ncis

By Malcom Venable

It’s a brutal, historically hot day in Los Angeles when Wilmer Valderrama sits down for a talk—so hot that merely walking from the car to the pristine sushi spot he’s chosen would make most of us lose our composure. Yet when Valderrama glides in, wearing a hip AllSaints T-shirt and a cap pulled low over his eyes, he is the very definition of cool and collected—even greeting the server, who remembers him, with the warmth and sincerity of an old childhood friend. It makes sense that he’s so calm and even-keeled, though; with all that’s on his plate, he has to be. As the actor, producer, and media mogul reveals all that’s on his mind, heart, and very busy calendar these days, it’s clear Valderrama is working to realize a vision—a vision he has of a brand-new world. And when you’re basically functioning as a real-life alchemist, as he is, nothing can rattle you—not even the feeling that you’re walking through fire.

“I think I have found the groove in how to be as ambitious as I am, with all I have to do,” he says while nibbling on impeccably carved tuna and salmon—the kind of clean, high-protein dish he uses to fuel 15-hour or more workdays. “I’m running a lot of things. Your brain has to be firing on all cylinders.”


Watch NCIS on Mondays at 9 PM, ET/PT on CBS and streaming on Paramount+.

Star Supertasker

A triptych of Valderrama wearing a patterned burnt sienna suit with a black turtleneck.

ERDEM suit, Canali turtleneck

Photo credit: David Needleman/CBS

It’s been seven years since Valderrama became NCIS Special Agent Nicholas Torres, a role that at the time marked a significant shift from what the public thought they knew of him. In his biggest previous role—foreign exchange student Fez on That ’70s Show—Valderrama charmed millions from 1998 to 2006 as a goofy and inappropriately randy misfit with an intentionally ambiguous ethnic background.

Fez was not meant to be taken seriously, but behind the scenes Valderrama was much more focused and determined than viewers might’ve known. Born in Miami, he mostly grew up in Venezuela and Colombia before returning to the U.S. at age 13. His experience as an immigrant had a profound impact on him: It still shapes his fierce devotion to family, the lens through which he views his experience as an American, the projects he chooses, everything. Now, heading into NCIS' historic 20th season, the 42-year-old has emerged as one of the franchise’s new-school elder statesmen—and a multi-hyphenate ready to unleash the unique power he’s cultivated over the decades with a dizzying slate of projects and development initiatives meant to transform Hollywood and the world at large. Most of all, he wants to transform the world his daughter, Nakano Oceana, who’ll be 2 in February, inherits.

“I feel like I’m in a very unique position,” he says. “I’m the first one in my family to have the audacity to be what I am now. I get emotional talking about it. It’s not just about self-achievement. It’s about what you’re leaving behind.”

Collaborative Spirit

Valderrama reclines while wearing a black suit with a navy blue pocket square and white shirt.

Dolce and Gabbana suit and shoes, Canali shirt, Tom Ford pocket square, Falke socks

Photo credit: David Needleman/CBS

He turned down NCIS when first approached. “I was like, ‘It’s number one. They don’t need me. I’d rather go to a place where they really could use me.’” Fortunately for fans, he took a meeting with persistent producers who, like him, were looking to collaborate rather than fit him into a rigid preexisting role. That synergetic spirit was nonnegotiable for Valderrama; after leaving That ’70s Show, where he was asked for his input and ideas, he worked on projects where he was expected to just read lines. The experience made him unhappy, and he knew he couldn’t go backward.

Particularly in a landscape where Latinos are still vastly underrepresented (despite being 18.5% of the population, Latinos had only 6.3% of broadcast roles in the 2019–20 season according to a 2021 UCLA study), Valderrama was uncompromising in his need for agency behind the camera. “When I first got on set, I had a big sobering conversation about what we’re going to do and not—what [Torres] is not going to sound like. In my experience, a lot of writers and directors need it so that authenticity in storytelling doesn’t fall apart and the story gets to the audience in a way it needs to be told.”

Complex Character

Valderrama stands in profile while wearing a black suit with a navy blue pocket square and white shirt.

