- Jennifer Aniston was considered for a significant role on NCIS early on, but it’s unclear which character it was.
- The producing and network team liked Robyn Lively for the role but ended up choosing Sasha Alexander instead.
- There is speculation that Jennifer Aniston was available at the time and her name was discussed, but it’s unclear if an offer was ever made.
One actor from Friends was considered for a big role on NCIS. A role on a long-running and popular crime procedural is often thought of as a dream job in television, with pop culture often making jokes or storylines out of the stability that comes with the procedural format. Because of this, as a general rule, procedurals like NCIS generally tend to avoid casting the big stars in the main cast. The opposite is often true, in that procedurals make major stars out of actors who were previously not as well-known.
Still, after the revelation that Harrison Ford was considered to join NCIS, the producing and network team behind the series told The Hollywood Reporter that Jennifer Aniston was considered for a significant role early on in the show’s history. The remarks, which are delivered in the context of celebrating the 20th anniversary of the NCIS premiere, don’t mention which role Aniston was up for. Based on context, it could have been a character similar to Caitlin Todd (Sasha Alexander), but that is not confirmed. The quotes are below:
Bellisario: The kind of character he played in other roles made it fit for this.
Johnson: Sasha Alexander wasn’t in the two-episode pilot. It was an actress by the name of Robyn Lively [who is Blake Lively’s older half-sister]. They liked her, but they didn’t think she quite worked. And so when the series got picked up, CBS said, “We’d rather move on.” And then we went in search of a character, and Sasha came in at the last minute. I loved Robyn Lively, but those things do happen.
Glenn Geller, former CBS Entertainment president: Don Bellisario really understands the particular attributes to put on a character that make them stand out. They are kind of stock characters, but he always infuses it with some attribute that really makes them special.
Johnson: I think Jennifer Aniston was available at the time, and her name was floated.
Bluestein: I don’t remember ever offering it to Jennifer Aniston. Jennifer Aniston could very well have been a name that we discussed.
Why Aniston Would Have Been A Fun Casting Choice
NCIS debuted in 2003, prior to Friends concluding in 2004. At the time, Aniston was one of the highest-paid actors in television. It’s possible that she wouldn’t have wanted to sign on for another TV commitment, focusing on movies instead. Additionally, even if Aniston had been open to doing NCIS, her salary might have been too prohibitive for CBS to accept.
However, it’s easy to see the appeal of choosing Aniston for the role. She could have eventually been killed off at the end of the first few seasons like Caitlin Todd was, and it would have been a huge shock that forever remained part of the TV history books. That’s one smart way of dealing with stunt casting, and it would have used Aniston’s likely brief time on NCIS for something major.
Still, given that the executive producers quoted don’t mention which role Aniston was up for, it remains purely speculative. Shows will often throw out big names during the development and casting process because it makes it easier to sell a project. However, in an alternate universe, maybe NCIS would not have succeeded if it had featured huge celebrities such as Ford and Aniston.