be some crying! As the cases get more involved and get connected to our personal stories, there are going to be some tears shed, but these guys, they’re tough as nails but their hearts are so big, so there’s going to be some tears! I hope that’s enough of a tease. [laughs]
New Orleans is not a huge city, but everybody in the city seems to be connected in some way, that I can understand that these stories are going to start to bleed into each other, everybody will be able relate to something because the city is so connected.
Right, yes! That starts to happen. It’s happening.
I think it’s interesting that this of the three NCIS’, the city is such a character in this show. You talked a little bit about New Orleans, but what’s it like shooting New Orleans FOR New Orleans, being there, and embracing the city / the city embracing you back!
That’s a great question. I feel so grateful – I feel like when I’m out and about, people have said to me that we’re doing the city right, that they’re doing a good thing for the city. I say a Yay to our writers, our writers and producers for staying true, as true as we can to the reality of the world of New Orleans. It really is a world – it’s a small town and it’s a world, for staying true to this world. I feel so blessed because I feel so welcome here, and so held here. There’s not way that we could have shot this anywhere else. We have to be here. We have to be here smelling the beignets, hearing the music, in the French Quarter, the whole thing. We really do have to be here. It gets into your energy, it gets into your blood. I think I can speak on behalf of all of the cast, we all know that this is a really special group of people. This is really rare. I’ve never experienced anything like this, and I think a big part of it is because we’re here. The city has such a heart; there’s such heart here, and you feel it. I just feel really grateful and like I’m home, and it’s really awesome.
You got to work with Annie Potts – what’s that like, she feels like such a force of nature!
She is!! [laughs out loud] I don’t want to spoil anything, but when you see the character she plays, you’re going to understand Brody more. You’re going to go “ooh that’s why she’s that way” and you’ll say “ok, I get it, I get it” and perhaps why Brody needs to loosen up and rebel a little bit. I mean, come on her mom will drive you nuts! Her mom, here’s the thing I have to say – I think many, many, many, many moms and daughters will relate and go, oh my gosh, my mom does that, too [laughs]. Oh my gosh, that’s so my mom, my mom does that too! Hopefully, we’ll get some laughs out of that, too. Annie Potts, we laughed a lot. The director had to pull us apart at moments to say “remember, in this scene, you’re mad at each other!” Even though it was acting, and yes, that’s what we do, it was hard to be mad at her because she’s just so dang adorable in real life.
You talked a little bit about sharing a brain with the EPs sometimes – are they open to your ideas, your feedback about what you’d like to see with Brody?
I think they’re pretty receptive to our ideas, for sure. Because, I think it helps them, too. It helps them know what we need or where we feel we might blossom more. So they’re pretty cool about that, which is nice, which is really nice, because it’s like we’re all a team working together, so that’s helpful. You’ve reminded me that I need to pick up the phone and say hey I think Brody needs a boyfriend [laughs].
Why do you think that this is a show that people are responding to or why do you think people should start watching?
I’m not really good at saying “Hey watch the show” just because I’m not, and that’s okay I guess [laughs]. I usually just say thank you, thank you so much for watching, you know what I mean? I mean, yes it’s a procedural, but I think people watch it because they like the chemistry and the heart, you know? AND! I think they love New Orleans. I think people love to see New Orleans. I think that’s a big part of it. They get to on a little vacation to New Orleans once a week!
What else besides NCIS:NOLA do you have coming up that we can look forward to, or does this not really allow much time to work on other stuff during hiatus?
It’s pretty busy. It’s a 10 month shoot and I’m a single mom, so I try to spend as much time as I can with my boy, though he comes to set often. I’m doing some writing on the side and that will reveal itself sooner than later, and then I also love to do inspirational speaking, so like, speaking to schools and kids about following your heart and your dreams. I really love helping people find their dreams and follow their dreams. Public speaking and soon enough I’ll put my producer hat on. Probably in a little bit, but I can’t let too much of that out; I’m not ready. It’s kind of like having a baby before it’s time [laughs]. But I’m one of those people that have 5 million things going on all of the time because that’s just who I am!
I’m the same way – I feel very comfortable if I have 75 things going on at once.
Yes!! Yes, it’s nice, isn’t it? It’s nice because sometimes, when you need a breather from one, you can work on the other, and I think that they all feed each other, they all connect in some way and it’s almost therapeutic, I think. The more creative I am, the better I feel, so there’s definitely stuff brewing!
NCIS: NEW ORLEANS airs Tuesdays at 9/8c between NCIS (the OG) and new-full-season-pickup LIMITLESS.