Cote de Pablo on her 'top-secret' 'NCIS' return: 'I was a little nervous'

Cote de Pablo is home. The 39-year-old actress makes her triumphant return to NCIS for the show's 17th season, six years after exiting the CBS drama. In an interview with BUILD Series, she admitted she was "nervous" reuniting with the cast and crew again after so many years.

"I'm actually really excited," she said of reprising her beloved role of Ziva David. "At the beginning, of course, I was jittery and I was a little nervous, my first scene."

De Pablo's return was set up in the very last scene of Season 16. "Even though the scene was only with Mark [Harmon] there was that, like, it's the scene," she recalled. "It was like a top-secret operation my God, these guys were like no joke. They were calling every second..."

The actress had to use a "secret back entrance" at the studio in order to keep her appearance hush-hush.

"Five minutes before the car pulled up the executive producer called and said, 'Duck! People may see you!' There was no one there, it was 12 midnight," she quipped.

Naturally, everyone on set was ecstatic to see her.

"Of course people from the production office were waiting, some of them had flowers, 'Welcome back,'" she recounted. "I was like, 'Not now guys, not now I have to go act!'"

Fans of the long-running series adore Ziva David's relationship with Mark Harmon's character, Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs, and the actress said her relationship with Harmon is just as special off-screen.

"He's a friend mentor, you know? He was always like a father figure to me and obviously Ziva and Gibbs have that, but Cote and Mark have a little of that," she said. Although the two weren't in constant contact during her time away from the show, they very much stayed connected.

"He's a very busy, famous man and so obviously there are many months where you just don't talk, but it's really nice to know that — sometimes when you have friendships... you can go time without talking, but you've laid a foundation, a foundation that is solid," she explained. "You pick up where you left off. I have that... certainly with Mark, certainly with Michael [Weatherly]."

"We went through something incredible, which were years of working closely together," she added of Harmon. "Like I said, we were forged in fire... it's intense."

NCIS premieres Tues., Sept. 24 on CBS.

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