NCIS: Scott Bakula and Chelsea Discipline Tease Pleasure from NOLA and Rita's Future in Season 7

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(Warning: The following contains spoilers for Season 7, Episode 2 of NCIS: New Orleans, which aired on Sunday, November 15. Read at your own risk!)

NCIS: New Orleans returned to its seventh season on Sunday November 8th and Sunday November 15th with a two-part episode called "Something in the Air". In it, the team investigated a suspicious death on an offshore humanitarian vessel that had a serious impact on the COVID-19 pandemic. Dr. Wade (CCH Pounder) was in the morgue over coronavirus deaths and Pride (Scott) overwhelmed Bakula) was trying to figure out what to do with his shuttered bar, and Jimmy Boyd (Jason Alan Carvell) figured out how to get groceries out Bars and restaurants with shutters used to form a pantry for the needy.

The only bright spot in the two-part episode is that Pride's long-standing love interest Rita Deveraux (Chelsea Field) has resigned from her position with the Department of Justice's National Security Division in Washington DC to return to New Orleans for Pride.

TV Guide spoke to Bakula and Field, who have been a true couple for over 20 years, about how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the production and plot of the series, and what viewers are looking at this season with Pride and Rita can look forward to.

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After the pandemic stopped production, how has it not affected filming the final episodes of season six in relation to season seven storylines? Did you just cut things? Did you move it to season seven?
Scott Bakula: Of course, that wasn't our final. So we took one of the storylines, which is Hannah, who deals with an abusive boss in her work environment … We brought that back. We've tied that together really well this season. In episode 4 we just took things like getting my daughter married and things like that going on in the world and we pushed the wedding forward because of the pandemic. And hopefully we'll do it differently than we intended. Again because the world has changed. Then this year, at the start of the pandemic, we started telling the story and then we skipped forward to today. In essence, we're starting all over again. That's what it feels like The world is restarting and so are we.

What was it like to incorporate the pandemic into the plot? As a spectator, it felt very organic to us.
Chelsea Field: I'm sure there will be people who say, "Oh, I can't see this because there is too much of my own life." But it seemed like a poignant opportunity to think about what's going on in each life, and hopefully do it seamlessly so that people can say, "Oh, well, they wear masks, and it doesn't seem like one to them big deal. They are just changing their lives, for the good of everyone, and they are still going through their lives. "

Bakula: The show is named after the city (New Orleans) and the city went through a very difficult time. And the city is different, you know, you can't buy a thousand extras to stand on Bourbon Street anymore because we're not allowed to have groups that big. You can't play a great concert anymore because you're not allowed to blow the horn in public in town. So it was, "How can we keep the spirit and essence of New Orleans alive, considering what's going on?" and essentially that is what the city struggles with itself. So you know little things like the bar that is closed turn them into a pantry. Little things like these that look natural and organic. Proudly loves the city, loves the people in the city. How would he get through this? How would he help you? We kept finding ways that felt right. … We have music, but in a different way and we just reflect the transitions and flexibility that everyone in the world has had to deal with.

Scott Bakula and Chelsea Field, NCIS: New Orleans

We know Chelsea are a regular series now. How did that happen?
Field: It was a natural evolution for (Pride and Rita) to spend more time together. And I also think one of the great things about it is that we're actors who can actually kiss on screen, we can hug, we can hold hands, we can be close to each other. And that seems like a real plus because there aren't a lot of people (right now) who can do that … and they found a really great arc for their character and a compelling reason why she would spend more time in New Orleans. And I think that Rita really brings a side of pride that you don't always see, it's just a softer and more personal and a little more vulnerable side of pride. And I think that's beneficial for the show.

What can you tease about their relationship? Is it pretty smooth sailing? Are there some bumps on the road?
Bakula: I think we get along very well. I think that has always been the beauty of their relationship, there is kind of an adult, mature relationship. They realize that each other's work is important, they realize that each other's individuality is important. And yet they also enjoy being together very much. So Pride is working and Rita has things to do that are important and meaningful. And we carry on as these two strong independent yet connected adults. I find their relationship refreshing in a way and kind of not having a lot of baggage attached to it. You have such a fresh start as falling in love again, but at a later age.

Are there wedding bells in their future?
Field: It's such a strange idea just because they're in their life, such as a marriage and a wedding. That just doesn't seem to matter to them. You know, the things that are important to them are social justice and spending time together. And the pandemic made everything visible related to your priorities. And I mean, I don't know that maybe the writers will write something. But if they did it would be an opportunity to look at it in a very different way than the typical, "Oh, you have to get married!"

Bakula: It reflects our own life. We didn't get married for the first six years of our relationship because we just didn't – it was never the right time. We worked and raised children. There is a lot to do in the world right now. So these are two people who are interested in moving the discussion forward. So this is really the focus, but I'm not saying it can't happen.

Like Grey's Anatomy, that's us and other shows plan to include coronavirus in their storylines

Looking to the future, next week's episode is titled "One of Our Own" and that makes us very nervous that someone on the team might be in trouble or get sick. What can you tease about next Sunday's episode?
Bakula: No, it's actually about police reform and some kind of historical challenge within the police. "One of Us" refers to it. … It's a timely episode and very emotional because Pride was NOLA police before joining NCIS. He has deep bonds and a deep passion and desire that they be seen in a good light. And there's some corruption, and … there's a slight nod to an unjustified no-knock. This is happening at the wrong address by the SWAT team, there are all sorts of things that happen. It's a pretty powerful episode, two episodes. It's a two part. But it's the world today.

NCIS: New Orleans airs at 9 p.m. on Sundays. ET / PT on CBS.

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