NCIS vet Pauley Perrette says new comedy brings joy in coronavirus era


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Pauley Perrette, left, Jaime Camil and Natasha Leggero star in the CBS family comedy, ‘Broke.’ (Photo: Sonja Flemming, CBS)

Pauley Perrette understands the contrasting arrivals of the deadly serious coronavirus pandemic and her CBS sitcom, “Broke” (premiering Thursday, 9:30 EDT/PDT). 

However, amid the real-life concern, fear and sadness, the longtime “NCIS” star thinks it’s the right time for a sweet family comedy about a working mom and her school-age son who must adjust to permanent houseguests: her suddenly poor sister and her husband.

“It’s such a weird time for everybody. I was already so excited about people seeing our show because it’s my favorite show I’ve ever done, so funny, sweet and awesome. But now I’m really excited in a whole other way. I feel people need this right now. It really makes people happy,” she says. “When we’re in times like these, when your job is specifically to bring people joy, that’s a great job.”

A sitcom shouldn’t be seen as a brand new venture, says Perrette, who made guest appearances on “Frasier” and “The Drew Carey Show” before spending 15 seasons as brilliant and quirky forensic scientist Abby Sciuto on “NCIS.”

“I came from comedy. They took me from comedy to be like the comic relief on that military show about murder,” she says of “NCIS,” the CBS hit she left in 2018, leaving behind a series of troubling tweets.

Perrette, 50, declines to discuss her May 2018 tweets about being kept silent and unexplained “Multiple Physical Assaults,” and another in June 2019 in which she said she was never going back to “NCIS” and was “terrified” of lead actor Mark Harmon. 

“That is a part of my past now, and it’s nothing that I have any need to talk about again, other than one thing: I’m certainly grateful for having the opportunity to play that character and I always will be,” she says during an otherwise upbeat interview in which the self-described reclusive germophobe offered tips for those spending more time at home under coronavirus restrictions. 

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Perrette remains friends with many of her former “NCIS” colleagues and she’s happy to be back at CBS.

“Michael Weatherly (now on “Bull”) is like my brother. I love him more than anything on the planet Earth. He’s awesome. I was just on the phone with Brian Dietzen last week,” she says. And “CBS is home to me.  The network and the studio  has always been really, really good to me.” 

Longtime ‘NCIS’ favorite Pauley Perrette is proud of portraying another “super-capable” woman, Jackie, in the CBS comedy, ‘Broke.’ (Photo: Greg Gayne, CBS)

Her “Broke” character is completely different from Abby of “NCIS,” Perrette says. Jackie is a suburban California mom who runs a bar (and handles plumbing chores), while raising her son, Sammy (Antonio Raul Corbo) on her own.

Her life is upended when her jet-setting, estranged sister, Elizabeth (Natasha Leggero) and brother-in-law Javier (Jaime Camil), move in after his father shuts off the money valve. Javier even has an assistant, Luis (Izzy Diaz). (In one innocent scene that’s now a bit jarring, Elizabeth sprawls on a palette’s worth of toilet paper in the guest bedroom.)

“Jackie is totally different from Abby, except for one thing: She’s a really good influence. She’s smart. She’s capable. It’s the same with Abby, but in a completely different way,” Perrette says. “Jackie’s got more tools than any dude she knows. She can fix anything. With Abby, I wanted young girls to grow up thinking they are super capable of doing science. And that definitely made an impact internationally. I’m a tool person myself, and I also want every girl out there to know she can pick up an electric screwdriver and (fix) something.”

She’s personally happy about one other big difference between Jackie and Abby.

“They always talk about stars’ (contract) riders and what stars want, their demands” when taking a role, Perrette says. “Mine was comfortable shoes. I spent almost two decades in platform shoes.”

After leaving “NCIS,” Perrette says she “needed to breathe. I needed to stop. I’ve had such an insanely interesting life, just being in film and television and the criminal science” endowments set up at her alma mater, Georgia’s Valdosta State University, and New York’s John Jay College of Criminal Science. “I wanted to do absolutely nothing. It turns out I was great at it.”

But not so great that she was able to stay on the sidelines. She was drawn to the “Broke” characters and story, but also the show’s executive producers. 

“I feel very respected by my bosses, which is something that I wish for everyone because when you don’t have that, it feels awful,” she says. “And not for nothing, there’s women everywhere. My old job, that was not the case. I love it. We have women in charge. We have women (at the) camera, women everywhere, more like the world looks. That made me really happy.”

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