Cote de Pablo plays bad-ass Israeli agent Ziva David on the hit show NCIS, but in real life she’s more of yoga-addicted Latina homebody with refreshingly down-to-earth views on weight and body shape.
I always describe myself as sort of a hippie. Deep inside, I’m not a glamorous person. I come from a traditional, conservative world.
You don’t seem like a hippie, though.
I always say I’ll be a great older character actor [laughs] because I somehow identify with women who have gone through things, like the women in Stephen Sondheim’s musicals. Maybe it’s because I’m an older soul. I don’t know why at such a young age I could understand where they were coming from. Maybe it was the loss of my country at such a young age. Maybe it does something to you.
So you love food–but you’ve never had a weight problem.
I had lots of issues with my stomach a few years ago. I had wanted to get off the Pill, because I’d been on it for a while and I thought that at some point I would want to get pregnant. So I took a shot of Depo-Provera for birth control. Within two months, voom, I gained fifteen pounds in my belly because it felt like it was pregnant. It was an eye-opener.
It really affected you, didn’t it?
There were two ways of looking at it: You could say, “Oh, God,” and cry about it, or say, “You know what? This is who I am. I’m going to be carrying a little more weight, and I don’t care.” Sometimes nature needs to do what it has to do to get something out of your system. And then, once it’s out, you’re fine.
How long did it last?
It took me about two years to get back on track. I went back on the Pill, and eventually everything went back to the way it had always been. I feel so much better now.
What sort of yoga do you practice?
Four or five days a week, I do open flow Vinyasa [breath-synchronized yoga]. I bring a teacher, who happens to be a great friend, to my house. You look at this woman’s body and you go, “Wow, the benefits of yoga!” You can see that there’s a lift everywhere. And it’s completely natural. There’s nothing fake about her body. I love natural beauty.
In what ways do you identify with Ziva?
My character’s strength is like mine, to a completely different degree. Losing family members because of a war… I have moments when I just have to hold my heart. But I also have to remember that if I played the character from my point of view, she’d be falling apart all the time. She has to keep it together–it’s the world she grew up in.
What were some of the bigger challenges you faced in order to play her?
I had literally forty-eight hours to learn a monologue in Hebrew. That was terrifying. I used to look down on people who were, for example, playing a Latin role, because I could tell that they didn’t speak Spanish. It would get on my nerves. Then I realized, Oh, God, I’m in that place right now. Everything I had judgments on has turned around and bitten me in the butt.
NCIS fans want more quality time between Ziva and Tony [Michael Weatherly]. Are you dating anyone in real life?
I’m in a long-term relationship with [actor] Diego Serrano, and I’m very happy. He’s the worst influence that I have ever had in my entire life, and I love him for it. [Laughs] Every once in a while, he turns to me and goes, “Live a little.” I’ll have chicken with broccoli and he’s like, “What about the chocolate cake?” If it weren’t for him, I’d be the most boring person in Los Angeles.
What do you like to do together?
My partner’s idea of fun is to dress up, get in the car, pump the music, go clubbing. I could not be further away from that. I love being at home, having friends over. For me, a great time is an intimate dinner, candles, fantastic bossa nova in the background, wonderful wine, food, conversation for hours without having to go anywhere. So we balance each other.
[Prevention, print edition, January 2011]
And here’s her recipe for what sounds like a delicious pasta sauce.
“One of my favorite things in the world, and also one of the simplest things to make, uses cherry tomatoes–the ones that are really sweet and really tiny.
“In winter, I heat up a big pan or wok and put in a lot of olive oil and a lot of garlic, pepper, and salt. I get a big yellow Spanish onion, put it in the food processor, and dice it. I throw that in the pan with the garlic and caramelize the onion so it’s nice and brown. Then I cut the tomatoes in half and throw them in, and let all of that cook for a while–I like my tomatoes caramelized with the onions. Put this sauce on top of any pasta, and throw any cheese you want on it. Delicious.”
I like her character on NCIS, especially the sexual tension with Tony (which I hope they don’t consumate until the very last episode of the series). I find it interesting how Cote seems like the anti-Ziva in real life. The Prevention article talks about how she hurt her neck doing a stunt for NCIS and turned to yoga to help with the pain. I can’t picture Ziva doing that.
Plus, she doesn’t seem to be obsessed with being thin and wrinkle-free, like so many Hollywood actresses. If you’re healthy inside, it will show on the outside, and Cote is a great example of that.
Note by Kaiser: I love her! Ziva David is a great television heroine. And I think Ziva and Tony have already consummated plenty. Remember that trip to Paris?
Photos courtesy of WENN.