Crime dramas are popular around the world because they tap into people's innate curiosity to know more about a darker side of life they don't encounter every day. This has been proven over the years with the success of Criminal Minds, CSI, Hawaii Five-O and Law & Order, though another show that successfully managed to stamp its own unique take on the genre is the long-running drama, NCIS.
An abbreviation for Naval Criminal Investigative Service, the series follows an elite team of investigators as they solve crimes within the Marine Corps and U.S. Navy. Since premiering in 2003, the show reached a landmark fifteenth season, and viewership has since peaked at a whopping 21.34 million.
However, while only five original characters remain, more than 80 actors have graced the series over the years, and many were gutsy, intelligent women who were no doubt great role models for female viewers watching a show about a profession that is still heavily dominated by men.
Here, we take a look at 15 of the most famous female NCIS stars and explain what made their characters so compelling.
1. Scottie Thompson- Dr. Jeanne Benoit
Jeanne Benoit was introduced as the girlfriend of Tony DiNozzo though things heated up when it transpired she was the daughter of Rene Benoit, a known arms dealer. Yet with her prepossessing features, a cunning Jeanne was able to charm the team with her dancing blue eyes and chiseled features, perhaps in a desperate attempt to win back the love of Tony, if anything else.
Scottie Thompson, the actress who portrayed the sassy character, returned as Jeanne in 2015 for two episodes and was certainly one of the most beautiful actresses to appear on the show.
2. Maria Bello- Jackie Sloane
Maria Bello introduced herself in the 15th season of the show as the blonde bombshell, Jackie Sloane. An instant hit with the team, Jackie was assigned as a special agent on the major case response team, and with her elongated blonde curls and racy, tight outfits, Jackie's easy-on-the-eye looks, as well as her prowess as an agent, made her one of the season's most popular characters.
Due to her popularity, Bello seems likely to reprise her role in the following season if network bosses renew the series.
3. Cota De Pablo- Ziva David
Costa De Pablo was an Israeli member of the NCIS team who joined in season three and left in season eleven when she returned to Israel. Ziva had originally intended to join the Army but eventually signed up to the NCIS team, where her no-nonsense approach made her a standout member of the team. In undercover missions, she was also known for sprucing up her appearance, opting for high heels and glamorous skirts to lure criminals her way. Three years later, it was revealed that she had died in her home country following a fatal mortar attack.
Since leaving the show, Cota De Pablo won a high-profile role in the movie The 33, which told the true story of a group of 33 miners who were trapped underground for two months.
4. Marina Sirtis- Orli Elbaz
While Marina Sirtis's American accent is flawless, she was born and raised in London, UK to Greek parents. In fact, she only moved to the States after completing her studies at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. After making the move, Sirtis made appearances on the shows Hazell, Minder, and Star Trek, The Next Generation, the latter of which helped her win the role of Deanna in four of the Star Trek movies.
However, Marina Sirtis- at least to American audiences- is best known for her NCIS character Oril Elbaz, who served as the Director of the Mossad, the Israeli intelligence service. A regular on the television circuit, the actress, and animal rights campaigner has also graced the screens of Grey’s Anatomy, Adventure Time, Star Trek Continues, and Scandal.
5. Jennifer Esposito- Alexandra Quinn
Alexandra Quinn wasn't with the NCIS Major Case Response Team long, but the season 14 character's popularity made sure she left on good terms after resigning to take care of her mother who had developed Alzheimer’s.
Jennifer has since gone onto star alongside John Travolta in the film Speed Kills.
6. Pauley Perrette- Abby Sciuto
Abby Sciuto's character dresses more like a member of the Addams family than an NCIS character, with her black miniskirts, t-shirts, dresses, jewelry and tattoos all part of what makes her gothic forensic scientist character so unique.
Thankfully for Pauley, a lot of Abby’s tattoos- including the famous spider web on her neck- are not real as she admitted that she never liked it!
