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NCIS: LA cast changes — what to know about big exits and promotion in season 13

NCIS Los Angeles adds Gerald McRaney as series regular
(Image credit: CBS)

NCIS: Los Angeles said goodbye to two cast members in season 12, but is promoting fan-favorite guest star Gerald McRaney to series regular in season 13. As they say, when a door closes, another window opens. 

NCIS: LA saw the exits of two longtime cast members, Barrett Foa and Renée Felice Smith, with tech consultant Eric Beale and intelligence agent Nell Jones departing to live in Japan. In their place swoops in McRaney's retired navy admiral Hollis Kilbride, who was first introduced in season 6. Kilbride advises and counsels the LA division of the NCIS Special Projects unit during undercover ops.

"When you have an actor of Gerald McRaney’s caliber, you do everything you can to make sure you get him as often as possible,” executive producer R. Scott Gemmill said in a statement. “Admiral Kilbride has been an esteemed part of our universe for seven years now and we look forward to viewers seeing him come in and shake up our NCIS: LA world.”

Kilbride's no-nonsense attitude and crackling wit have endeared him to fans since his 2014 debut. McRaney's promotion is some consolation for those fans, who were stunned by the exits of Foa and Smith. The former has been on the show since the very beginning, while the latter joined in season 2. 

The season 12 finale did see a major cast member return. Linda Hunt, who plays operations manager Hetty Lange, was absent for most of the season due to pandemic concerns. However, Hetty popped up again and may be back on a more regular basis in season 13 — which would put her at odds with Kilbride, who has made no secret that he doesn't approve of her management style. It's possible she and Kilbride will share duties, or he takes over her role, or they find some other kind of arrangement. 

NCIS: LA season 13 is set to premiere this fall on CBS.