One of TV's most popular casts returns for a 12th season of suspense

For an actor who wants to get into directing, starting with his or her own series is a good and logical move.

It’s an automatic bonus to know the cast, crew and characters when you’re calling the shots for the first time... as Daniela Ruah did in making the Sunday episode of NCIS: Los Angeles, now in its 12th season. Though some actors are less evident in front of the camera while they’re also serving as director, Ruah’s Kensi Blye has a substantial role this week, as fellow NCIS agent Callen (Chris O’Donnell) is accused of being a Russian spy.

Ruah4CBS“It was something that took me a while to realize I wanted to do,” the friendly Ruah says of her first stint behind the camera. “People will say that their passion has always been to do this or that, and that wasn’t the case with me and directing. But something clicked in the last couple of years where I just decided that I was ready to do it. Maybe it has to do with age and maturity, I don’t know, but I trust myself to do it now.”

In preparing “to pilot this gigantic airplane,” as she refers to her directing gig, Ruah had the cushion of being extremely familiar with the vast majority of the NCIS: LA team she’d be guiding. “This is the place to do it,” she confirms, noting that executive producer R. Scott Gemmill “very much kept me in the loop as he was writing the episode. He gave me every advantage possible to do this right, including having the holidays to work on it. Usually, a director has much less time to prep an episode.”

Ruah3CBSStill, Ruah has the shorthand of having been an NCIS: Los Angeles cast member from the start; that was a particular help to her in working during the coronavirus pandemic, yet she explains under any circumstances, debuting as a director “is like being a first-time parent. It’s all you know, so as much as I know that this is a very complicated time, you feel safer having rules and parameters than having a wide open space where you can get lost.”NCIS: Los Angeles is a literal family affair for Ruah in one way, since she’s married to the brother of her onscreen husband Eric Christian Olsen (who plays LAPD Liaison Marty Deeks). She and Eric’s stunt double David Olsen have two young children, and she reports: “Our lifestyle as parents is very much 50/50. He was so excited about me directing, he said, ‘Whatever you need.’ And he’s in my episode, so it was really fun to direct him, too.”

NCIS: Los Angeles airs Sundays at 9 p.m., Global & CBS