Dolce and Gabbana suit and shoes, Canali shirt, Tom Ford pocket square, Falke socks

Photo credit: David Needleman/CBS

Everyone was receptive to his input, he says, thus beginning a more than 120-episode journey that has seen Torres blossom into one of the most complex and compelling characters across the franchise. “I love the character I’m playing,” he says. “I love the freedom the writers have given me to collaborate. That collaboration keeps me coming back—and my cast. At NCIS, they understand the importance of evolving.”

Torres helped usher in a decided tonal shift for the series—a subtle shift, but a change nonetheless. Torres came to the team with baggage: abandonment issues from his father, difficulty trusting women as romantic partners, an aversion to even being on a team in the first place. He says that he and Mark Harmon, whom he misses greatly, worked hard to give Torres and Harmon’s Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs complementary inner lives—to make it so that both the characters and the audience would see their similar instincts and ways they needed each other. “We ramped up the action, too,” says Valderrama, who hits the gym in his home nearly every day, from 4:30 a.m. to 6 a.m. on days he has to get to set. “But the biggest factor we changed was tonal. With Torres, it became way more personal. It wasn’t about the case of the week; it was about the people solving the case. We went deeper, and the show evolved into something more grounded and more real.”

Mentorship Role

Valderrama poses in an oversized jacket and ribbed tank top with beige khakis.

Brunello Cucinelli coat, Hanes tank top, Hugo Boss trousers

Photo credit: David Needleman/CBS

He’s evolved, too, a process that’s now accelerating at double speed. Among the initiatives on his roster: his film and television production company, WV Entertainment, founded in 2006; a management company, Allied Management Group, launched in 2022, which focuses on amplifying Latino voices across traditional and digital media; a new partnership with iHeartMedia to cultivate intellectual property in the podcast space; an apparel line designed to benefit veterans; and a book project he’s mum about for now.

“When I realized that there were not enough destinations in this industry to develop, to empower, to cultivate, and to mentor the next generation of leaders, it became, ‘How can we build a well-rounded ecosystem that can answer the right questions but also create solutions?’ So my production company started doing that. Allied will be a company that bridges the gap for Latin American talent, and we’re only going to represent people behind the scenes: writers, directors, producers, and showrunners.”

Becoming Zorro

Valderrama smiles and looks down while wearing a light pink button-down shirt.

Richard James shirt

Photo credit: David Needleman/CBS

Then there’s the game changer on the horizon: He’ll be portraying the swashbuckling masked hero Zorro in a live-action series for Disney. It’s a massive role for many reasons, not least for its physical demands. The action and stunts are so intense, he’s in pre-pre-pre-training at the moment—conditioning to stabilize his muscles and joints before moving on to “building a foundation and a frame that can get beaten up.” After that it’s shredding and sculpting (“I’m gonna get a little beefy,” he promises), and then of course a ton of mixed martial arts, sword fighting, and stunts—even flamenco dancing and singing.

More exciting for him, though, is what the show has to show the world and what it has to say. Zorro will be set in 1800s Spanish California, allowing all who watch to get a glimpse into the rich blend of Mexican and Spanish cultures that thrived in the same place he now lives and works. It will mark a kind of full-circle moment for Valderrama: an apex of all the acting, stunt work, producing, and storytelling he’s honed over decades, and the representation of Latin culture he’s passionate about.

“We had so few images of Latin people growing up,” he says. “The only one that made me feel this was possible was Desi Arnaz. I used to watch him in Venezuela, and I thought, ‘Maybe I can do that, too.’” He cites Antonio Banderas as another inspiration—someone who made him feel “like I didn’t have to change myself in order to do what I loved.”

Family Man

Valderrama kneels in jeans while wearing a light brown shirt.

Buck Mason shirt, Brunello Cucinelli jeans, Waldan watch

Photo credit: David Needleman/CBS

The most important project of all is his growing family. He and fiancée Amanda Pacheco welcomed their daughter in February of 2021, and she quickly became the center of his world. “When my daughter was born,” he says, “I realized that one day she won’t be conscious of the fight that it took for her to see herself. If I and my colleagues do what we can, one day she will be a teen who realizes she can be any version of whatever she wants to be: an astronaut, a pilot, an athlete. Because once people see themselves, it can’t be taken back. We have to dream ourselves into things we’ve never been before.”

