"Dovekeepers is a story about love and hope and I think we can all relate to that," de Pablo said of the "epic" tale that follows a group of women through the siege of Masada — a final standoff in the First Jewish-Roman War, almost 2,000 years ago.
The four-hour limited series about oppression, freedom, courage and honor is clearly relevant today, both politically and socially. For the record, however, it's family, romance and steamy passion between a gorgeous cast that drive this story.
De Pablo's sensual, if tragic, two-day return to CBS kicks off Tuesday, immediately after NCIS — which is no accident. The network is hoping to capitalize on the Ziva fan base, which went nuts over news of de Pablo's Dovekeepers role and almost broke the internet back when she left NCIS.
"It was delicious to feel that kind of love," de Pablo recalled. "I'm always amazed and humbled by the love. It shows an incredible sense of loyalty. When you make a decision like that, you never expect for people to fully understand. I choose to be incredibly private and they've also respected that. For that I am very grateful."
While she has "no second thoughts" about her decision to leave NCIS, de Pablo admitted Ziva's exit at the beginning of this season felt "rushed."
"I would have liked a bit of closure," she said. "But all in all, I could not be more blessed, because I got a chance to be with my love, Michael [Weatherly]. Any time you put Michael and I together, there's going to be a spark and there's going to be real honesty. There was a sense of conclusion, as far as what we felt for each other."
After wrapping Ziva's run on NCIS, de Pablo dropped off the radar for a bit.
"Are you kidding me? After eight years? I took a couple of months off!" she said with a laugh. "My entire family came over [from Chile], which was great. They knew it was a tough transition for me."
Three and a half months into reconnecting and traveling with family, she was lured back to work by The 33, a Chilean film about the 2010 Copiapó mining accident.
"I did The 33 based on the fact that I'd be in Chile, that [I] was going back home and that I would get to be around incredible actors I've looked up to for so long: people like Juliette Binoche, Gabriel Byrne, Antonio Banderas, Adriana Barraza and Rodrigo Santoro," said de Pablo, who plays Jessica Vega, a miner's wife. "To watch them work was wonderful. They were just incredible people. The shift of energy from working on a set for eight years and working with other actors is so necessary for an actor."
Getting to play wife to Mario Casas (Alex Vega) — "Spain's next Antonio Banderas, a big sex symbol" — wasn't bad, either. Even more enchanting? De Pablo had an excuse to put on weight, which she did by just "enjoying life!"
"You'll see that I'm 15 to 20 pounds heavier for the part," she said. "I'm pregnant and playing a woman from the north of Chile. These women are not glamorous Hollywood women — not that I am! But certainly, it was a shift in my physical body. I had to respect what these women were all about. I loved it!"
With both projects expected to release this year, de Pablo isn't in a rush to grab her next role.
"For the most part, I've had incredible opportunities knock on my door. I've read them, I've not been quite interested," she said.
While another eight-year commitment isn't likely, she won't rule anything out. "I would always look at the story before I looked at the time," she said. "If we can [keep] telling a great story, that's the most important thing to me."
And yes, NCIS fans, there is indeed a chance for a Tiva reunion.
"The fact that they never killed the character off is very telling," she teased. "Under the right circumstances, it would be something that could definitely be explored."
In the meantime, The Dovekeepers airs Tuesday, March 31 and Wednesday, April 1 on CBS, starting at 9/8c both nights.
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