The pilot for this series aired as a two-part episode of JAG in the spring of 2003. Two major changes were made for the series. A gimmick in which Ducky is shown talking to corpses - from the corpse's point of view - was dropped, and a character named Viv Blackadder (played by Robyn Lively) was replaced by the character played by Sasha Alexander.
The t-shirts that Gibbs wears while working on the boat in the basement of his home are sent to Mark Harmon from law enforcement agencies around the country. He also occasionally wears a sweatshirt with the letters "NIS". This stands for "Naval Investigative Service", the predecessor of the NCIS. An agent with Gibbs' seniority would have begun his career working under that name.
The sound heard at the beginning and end of each Act, when the scene goes to black and white is Donald P. Bellisario making that noise into a microphone. He wanted a unique way of bookending each act and took a microphone and went into a studio and made that sound into the microphone.
The show was originally entitled "Navy NCIS". They dropped the "Navy", which was redundant because the "N" in "NCIS" stands for "Naval" referring to the Navy. "NCIS" stands for "Naval Criminal Investigative Service".
During the opening credits there is a note about what NCIS represents and it reads: The Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) is a worldwide federal law enforcement organization whose mission is to protect and serve the Navy and Marine Corps and their families.
In the opening credits of the first couple seasons, an aircraft carrier is seen going under the Golden Gate Bridge. This is a clip from the opening credits of The Presidio, starring Mark Harmon as a San Francisco police inspector investigating a murder on the Presidio army base in San Francisco.
MTAC stands for the Multiple Threat Alert Center. Previously the Antiterrorist Alert Center (ATAC), it was changed in 2002 in response to it's expanding role after the terrorist bombing of the USS Cole in Yemen and attacks of September 11th, 2001.
"FLETC" (flet c) is often referred to in regard to trainees. The word is an acronym for the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center. NCIS, along with 82 other federal agencies, train recruits at FLETC-Glynco, just north of Brunswick, Georgia.
In 2005 Mark Harmon requested that nobody make any fuss about his September 2nd birthday. New cast member Lauren Holly had other ideas though. The frequent victim of Harmon's practical jokes, she collaborated with Michael Weatherly on a Harmon birthday extravaganza. First they ordered 150 t-shirts that read 'It's Mark Harmon's birthday', that were passed out to the entire crew. On Thursday, September 1st, she waited in her hotel room for the heads-up call from Weatherly that shooting was wrapping. At three o'clock a.m., still in her pajamas, Holly got the call, loaded up her car with party supplies and drove back to the show's sets in Santa Clarita. She and Weatherly then proceeded to cover Harmon's trailer with crepe paper, helium balloons and piñatas, then dumped large amounts of confetti everywhere. They decorated every wall, truck and trailer, then, with the cooperation of the art department, put up a picture of Harmon on all the plasma-screen displays in the squad-room set. Holly then hopped on a plane on Friday to fly back to her husband and three sons in Chicago and waited for word on Harmon's reaction. When Harmon arrived to work he saw everyone in identical t-shirts, holding signs, and assumed there was a strike. Weatherly was called by the nervous producers, who were worried what Mark would think, and who was behind it. Michael replied "I'm not going to name any names. Lauren Holly". Harmon was very touched by the gesture, which was filmed so he could take the DVD home to his wife. He did however tell Lauren with a grin, "Payback's a bitch".
During one episode, Gibbs was trying to solve a crossword puzzle. As his character is rarely in step with pop culture, he asked DiNozzo for a TV drama with 8 letters. Tony answers St. Elsewhere, which has more than 8. Mark Harmon played Dr. Bobby Caldwell on that show from 1983 - 1986.
The sidearm carried by all of the agents is the Sig Sauer P228, a 9mm-only variant of the popular P226 semi-automatic. Adopted by the US military as the M11, it is standard issue not only for NCIS but also their Army counterpart, CID, and is also popular with Special Warfare troops for its ruggedness, reliability, and accuracy.
David McCallum appeared in every episode until Season 6, Episode 23, "Legend Part II". Even though he plays the medical examiner, this included shows where people weren't even murdered. In those episodes, Ducky would consult on the psychology of the case, or offer personal advice.
Many of the character's histories are taken from the actor's real lives. For instance, Michael Weatherly's father has a large fortune from a family business, as does Tony's father (and Weatherly's Dark Angel character). Abby Scuito states she used to go through old cars to see what happened to them and try to find out what went wrong, and Pauley Perrette did this in her childhood.
Mark Harmon, who was born in 1951, would be old enough to be a Vietnam era veteran, but his character of Gibbs stated that he was a Gulf War veteran as he was too young to be a Vietnam vet, so Gibbs is much younger than Harmon.
Pauley Perrette, who plays Abby, actually graduated with a degree in Forensics in college, and then moved to New York to get her masters, and it was there that she got in to acting. before coming to NCIS. Producers have said that most of the personality and interests displayed by Abby come from Perrette just playing herself.
NCIS is the only military investigative service comprised entirely of civilian investigators. Special Agents of Army CID and Airforce Office of Special Investigations are active duty military personnel. Coast Guard Invesigative Service Special Agents are a mix of active duty personnel and civilian investigators. (CGIS)
The Dodge Chargers used by these Navy department agents are a color called Deep Water Blue, a special color costing several hundred dollars more than a standard black or white car, which a Federal agency would most likely choose.
In one episode Kate asks Gibbs "Gibbs? What did Ducky look like when he was younger?" Gibbs answers "Ilya Kuryakin". Ilya Kuryakin is the role David McCallum played in the show The Man from U.N.C.L.E..