Family has always been the primary driver of Valderrama’s life and work; as an immigrant, family is everything. And there may be no greater example of his ability to hold a vision and create it than the space he’s created for his family—the three-acre compound where he lives with Pacheco, their daughter, and his parents, who split ages ago but are on good terms. In the media, the arrangement is often described as “unconventional,” but for Valderrama it’s a sort of utopia (free on-site babysitters!) that is a reflection of his wise decision-making, his commitment to caring for his family, and his ability to imagine a future and create it. The estate began with one property—it famously belonged to Chuck Norris—purchased in 2005 with money from That ’70s Show and then grew. “I was like, ‘I don’t know when I will ever make this money again,’ so I bought it.”

Future Shaper

Valderrama wears an oversized jacket and knit cardigan in this black and white image on a street in Los Angeles.

Brunello Cucinelli jacket and cardigan, Hanes tank top

Photo credit: David Needleman/CBS

The house needed repair—he chuckles at memories of its dated, padded wallpaper—but, glimpsing into a life decades down the road, the young actor saw something his 40-something self couldn’t yet. “When I walked in, I saw my kids running around. I had no plans for kids at the time. But I could see my kids and my family here.” Almost 20 years later, the dream was realized—a strong indicator that all the work he’s doing now in front of and behind the camera will create the world he envisions, too.

“I feel responsible not just for my daughter. I feel responsible to leave the door open a little bit wider for everyone.”

Photography: David Needleman, Styling: Evan Simonitsch, Groomer: Kat Thompson

Watch NCIS on Mondays at 9 PM, ET/PT on CBS and streaming on Paramount+.

Mark Harmon as NCIS Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs with Gary Cole as FBI Special Agent Alden Parker

Photo credit: Michael Yarish/CBS
By David Hochman

There's a new supervisor at NCIS, and if you can get him those TPS reports ASAP, that’d be greaaat.

Gary Cole, the veteran actor best known for his iconic roles in The Brady Bunch Movie, Talladega Nights, and, yes, Office Space, as mediocre manager Bill Lumbergh, enters the “big orange room” of the longest-running series currently on CBS as head honcho Alden Parker. Joining one of the most popular shows on television sounds as unnerving as encountering a fresh stiff on a cold steel table, but Cole, 65, is the consummate pro.

Trained onstage at Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theatre Company, he’s played a drug lord in Pineapple Express, a S.W.A.T. commander on Psych, and earned an Emmy nod as numbers cruncher Kent Davison on Veep. What’s a few more serial killers, right?

Photography by Shayan Asgharnia and styled by Ashley Zohar.

Watch NCIS on Mondays at 9 PM, ET/PT on CBS and streaming on Paramount+.

Read more Show less

Vanessa Lachey with her family.

"For a natural-born party planner like me, this is the season of small get-togethers and big celebrations.” — Vanessa Lachey

Getty Images / iStockPhoto; Courtesy: Justin Coit (2)

Vanessa Lachey, in her own words:

Winter is magical. But let’s be real here–it can also be crazy stressful. It’s cold; the kids are on break from school; you have to figure out what gifts to give your in-laws and bosses and what you’re going to do for the kids’ teachers. It’s no wonder we start counting down the days until spring break while it’s still freezing outside.

Despite the stress, winter is also a season of warmth and reflection. It’s pine-scented candles and chocolate chip cookies baking in the oven. It’s twinkling lights and cozy pajamas. It’s binge-watching your favorite holiday movies and spending quality time with the people you love. It’s eating warm chicken tetrazzini (one of my winter favorites and, coincidentally, the meal I ate before each of my kids’ births) and enjoying a cozy cocktail.

I continue a few of the traditions that began during my childhood, but most of our winter traditions were started by Nick [Lachey] and me as a way to remember what matters most in life: connection, closeness, and comfort food—not necessarily in that order! For a natural-born party planner like me, this is a season of small get-togethers and big celebrations. Even if you would rather spend cozy nights at home with the family, I hope this inspires you and helps make your season more magical and memorable in ways large and small.

Lachey's book, Life from Scratch, is available here: lifefromscratchbook.com

NCIS: Hawai'i airs on Mondays at 10 p.m. ET/PT on CBS and streams on Paramount+.

