Ralph Waite 'NCIS' Tribute Part of May 13 Season 11 Finale

Image: Ralph Waite 'NCIS' Tribute Part of May 13 Season 11 Finale

Wednesday, 30 Apr 2014 11:53 AM

By Clyde Hughes

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The late Ralph Waite, who had played the father of Mark Harmon's character on the CBS hit series "NCIS," will be recognized in a tribute during the show's season finale on May 13, Fox News reported this week.

Waite, best known for playing John Walton on the 1970s series "The Waltons," died in February at age 85. He also appeared in "Bones" and "Days of Our Lives." 

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In "NCIS," Waite had a reoccurring role as Jackson Gibbs, the father of Leroy ­Jethro Gibbs, Harmon's character, since 2008.

"It goes out on an emotional note," producer Gary Glasberg told Fox News. "Season 11 has been anything but traditional, and what appealed to me was the idea of closing it properly, on solid ground, and not feeling like we were dangling carrots and playing games in any way. This is life and death and real characters, and people dealing with real things. But I don't necessarily see it as a downer."

Harmon said that Waite's death caught the "NCIS" actors and crew completely by surprise in February. Waite performed in what turned out to be his final appearance on "NCIS" in the episode "Better Angels," which aired in November.

"I got a call from Liam, Ralph's son," Harmon said to Fox. "I ran into a group of writers and Gary up here and then made an announcement to the crew. And then, right away, you say, 'How do we honor this?' Do you put an 'In memoriam' at the end of the next episode? Do you go back and put it on the crawl of 'Better Angels,' if that had to be the farewell?"

Glasberg told Entertainment Weekly in February that the finale would include a crime story that "will bookend into the passing of Jackson Gibbs."

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"That’s going to be a really emotional storyline that Mark Harmon has been involved with since day 1," Glasberg said. "(Waite's death) really changed the dynamic of (the finale) and added a whole emotional element to it that I wasn’t planning on, but we wanted to do it justice and do it right and really make it a tribute to Ralph."

"NCIS" veteran Cote de Pablo left at the beginning of the season, and Emily Wickersham replaced her as a regular.

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