7. Stephanie Mello- Cynthia Sumner
During her thirteen episodes, Cynthia worked as a personal secretary for a member of the U.S. Navy and was thus always looking smart. While her character wasn’t given much screen time, it was clear she had a complicated working relationship with Leroy Gibbs who made a habit of barging into her office.
Despite her ephemeral appearances on the show, Stephanie used the show as a springboard for a stable career in television which has so far yielded over 100 television commercials and other small parts on tv shows.
8. Jessica Steen- Paula Cassidy
One of the show's longest-running characters, Jessica Steen would join forces with the naval crime team in 2003 and stay with the series until 2015. A self-empowered character, Steen was originally a police interrogator before she was invited to be a NCIS criminal profiler.
Before being part of the NCIS family, Paula Cassidy had been seen in many movies and shows such as Homefront, Earth 2, Monk, and The Outer Limits.
9. Margo Harshman- Delilah Fielding
Margo Harshman was only 2 when her mother put her in the local pageant show, and from then on, her stage parent mother wanted her daughter to be a star, a goal her daughter fulfilled when she gained her first role as a series regular alongside Shia La Beouf in the show Even Stevens before finding mainstream fame on NCIS as the disabled department of defense employee, Delilah Fielding.
To a global audience, Margo Harshman is probably recognized most for her role as Sheldon’s attractive assistant on the Chuck Lore series, The Big Bang Theory.
10. Diane Neal- Abigail Borin
CGIS Special Agent Abigail Borin was portrayed by Diane Neal on both NCIS and its popular spin-off NCIS: New Orleans. A former Sergeant in the United States Marine Corps before switching to the CGIS following the death of her partner, Borin was a career girl through and through and was so good at her job she often got promoted until she was finally made an agent.
As well as the crime drama NCIS, Neal also had a similar role as A.D.A. Casey Novak on Law & Order and Kelly Blake on Blue Bloods following her departure from the series.
11. Margaret Allison Hart- Rena Sofer
Only making six appearances in the show, lawyer Margaret Allison Hart first appeared in the 7th season representing clients involved in the death of a Marine who was killed after a jetpack experiment went wrong. She argued that Gibbs and his agents were responsible though she lost the case which leads her to turn bitter and return in later episodes to try and tamper with their investigations.
The actress, Rena Sofer, is perhaps most known for her regular role in the soap opera The Bold and the Beautiful, a show she has appeared more than 500 times in!
12. Brigid Brannagh- Catherine Reynolds
Brigid Brannagh appeared in just one episode of NCIS playing mental patient Catherine Reynolds, whom NCIS investigators believed played a role in Officer Jessica Smith's death.
Brannagh has also appeared in the crime drama CSI and most recently as Stacey Yorkes in the television show, Runaways.
13. Carla Gallo- Melissa Wheeler Fox
Another actress to make only a guest appearance on the much-loved crime drama was Carla Gallo, who played Melissa Wheeler Fox, daughter of former Navy Petty Officer Ned Quinn who they believe died in a fire 17 years ago.
Carla Gallo also had a prominent role in the Showtime series Californication and smaller parts in the films Get Him to the Greek, We Bought a Zoo and Neighbors.
14. China Anne McClain- Delilah Vance
In a guest appearance, China Anne McClain played the role of Delilah Vance. The daughter of Director Vance, and going by the nickname Lily, the episode follows the death of Leon Vance’s friend, Tyler Owens, and the subsequent investigation.
The actress first made waves on the Disney Channel show A.N.T. Farm as well other Disney shows such as Hannah Montana and Jonas and is due to appear in the upcoming movie, Blood Brothers.
15. Claudia Black- Velvet Road
Claudia Black played drug dealer Velvet Road in an episode titled Borderland. Looking the part, Black's character was a motorcyclist laden with tattoos and killed Ray Collins out of self-defense before a dead body linked to her leads the NCIS team to believe a serial killer is on the loose.
The Australian actress is also a successful voiceover artist, voicing several video games including Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare and Uncharted: The Lost Legacy.