Lachey Lasagna

Close up image of a lasagna

Excerpted from Life from Scratch by Vanessa Lachey. Reprinted with permission from HarperOne, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers. Copyright 2021.

Getty Images / iStockPhoto; Courtesy: Justin Coit (2)

Lachey Lasagna
During any season, this recipe is always a crowd-pleaser, but it’s an especially good way to warm up after a cold winter day. Bonus: You can save the leftover sauce to make another dish later.


INGREDIENTS

1 lb. Sweet Italian turkey sausage, casings removed
1 lb. Lean ground turkey (I use the 1-pound Jennie-O packs) 1⁄2cup chopped or minced white onion
2 Garlic cloves, crushed or minced
1 28-oz. Can crushed tomatoes
1 12-oz. Can tomato paste
1 15-oz. Can tomato sauce
1⁄2 Cup water
2 tbsp. Granulated sugar
1 1⁄2 tsp. Dried basil
1⁄2 tsp. Fennel seeds
1 tsp. Italian seasoning
1 tbsp. Salt, plus more as needed
1⁄2 tsp. Ground black pepper
4 tbsp. Chopped flat-leaf parsley, divided
12 Lasagna noodles (more or fewer to taste)
1 15-oz. Tub ricotta cheese
1 Egg
3⁄4 lb. Pre-sliced low-moisture mozzarella cheese, divided
3⁄4 cup Grated Parmesan cheese, divided


MAKING IT FROM SCRATCH

In a large, dry Dutch oven, brown the sausage over medium heat, breaking it up into a crumble as you go. When it’s almost brown, add the ground turkey. When the meat is fully cooked, add the onion and garlic and sauté until the onion is translucent. Then add the crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, and tomato sauce. Add the water and mix well. Next, add the sugar, basil, fennel, Italian seasoning, salt, pepper, and 2 tablespoons of the parsley. Simmer, covered, for 90 minutes (or more). Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the lasagna noodles according to the package directions. Then drain the noodles and rinse under cold water. At this point, I lay them out on a cookie sheet so I can easily grab them as I’m assembling. In a medium bowl, mix the ricotta with the egg. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of parsley and salt to taste.

Preheat oven to 375°F. Spread 1 1⁄2 cups of the meat sauce on the bottom of a 9-by-13-inch casserole dish. Place half the noodles on top of the sauce in an overlapping layer. (I use six of them in this step.) Spread with half the ricotta cheese mixture. Then top with half the mozzarella cheese slices in an even layer (cut the slices to fit if you have to). Next, add another 1 1⁄2 cups of the meat sauce, then sprinkle with 1⁄4 cup of the Parmesan. Repeat the layers, starting with the noodles, then the ricotta mixture, then the mozzarella. Top with 1 1⁄2 cups sauce and the remaining 1⁄2 cup Parmesan cheese. If you have sauce left over, save it for another use. Cover the dish tightly with foil and bake for 25 minutes. Remove the foil, then bake for an additional 25 minutes.

Life from Scratch book cover picturing Vanessa Lachey seated on a wooden swing

Excerpted from Life from Scratch by Vanessa Lachey. Reprinted with permission from HarperOne, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers. Copyright 2021.

SUBSCRIBE NOW: Enjoy 4 Digital Plus 2 Print/Digital Issues Of Watch Per Year — For Free!

NCIS: Hawai'i airs on Mondays at 10 p.m. ET/PT on CBS and streams on Paramount+.

NCIS Special Agent DiNozzo partners with the NCIS: Los Angeles team to search the city after his prisoner escapes custody on a flight from Singapore to Los Angeles

Photo: Neil Jacobs/CBS

By Nate Millado

The NCIS universe has expanded in the past 18 years—most recently with NCIS: Hawaii—and it's been a blast watching our favorite agents get to play in the same sandbox! These crossover events have treated fans to some pretty epic episodes and inspired pairings. Here's a look back at a few of our faves.

Watch NCIS on Mondays at 9 PM, ET/PT on CBS and streaming on Paramount+.

Watch NCIS: Los Angeles on CBS and streaming on Paramount+.

Stream NCIS: New Orleans episodes on Paramount+.

