Emily Wickersham of ‘NCIS’: The TV Star Next Door

Actress Emily Wickersham on being grounded in Hollywood. (Photo: Getty Images)

If you’re one of the 18.2 million viewers who tuned into this season’s premiere of NCIS, the number-one rated show on television for the past two years — you know actress Emily Wickersham. The Sopranos and I Am Number Four alum is known to audiences as Ellie Bishop, a socially awkward yet whip-smart analyst for the NSA. Despite looking the part, Wickersham is not your average Tinseltown blonde.  She’s noticeably grounded, incredibly sweet, and ever-grateful for her success. “It’s a dream to be a part of NCIS,” says Wickersham. “At first it was scary to join a show with such reach and resonance. But I’m around wonderful people. A good cast and crew, like any group you want to be a part of, create a safe environment where you can be yourself, try things out, be good, be bad, and it’s OK to fail then try again.”

While co-stars Michael Weatherly, Mark Harmon, Pauley Perrette, and Sean Murray have made her feel at home while on the clock, Wickersham tries to delineate work and home to safeguard her sanity. Wickersham enjoys a laid-back life with her two rescue dogs and her musician-husband, Blake Hanley in LA. “He’s in law school now,” she says of her other half. “He’s a pretty wonderful guy.”

When it comes to beauty, Wickersham favors a very light hand, admitting to having mounds of makeup in her bathroom, yet her go-to’s are tinted moisturizer and cover-up. “It’s the ‘quote-unquote’ barefaced look,” she laughs. “I’ll admit, I’m not very skilled with applying makeup, myself, and the natural approach has always worked for me just fine.” Her NCIS character shares a similar makeup philosophy. “Ellie’s from Oklahoma and pretty tomboy-ish, as am I,” Wickersham says. “It makes sense to keep her looking minimal and natural–except when she’s dressed up on an undercover mission. With her, it’s best to stay as truthful as possible.” Wickersham totally relates to her character’s perspective. “My first baseball game was a Cubs game at Wrigley Field… I really wanted to be a boy,” she admits. “It’s a big part of me still, as is being athletic–although these days I find myself playing tennis, hiking, and doing yoga and Pilates rather than swinging a bat.”

Wickersham’s character Ellie Bishop was initially portrayed as a loner, working by herself with her headphones on, face buried in her computer. As she’s stuck around the NCIS crew, her humor has emerged, her guard has dropped, and her intuition is kicking up. “At first she always relied on facts,” Wickersham notes. “I love that she’s learning to trust her gut. Not everything can be proven by outside facts. You’ve got to look inside yourself to find some answers.”

Wickersham has learned to trust her gut as well since she moved from New York to LA six years ago. “Now I love LA, but there are a lot of weird aspects to Hollywood,” she admits. “I have had to feel for the right next moves in order to get where I want to go. Thankfully I’m a grounded person, I’m a Taurus after all, and my parents taught my brother, Adam [a Chicago-based photographer] and me very well. My husband and friends all share that appreciation of reality, thankfully. But it took trusting my own inner guidance to find them all.”

It’s this willingness to remember who she is, that has yielded a state of true bliss for Wickersham. “To get where we want to be, perseverance is the biggest thing,” she insists. “That, and staying true to ourselves. It’s so easy to look to others for validation, but ultimately we know what’s right and wrong for us. When things get out of hand, we have to remember that we know ourselves best.”

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