'NCIS': Wilmer Valderrama Admits It's Been 'Hard to Thrive' in Season 18

'NCIS': Wilmer Valderrama Admits It's Been 'Hard to Thrive' in Season 18

NCIS season 18 hasn’t been an easy one for the cast and crew. The pandemic pushed back production two months, and they had to film amid strict protocols.

Getting new episodes on the air has been a challenge for everyone involved. According to star Wilmer Valderrama (Nick Torres), it’s been “hard to thrive.”

The pandemic brought season 17 of ‘NCIS’ to an abrupt halt

When the pandemic first hit the United States in March 2020, NCIS still had four episodes left on their schedule to produce. Of course, production was quickly shut down, which meant that season 17 abruptly came to an end after just 20 episodes. This was four episodes short of a full season.

The cast and crew weren’t able to return to set until September, which resulted in season 18 premiering in November. This was two months later than normal.

Because of all the delays — and the challenges with filming amid a pandemic — CBS reduced their season 18 order down to just 16 episodes.

Fans didn’t get a true season finale in season 17

Because of the unexpected halt to season 17, NCIS had to ditch their plans for the final four episodes. As Valderrama pointed out, they weren’t able to have a “proper season finale.” According to showrunner Frank Cardea, NCIS had a big surprise planned for fans.

“The envisioned season finale did not have a cliffhanger ending, but was planned to have a very surprising ending. More of a reveal/development, as you phrased it,” Cardea told TVLine in April 2020.

‘NCIS’ star Wilmer Valderrama says filming season 18 has been challenging

Valderrama recently told Entertainment Tonight that even though they were able to go back to set and make new episodes, the 16-episode order made it “hard to thrive” as a season.

“Even though we came back, we had a shorter order. We had a 16-episode order, and there were a lot of challenges — where you could go, how many characters could be in one scene and all of that. It was hard to thrive as a season, but I look at it as a huge testament to our fans that kept showing up every Tuesday night and almost breaking 10 million every week,” Valderrama said.

They ‘nailed’ their protocols

The That 70’s Show alum continued by explaining that there were a lot of unknowns going into season 18. They had “all the major protocols,” plus a time and place to film.

But, they just didn’t know “what was going to be of the show.”

“Being able to pull off a season, do 16 episodes and be able to be back on television for the fans when 30 percent of our industry was working on what traditionally shoots. We feel very fortunate, and I think we nailed our protocols, and we were excited to show that we could be at work and be safe,” Valderrama said.

‘NCIS’ fans will get a ‘real season finale’

CBS recently announced that they had renewed NCIS for season 19, and that star Mark Harmon (Leroy Jethro Gibbs) will be returning. As season 18 gets closer to the end, Valderrama promises that fans will finally get the finale they deserve.

“We finally get to give the fans the season finale they’ve been wanting or needing or wanting to see,” Valderrama revealed. “We were able to have a real season finale that leads us into a season premiere, and it’s a major one. It’s a major, major season finale.”

The actor added that he’s excited about what’s to come, and he made it clear that the show wasn’t slowing down. If anything, Valderrama says it’s “the same magic, but different energy.”

NCIS airs Tuesdays on CBS.

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