"Legend" and "Legend: Pt. II" (NCIS)

LL COOL J shouts into his phone while holding a bloodied and unconscious Chris O'Donnell

Sam (LL COOL J, left) rushes to Callen's (Chris O'Donnell, right) side after he is shot by an unknown gunman.

Photo: Danny Feld/CBS

Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs (Mark Harmon) heads to the City of Angels and teams up with his counterparts at the NCIS Office of Special Projects to investigate the death of a Marine—only to uncover a terrorist cell rooted somewhere in downtown L.A. This NCIS two-parter introduced us to the dynamic duo of Sam Hanna (LL COOL J) and G. Callen (Chris O'Donnell). This pair would go on to headline the first NCIS spinoff, NCIS: Los Angeles.

"Random On Purpose" (NCIS: Los Angeles)

Pauley Perrette and Eric Beal having a drink

Abby (guest star Pauley Perrette) drops by NCIS: Los Angeles. Here with Eric Beal (Barrett Foa).

Photo: Sonja Flemming/CBS.

After a Naval engineer is murdered, Abby (Pauley Perrette) notices a pattern linking this case to others—so she heads to Los Angeles to warn the team of the Phantom serial killer.

"Crescent City Pt. I" and "Crescent City: Pt. II" (NCIS/NCIS: New Orleans)

Mark Harmon and Scott Bakula lean on a wrought iron railing in New Orleans

Gibbs (Mark Harmon, left) and NCIS Special Agent Dwayne Cassius Pride (Scott Bakula, right) chase leads in New Orleans after evidence points to a copycat killer.

Photo: Skip Bolen/CBS

Gibbs (Mark Harmon) and NCIS Special Agent Dwayne Cassius Pride (Scott Bakula, right) are on the tail of a copycat of the infamous Privileged Killer in New Orleans, while Pride's NCIS: New Orleans team heads to Washington, D.C. to investigate potential political connections to the case.

"Blame It On Rio" (NCIS: Los Angeles)

Eric Christian Olsen with Bobby Lee and Michael Weatherly holding guns in a warehouse

NCIS Special Agent DiNozzo (Michael Weatherly) partners with the NCIS: Los Angeles team to search the city after his prisoner escapes custody on a flight from Singapore to Los Angeles

Photo: Neil Jacobs/CBS

D.C.-based agent DiNozzo (Michael Weatherly) partners with the L.A. team to search the city after his prisoner escapes custody on a flight from Singapore to Los Angeles. DiNozzo and Marty Deeks hilariously try to one-up each other throughout the episode, proving exactly why NCIS fans love these crossovers!

"Sister City, Parts I and II" (NCIS/NCIS: New Orleans)

\u200bMichael Weatherly in a raincoat over a jacket and tie next to Pauley Perrette in a polka dot coat holding a black umbrella

Michael Weatherly and Pauley Perrette

Photo: Bill Inoshita/CBS

After the passengers and crew of a private plane traveling from New Orleans to Washington D.C. are lethally poisoned, all signs point to the missing chef—Abby's brother, Luca (Tyler Ritter). Gibbs and the D.C. team work with Pride and the New Orleans crew to locate Luca and determine why a private tech company was targeted.

"Pandora's Box, Parts I and II" (NCIS/NCIS: New Orleans)

Scott Bakula stands next to Vanessa Ferlito and Wilmer Valderrama in a brick building

In this two-part crossover event, the NCIS gang teams up to track a stolen terror playbook. Pictured: Scott Bakula as Special Agent Dwayne Pride, Vanessa Ferlito as FBI Special Agent Tammy Gregorio, and Wilmer Valderrama as NCIS Special Agent Nick Torres.

Photo Credit: Skip Bolen/CBS.

Crossovers are always a rollicking good time, and this Mardi Gras–themed conclusion to an NCIS two-parter is no exception! NCIS agents McGee (Sean Murray) and Torres (Wilson Valderrama) travel to New Orleans to partner with Pride and his team in the search for a missing homeland security theoretical terror playbook.

Watch NCIS on Mondays at 9 PM, ET/PT on CBS and streaming on Paramount+.

Watch NCIS: Los Angeles on CBS and streaming on Paramount+.

Stream NCIS: New Orleans episodes on Paramount+.

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